White House travel patterns reflect the Obama campaign's plan to zero in on ten states, with Florida and Ohio topping the list. The presidential candidates may not want to ignore hundreds of millions of Americans, but, quite rationally, surrender to the ruthless logic of the Electoral College and the prevailing winner-take-all rule in the states.
When you take an even more fine-grained picture of campaign practices, things are even worse. Since consultants can accurately forecast the
preferences and likelihood to vote of about 95% of voters, campaigns focus their pitches on the tiny band of 5% of voters who might change
With only a fifth of Americans living in swing states and only a twentieth of the electorate being swing voters, the mathematicalrealities determining the presidency are striking: two billion dollars - largely drawn from the 1% of Americans with the most wealth - spent to influence the 1% of swing state voters with the right level of ambivalence. It's no wonder candidates try to buy off that select group of voters - like Cuban Americans in Miami - with tailored policy proposals whether they make sense or not.
The Occupy movement drew attention to economic policies that favor 1% of Americans, but what about electoral rules that marginalize 99% of us in presidential campaigns? The current Electoral College regime offends the principle of one-person, one-vote and the bedrock idea that the winner should be the person who gets the most votes. As we saw in 2000, with the right mixture of dubious tactics, the popular vote loser can capture an Electoral College majority through our patchwork of manipulable winner-take-all arrangements.
The good news is that these arrangements are easy to fix with familiar election rules. Every other major democracy with presidential elections holds a national popular vote where every vote counts equally no matter where it's cast. Every governor is elected by a statewide popular vote, as are U.S. Senators.
We can change to a system of popular vote elections for president that makes every citizen's vote equal and relevant. Our home state of Maryland has joined seven other states and Washington, D.C. in passing an historic interstate agreement called the National Popular Vote plan. Participating states enter a binding contract to cast all their Electoral College votes for the national popular vote winner once states comprising 270 electors pass the same National Popular Vote law. When enacted by enough states, the candidate who wins the most votes in all 50 states is guaranteed to become president.
This plan will put every state and every voter into play, from Republicans in Massachusetts to Democrats in South Carolina. There will be no such thing as "wasted" votes or "surplus" votes. The candidate with the most votes will win every time.
Participating states together have almost half the electoral votes necessary to trigger the compact. Bills have been introduced in all 50 states, drawing the backing of more than 2,000 state legislators, and states like New York are poised to act. By 2016 we can win democracy for the 100% in presidential elections. All those voters being asked to send their money and their volunteer energy to the nearest swing state can spend some time campaigning for a National Popular vote too. Let's vote for real democracy--from sea to shining sea.
Raskin is a Maryland State Senator and a law professor at American University who introduced the first National Popular vote law in the country. Richie is executive director of FairVote, a nonpartisan organization focused on electoral reform.