The president should be elected by national popular vote


Although this year’s presidential election may be the most interesting and consequential in many years, the candidates have totally ignored 33 states since being nominated.  Half of the general-election campaign events have been concentrated in only 5 states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Ninety percent have been concentrated in 11 states.  As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said a year ago, “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president.  Twelve states are.”

The reason that voters in most states are irrelevant in presidential elections is that most states have winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in that state.  Because of these winner-take-all laws, presidential candidates have no reason to solicit votes in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. 

{mosads}The interests of closely divided battleground states shape innumerable presidential decisions.  Battleground states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants, twice as many disaster declarations, considerably more Superfund and No Child Left Behind exemptions, and numerous other favorable actions from presidents.  As former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

The U.S. Constitution provides a way we can change the system so that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The Constitution gives each state legislature the power to change its method of awarding its electoral votes.  It says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”  Existing state winner-take-all laws are not in the Constitution and it does not require a federal constitutional amendment to change them.

So far, 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes have used this power to pass the National Popular Vote bill.  The bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The bill will go into effect after it is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538).  Under this legislation, when the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states (and D.C.) will receive all of the electoral votes of all the enacting states. 

The bill was recently approved by a bipartisan 40-16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House, 28-18 in the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate, 37-21 in the Democratic-controlled Oregon House, and unanimously by legislative committees in Georgia and Missouri.  A total of 2,794 state legislators have endorsed it.  

The National Popular Vote bill would also prevent candidates from winning the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide—something that has happened four times in our nation’s 57 presidential elections.  A shift of 214,393 votes in 2012 would have elected Mitt Romney despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of almost 5,000,000 votes.  The bill would also prevent a presidential election from being thrown into the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. 

Political leaders should demand and various Legislatures should enact The National Popular Vote bill prior to the 2020 presidential election.  It is the only way to make everyone’s vote equal throughout the United States and force presidential candidates to solicit everyone’s vote in every state.

Dr. John Koza is the Chairman of National Popular Vote, a California based non-profit dedicated to enacting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. He is also lead author of Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

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