With less than two weeks to go before the presidential election, the folks behind the National Popular Vote are turning up the heat on a plan that would reform the Electoral College by eliminating the undemocratic winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes.
Illinois already is one of a handful of states which has approved a National Popular Vote bill. Last spring Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the measure into law, joining Hawaii, New Jersey and Maryland. Together, the four states have 50 electoral votes. The measure will only take affect when it is enacted, in identical form, by states possessing enough electoral votes to elect a president — 270 of 538.
The bill bypasses the need to amend the constitution by letting states determine how to assign electoral votes. It is an ingenious solution to a vexing problem and, best of all, it follows the dictates of the constitution which allows states to allocate their electoral votes in any way they choose to do so. Indeed, both Maine and Nebraska currently allocate electoral votes by district, not by winner-take-all statewide totals.
Effort to abolish the electors have been going on for decades, but they picked up steam in 2000 when George W. Bush lost the popular vote, but was awarded enough electoral votes to win the election, the fourth time in the Electoral College’s 221-year history that the winner of the popular vote was not elected president. With 55 presidential elections, National Popular Vote (www.NationalPopularVote.com) says, that amounts to a 1-in-14 failure rate. If landslides are excluded from the mix, the candidate with fewer popular votes was elected in 1-in-7 elections. The same thing almost happened again in 2004. If John Kerry had captured Ohio — he needed to take about 60,000 votes from George W. Bush — the incumbent president wouldn’t have been re-elected even though he held a substantial plurality of the votes nationwide.
Backers of the plan say, correctly, that the current system disenfranchises large numbers of Democrats in Republican states and Republicans in Democrat states because of the winner-take-all system that awards all electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state. Indeed, they say, the focus on electoral votes flies in the face of the promise that every vote counts.
The figures from National Popular Vote are startling. In 2004, candidates spent over two-thirds of their money and made campaign visits in just five states; over 80 percent in nine states and over 99 percent in 16 states.
“Under the winner-take-all rule, candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize or pay attention to the concerns of states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind,” the group contends. “Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a small handful of closely divided ‘battleground’ states. This means that voters in three-quarters of the states are ignored in presidential elections.”
In 2008, the group says, no more than 14 states were ever considered “battleground” states and by October, only six of those states still mattered. “This year as we face another close election, it’s time to reform the current system and do what more than 70 percent of the public has long supported — elect the president by national popular vote,” writes Roger Salazar of National Popular Vote.
We urge Iowa and other states to sign onto the plan so that by the next presidential election, every vote will be counted, and every state will matter in what we hope will be a truly nationwide campaign.
Rock island, IL Details
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