Popular, Electoral Vote Split Could Boost Effort To Reform Elections Process

While voters’ choice in the Presidential race will be known Tuesday, the real election will take place in December when the Electoral College meets.

It’s possible we could again see the rare occurrence of a candidate winning the popular vote, but losing the White House.

That would likely give more momentum to a plan that would change the way we pick the country’s leader.

Peter Gray reports:

[.mp3 – 4:50]


Official Website of “National Popular” Vote Movement

“National Popular Vote” on Facebook

Prof. Norman Williams’ Georgetown Law Journal Article (.doc) 

You don’t need to look back too far to see people questioning the way we elect presidents:

WILLIAMS: “The 2000 election was a transformative moment for presidential elections for this generation…”
Norman Williams is a professor of law and the Director of the Center for Constitutional Government at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

WILLIAMS: “…It was the first presidential election since 1888 in which the White House went to the candidate who had received fewer popular votes nationwide.”  

Williams says when Al Gore lost the presidency 12 years ago despite winning the popular vote, those unhappy with the outcome, frustrated by decades of failed attempts to abolish the Electoral College, found what he calls a dangerous “end run” around the Constitution.  In an article published in the Georgetown Law Journal, Williams argues strongly against what is known as the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact”, but admits that if the federal government could change the process:

WILLIAMS: “…we would not create the system we have.  But we aren’t creating it from scratch, and so the relevant question for Americans today is not what is the best system.  It’s rather whether the Electoral College system we have is good enough…”  

It’s not good enough for former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, who is among a small but growing number of Republicans who’ve joined Democrats in saying the popular vote should trump the antiquated electoral system put in place by the Founding Fathers:

EDGAR: “My argument is times have changed.  We’re not the country we were in 1800, we’re in 2012 and I think things have changed and we need to make sure that our electoral process reflects that and [I] think also [that we need to] give whoever is the President the credibility that’s needed to govern this nation.”  

Edgar says today presidential hopefuls spend an inordinate amount of time in just a few swing states.  He says other parts of the country are not only widely ignored during the election – they’re also ignored when the winner takes office because candidates did not get a full view of the entire nation.

EDGAR: “I know from my own experience that after the election, when you’re governing, what made an impression on you in the campaign sticks with you and it has an impact on how you govern.  I think the current system causes Presidents to miss a lot of things.”

Edgar backs the effort to change things, but getting rid of the Electoral College in the Constitution would be difficult.  So here’s how this plan would work:  States would basically guarantee they will cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote.   Once enough states sign on with their electoral votes – and that number is sufficient to elect the president – the plan would go into effect.  Jim Edgar and other supporters believe it will ensure a more equitable voting process.

RUTHERFORD: “..this is a case where Governor Edgar and I have a respectful difference of opinion.”

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford was in the State Senate in 2007 when he voted (along with most of his Republican colleagues) against changing Illinois’ relationship to the Electoral College.  The General Assembly did pass the measure, making Illinois one of 9 states to have approved it.  Rutherford, now the Chair of Governor Romney’s Illinois campaign, says even with the prospect of a Romney popular vote win – but electoral loss – this election won’t change his mind.

RUTHERFORD: “I don’t look at what the Constitution or the process should be because of a particular personality or candidate in the given moment in time.  I looked at it during the time I was in the Illinois Senate, I look at it today and I’ll look at it again tomorrow that it is better to have candidates campaign in all parts of the country to get the right to get the Electoral College to be the President, as opposed to just going into highly densely populated areas.”

Republican supporters of the Compact like former Governor Jim Edgar may dread the possibility of a Romney loss due to a split of the popular and electoral vote, but Edgar says such a loss would bring more critics, including members of his own party to his side on the isssue.

RUTHERFORD: “I think it will stir up a lot more discussion and interest and, I think, support.  Especially if Governor Romney is in that position where he loses the Presidency but wins the popular vote, I think there’ll be more support out there and some of these states where the Republicans have been the ones holding it up will reconsider.”

Meanwhile Professor Williams in Oregon, a registered Democrat, hopes Obama will clinch the win through electoral votes, so members of his party still bitter after Gore’s loss in 2000 will perhaps see more value in our current way of electing presidents and less in efforts to reform it.

WILLIAMS: “If the 2012 election plays out in the way that I suspect, a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats are all of a sudden going to confront a very different world, and may think very different things about the National Popular Vote Compact after the election.”  

As of now, only about half the states needed to adopt the change have agreed to it.
I’m Peter Gray.

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2 Responses to Popular, Electoral Vote Split Could Boost Effort To Reform Elections Process

  1. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all50 states and DC.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed,anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH –69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI –71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY –69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes –49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

  2. The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, will not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 9 of the original 13 states are considered “fly-over” now. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree, that, at most, only 9 states and their voters will matter. They will decide the election. None of the 10 most rural states will matter, as usual. About 80% of the country will be ignored –including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. This will be more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

    80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That’s more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

    The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

    Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

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