The movement to change how presidents are elected is gaining steam and proponents of the long-stalled popular vote initiative are predicting victory by 2020. Eleven states/jurisdictions have enacted the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill, giving the proposal 165 electoral votes — 61 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to trigger the new voting system. Legislatures that passed the law include California, Illinois, New Jersey. Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a popular vote bill into law last week. All of these states, as well as the nation’s capital are liberal leaning, but activists note they are making progress in red states, such as Oklahoma and Nebraska. In the 2000 election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote and won the presidency. At the time, Democrats rallied behind the popular vote idea. The memory of that contested election has made many Democrats eager to jump on board, and some Republicans skeptical.
The NPV bill guarantees the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Under the bill’s interstate compact, all electorate votes from enacting states would go to the candidate with the most popular votes in the general election. The plan can only take effect when it is enacted by enough states to claim a majority of the electoral vote.
Criticism of the current Electoral College system stems from its “winner-take-all” approach, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that particular state. Winner-take-all systems generally mean presidential candidates ignore the states they know will go red or blue and focus their campaign efforts on battleground states instead. “In the last several presidential elections, the number of battleground states has shrunk,” said John Koza, chairman of the NPV.
In the 2012 presidential election, for example, two-thirds of campaign funding went to four states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Aside from other events in handful of states, the majority of the country was ignored. “The system simply doesn’t work,” said Koza, who predicts that the popular vote will be in effect by the 2020 presidential race.
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