The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Five out of our 45 Presidents have come into office without receiving the most popular votes nationwide. State winner-take-all laws are the reason why a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the national popular vote. Under these state laws, all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state. Given that the average margin in the national popular vote has been only 5% since 1988, undemocratic outcomes in presidential elections will continue to occur if these state winner-take-all laws are not changed. The candidate with the most votes nationwide should win
Moreover, these state winner-take-all laws create another serious problem in every election. In the general-election campaign for President, candidates ignore states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead. Candidates only visit, advertise, organize, and pay attention to local issues in closely divided “battleground” states. Of the 399 campaign events in the 2016 general-election campaign:
- Over half of the events (57%) were held in just four states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).
- Virtually all of the events (94%) were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country’s population).
- Virtually the entire West was ignored (except for Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona).
- Oregon was totally ignored in 2016, 2012, and 2008.
The map shows where candidates campaigned in 2016. Details.
As presidential candidate Scott Walker (R) bluntly stated in 2015,
“The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are.”
Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution has a built-in provision that empowers state legislatures to choose the method of awarding their electoral votes — without amending the U.S. Constitution. Article II says:
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
Thus, existing state winner-take-all laws may be changed in the same way they were originally enacted — namely by passing a new state law in the state legislature.
The National Popular Vote bill will take effect when it is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270 of 538). When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the winner of the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC) will become President (because the enacting states represent at least 270 electoral votes). Thus, the Electoral College will represent the choice of the voters in all 50 states (and DC).
A national popular vote for President is an achievable political goal that can be in place in time for the 2020 election. The bill has already been enacted into law in 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes, including four small jurisdictions (Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia), three medium-sized states (Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington state), and four large states (New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and California). It will take effect when enacted by additional states having 105 electoral votes. The bill has passed one chamber in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes and been approved by unanimous bipartisan committee votes in 2016 in two other states with 26 electoral votes. A total of 3,072 state legislators have either sponsored the bill or cast a recorded vote in favor of it.
Recently, the National Popular Vote bill received bipartisan support in
- 40-16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House
- 28-18 vote in the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate
- 57-4 vote in the Republican-controlled New York Senate
The bill has passed the Oregon House on three previous occasions.
The National Popular Vote bill will make every vote equal throughout the United States. It would ensure that every voter, in every state, will be politically relevant in every presidential election.
In 2012, Donald Trump said, “the Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy” and called it “a total sham and a travesty.” In 2000, Hillary Clinton said, “We should … move to the popular election of our president.” Both were right.
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