Column | National popular vote would amplify everyone’s role
Every American voter, no matter where they live, should be politically relevant in every presidential election. Every state – red, blue, or purple – small, medium or large – should play an equally important role in electing the president. And every major presidential candidate should feel compelled to conduct a truly national campaign, seeking out and selling their ideas to every voter in every nook and cranny of the country.
Those are the simple, powerful ideas behind the National Popular Vote movement to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In brief, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes necessary to elect a president – 270 out of 538. In December, when electors meet to cast their ballots for president and vice president following a presidential election, the electoral votes of all the compacting states would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across the nation.
The National Popular Vote bill significantly amplifies the voice of each individual voter in choosing the president of the United States.
Under the current system, each state’s voters have a direct voice in allocating just their own block of electoral votes. Under a National Popular Vote, voters in the compacting states – particularly the 215 million voters who live in 38 fly-over states – gain a direct voice over the disposition of 270 electors – enough to elect a president. No voter in any state would have their vote canceled out because they didn’t go along with the majority of others in their state. Every voter would have their vote counted directly toward their choice for president. And the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide would become president.
Today, we don’t so much elect the president of the United States as we do the president of the battleground states – the 12 so-called “swing” states where presidential candidates devote virtually all of their time and resources chasing key blocks of electoral votes up for grabs. The 38 other states and D.C. are ignored because their outcomes are pretty much assured from the start – predictably “red” or “blue.”
It’s easy to see why voters in those 38 states feel disenfranchised.
In “blue” California, for example, Donald Trump received 3.9 million popular votes, but not a single electoral vote. Hillary Clinton, who won the state by 29 percentage points, got all 55 electoral votes under the “winner-take-all” system. In the much smaller “red” state of West Virginia, Clinton received 187,457 popular votes, but Trump, who won the state by 42 points, raked in all five electoral votes. For all the difference they made, the Trump voters in California and the Clinton voters in West Virginia might just as well have taken a vacation day.
The National Popular Vote movement is gaining strength all across the nation. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia – 186 electoral votes all together – have already passed the National Popular Vote bill, and several other states are considering the measure. In total, 3,125 state legislators – Democrats and Republicans alike – across all 50 states have endorsed the measure.
Here’s the bottom line: The 2020 presidential election could become the first in which every voter in every state will be politically relevant. National Popular Vote is a powerful American idea whose time has come.