Voting Out the Electoral College

August 2, 2011 - By Katy Grimes

Creating over-reaching solutions for non-existent problems is what California legislators are good at. A textbook example of this is a bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature which would change the state’s Electoral College process.

AB 459 passed in the Legislature in July without any Republican votes. It would provide a boost to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact  movement.

NPV has been pushing states since 2000 to replace the Electoral College system. That was the year of the controversial victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote nationally. But he lost the vote in the electoral college because, after a recount in Florida, Bush won that state’s electoral votes — and more electoral votes nationally.

NPV awards a state’s electoral votes to the national winner of the popular vote, regardless of which candidate won in that state. Thus, John Doe might lose in California by 1 million votes. But if he won nationally by 1,000 votes, under NPV he would get California’s 55 electoral votes anyway in the Electoral College.

Supporters of AB 459 insist that the change would require candidates to actually campaign in all states, not just in swing states. California especially would be affected because Democrats have won landslides in recent elections here; President Obama won in 2008 by more than 3 million votes. That means candidates of both parties don’t waste time campaigning here except to troll for contributors’ cash.

Junking the Electoral College

Opponents say the real goal is to eventually eliminate the Electoral College altogether. Once Americans are used to thinking of the election more as a vast popular vote, then the National Popular Vote Compact itself would be displaced in favor a constitutional amendment junking the Electoral College entirely in favor of a pure popular vote.

Under NPV,  presidential candidates would look only at the large population areas in the country for votes: New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco. Rural states, such as Wyoming and North Dakota, would be ignored. The federalist nature of the country, which consists of “free and independent states,” would be fatally compromised.

The U.S. Constitution was written to allow states to have the authority to decide how their electors are selected. Most states use a “winner-take-all” system, where the presidential candidate who wins the majority of the popular vote in the state gets all of its electors.

The 538 members of the Electoral College elect the president. Each state gets one “elector” for every representative it has in Congress. California has 55 electors — the most of any state.

The National Popular Vote bill in California was originally touted to be a bipartisan effort authored by Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert and Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo. Several Republicans had signed on to the cause.  AB 459 was amended several times, adding Democratic legislators as supporters. Eventually the names of Nestande and other Republicans who had signed on were removed.

The bill commits California to a compact in which the state would have to agree to give its Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationally. According to the bill’s author, this is because, “California is ignored in the general elections of Presidential campaigns. Candidates do not visit our state, they do not advertise here, poll here, conduct field operations, send mail, or engage in any of the other normal campaign activities. The one exception is that they do fundraise in California ($150 million collected in 2008). However, once the money is collected, it is spent almost completely outside our borders.”

Currently seven states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed the law; they total 77 Electoral College seats. If AB 459 is signed by Brown, the National Popular Vote movement will have achieved 132 electoral votes. NPV wouild go into effect only if enough states pass it that 270 or more electoral votes would be affected by it. The 270 votes would be a majority of the Electoral College.

Constitutional Questions

But many in the state say that no repair is needed because the system is not broken. Critics say that the popular vote scheme raises both practical and constitutional questions.

Proponents say that every vote in every state will matter in every presidential election.

Critics don’t just disagree. They warn that it is a dangerous end run around amending the Constitution. “NPV brings about this change without amending the Constitution, thereby undermining the legitimacy of presidential elections,” according to the CATO Institute. “It also weakens federalism by eliminating the role of the states in presidential contests.”

NPV has been ratified by Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Starting with the 2012 presidential election, those states and the District of Columbia collectively will have 74 electoral votes.

Supporting the reform, the League of Women Voters said that many politicians worry there is a perception that it will disenfranchise a significant portion of their own state constituencies. And many governors and state senators have been reluctant to outwardly embrace the change.

More Division?

“The NPV movement is still using the Electoral College to get around the Electoral College,” said Mark Standriff, communications director for the California Republican Party.

“This effort will result in an even more divided America,” California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro recently wrote in an opinion editorial. “The further balkanization of America is a bad idea and one major reason the Electoral College exists.  Our Founders wanted to give Delaware a chance against Virginia.”

Some Republicans support NPV. “Candidates would have to go where the people are,” said former Republican state Sen. Jim Brulte, now a political consultant. “They’d essentially have to campaign everywhere, because they couldn’t afford to neglect areas where a little effort might turn out a larger vote. Under NPV, they would have to spend less money in states like Florida and Ohio and more in California and Texas, because every additional vote they got out would count. As it stands now, an additional vote, or 100,000 votes, in those states doesn’t matter much at all.”

But that isn’t the view of most Republicans. “Our constitution has numerous checks on raw democracy, or majority tyranny, and the Electoral College is an important one,” said John Eastman, former dean of the Chapman University School of Law in a recent analysis for the California Republican Party. Eastman said that the the legal analysis is “surprisingly weak” surrounding the issues of the National Popular Vote movement.

Brown is expected to sign AB 459.

Read CalWatchdog’s May story, “California Could Kill Electoral College

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Comments(15)
  1. David from Oceanside says:

    Are we supposed to accept the logic that having presidential candidates visit California somehow makes California a better place. Will visiting pro war big government types from both parties, such as Romney, Obama or Bachman somehow improve our lives? Will hearing directly how their social order will restrict our freedoms, and how the wealth violently extracted from the masses will be irresponsibly wasted make our lives better? I don’t think so. The further they stay away the better.

    If the Electoral college falls it will be further transition from republic to tyranny. Prior to the 17th amendment, senators were elected by state legislatures. The intent was senators represented the states against an overreaching federal government. The house, elected by popular vote, represented the people.

    However, states have few rights anymore. Abe Lincoln, perhaps the original historical illusionist neutered the states and made them the lapdogs of the federal government.

    The one silver lining in efforts such as this is that it highlights the reality we all do not wish to acknowledge. The Republic is dead.

  2. toto says:

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all 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, like California. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that, at most, only 14 states and their voters will matter. None of the 10 most rural states will matter, as usual. Almost 75% 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.

    2/3rds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election. That’s more than 85 million voters ignored, including California.

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

  3. toto says:

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

    The National Popular Vote bill is a state-based approach. It preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College. It assures that every vote is equal and that every voter will matter in every state in every presidential election, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections, and included in the national count that determines the candidate with the most popular votes, who then is guaranteed the majority of electoral votes needed to win the presidency. It gives a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    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 all 50 states and DC. The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

    The Electoral College 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.

    States have the responsibility to make their voters relevant in every presidential election. 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. It does not abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. 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, without federal constitutional amendments.

    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 is strong among Republican voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as well as every demographic group surveyed in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in 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 smaller 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: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%.

    Most voters don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans consider the idea of the candidate with the most popular votes being declared a loser detestable. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC (3), HI (4), IL (19), NJ (14), MD (11), MA (10), VT (3), and WA (13). These 8 jurisdictions possess 77 electoral votes — 29% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  4. toto says:

    The Electoral College is the set of electors who vote for presidential candidates. Under the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state.

    There is nothing in the Constitution that requires states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

    The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution, and enacting National Popular Vote would not need an amendment. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, are an example of state laws eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. It is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and frequently have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

  5. toto says:

    The legitimacy of our constituti­onal republic would not be endangered by National Popular Vote.

    2/3rds of the states and people have been just spectators to the presidential elections. That’s more than 85 million voters ignored.

    States have the responsibility to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, along district lines (as has been the case recently in Maine and Nebraska), or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

    A “republica­n” form of government means that the voters do not make laws themselves­. They delegate the job to periodical­ly elected officials (Congressm­en, Senators, and the President)­. We are a republic regardless of whether popular votes for presidenti­al electors are tallied at the state level, district-l­evel, or 50-state-l­evel (as under NPV).

    Current federal law (Title 3, chapter 1, section 6 of the United States Code) requires the states to report the November popular vote numbers (the “canvas”) in what is called a “Certificate of Ascertainment.” They list the electors and the number of votes cast for each. The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes reported in the Certificates of Ascertainment. You can see the Certificates of Ascertainment for all 50 states and the District of Columbia containing the official count of the popular vote at the NARA web site. The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and requires each state to treat as “conclusive” each other state’s “final determination” of its vote for President.

  6. toto says:

    Anyone concerned about the relative power of big states and small states should realize that the current system shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states.

    Under National Popular Vote, when every vote counts equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. It would no longer matter who won a state.

    Now political clout comes from being a battleground state.

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Six regularly vote Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota), and six regularly vote Democratic (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC) in presidential elections.

    Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republican voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Idaho – 77%, Maine — 77%, Montana – 72%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Oklahoma – 81%, Rhode Island — 74%, South Dakota – 71%, Utah – 70%, Vermont — 75%, and West Virginia – 81%, and Wyoming – 69%.

    Nine state legislative chambers in the lowest population states have passed the National Popular Vote bill. It has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Vermont.

    None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.
    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states.

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome. The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States. A “big city” only campaign would not win.
    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    Evidence as to how a nationwide presidential campaign would be run can be found by examining the way presidential candidates currently campaign inside battleground states. Inside Ohio or Florida, the big cities do not receive all the attention. And, the cities of Ohio and Florida certainly do not control the outcome in those states. Because every vote is equal inside Ohio or Florida, presidential candidates avidly seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns. The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate in Ohio and Florida already knows–namely that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the state.

    Even in blue states with the biggest cities, urban voters don’t control statewide elections, so they can hardly control a national election. In California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don’t campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and there have recently been Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger. Just as with a national vote, a vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

    The main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

    If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

  7. Andy says:

    Brown has done everything wrong so far, so why wouldn’t he sign this. Don’t want to break the streak.

    Oh, btw, toto is a shill or troll or both.

  8. Gerry says:

    Candidates would not visit California even under NPV. The candidates all know that California is a lock for the Democrats and Republicans campaigning here would be a waste of effort. They will campaign where they can actually get some incremental votes. It will fragment the country even further and make campaigns even more shallow as candidates will have to run too and fro or rely on “national media” with less local campaigning.
    Let’s be clear – this looks like a bunch of Democrats who want to make a grab for power through their big state votes. The current electoral college system is an important part of our federalism. Preserve it.

  9. toto says:

    You’re content that in the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives already agree that California will be ignored, again, because only 7-14 states and their voters will matter under the current state winner-take-all laws?

    Candidates, again, will not care about at least 72% of the voters– voters in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and in 16 medium and big states like California, GA, NY, and TX. 2012 campaigning would be even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004. In 2008, 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). 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. More than 85 million voters have been just spectators to the general election.

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

    Under National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states. Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections, and included in the national count that determines the candidate with the most popular votes, who then is guaranteed the majority of electoral votes needed to win the presidency. National Popular Vote gives a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Republicans are eager to be able to gain presidential and down ticket organization and votes in California by simply having presidential candidates care about California, for a change. Now Republican voters in California and other “blue” states are discouraged from voting because their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. With National Popular Vote every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

  10. toto says:

    In a 2008 survey of 2,004 California adult residents interviewed from October 12-19, 2008, 70% of California residents and likely voters supported this change. Democrats (76%) and independents (74%) were more likely to support a change to direct popular vote than Republicans, but 61% of Republicans also supported this change. Among likely voters, support for this change was 6 points higher than in October 2004 (64%).

    http://tinyurl.com/3glex8x

  11. Craig Powell says:

    I suspect that in a close presidential election – and most of our presidential elections over the past 20 years have been very close – a National Public Vote system would almost certainly lead to furious and highly litigated recounts (ala Florida in 2000) in every single state in the country. We would likely see a mad rush of lawyers in 50 states to the courthouses to pump up the vote totals in every state so as to impact the close national vote totals. We would have national chaos as political fixers and highly partisan local elected officials in a thousand towns, cities and counties across the country use their administrative control of the electoral machinary to steal votes. It would dramatically increase the risk of illegitimate presidencies and shatter public confidence in our democracy. Our system has worked fine for 220 years. Let’s not take a high risk gamble on a new system when our longstanding current system is not broken.

    I also think that NPV compacts would be contrued by the courts as a back door attempt to repeal the electoral college without following the amendment procedures of the Constitution. One-half of the states, representing 270 electorals votes, don’t have the power to repeal parts of the Constitution that they do not like. This is a smart lawyer’s scheme to try to de facto repeal the electoral college through misuse and abuse of state compacts and it stinks. If NPV sponsors wish to repeal the electoral college, then follow the Constitutional mechanism for doing so.

  12. toto says:

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud. A very few people can change the national outcome by changing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    Senator Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) summed up the concerns about possible fraud in a nationwide popular election for President in a Senate speech by saying in 1979, “one of the things we can do to limit fraud is to limit the benefits to be gained by fraud. Under a direct popular vote system, one fraudulent vote wins one vote in the return. In the electoral college system, one fraudulent vote could mean 45 electoral votes, 28 electoral votes.”

    Hendrik Hertzberg wrote: “To steal the closest popular-vote election in American history, you’d have to steal more than a hundred thousand votes . . .To steal the closest electoral-vote election in American history, you’d have to steal around 500 votes, all in one state. . . .

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election–and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

    Which, I ask you, is an easier mark for vote-stealers, the status quo or N.P.V.[National Popular Vote]? Which offers thieves a better shot at success for a smaller effort?”

  13. toto says:

    Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

    The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

    The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    A nationwide recount would not happen. We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and recount. The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

    Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years under the National Popular Vote approach. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

    The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 56 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes), no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

  14. toto says:

    Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws in 48 states, a candidate has won the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in 4 of the nation’s 56 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. Some insider Republicans believe under the current system in 2012, President Obama could win the electoral vote without winning the popular vote.

  15. toto says:

    The National Popular Vote bill is a state-based approach. It preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College. It assures that every vote is equal and that every voter will matter in every state in every presidential election, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    The U.S. Constitution says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes. The abnormal process is to go outside the Constitution, and amend it.

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