Popular vote by 2020?

Denise Cross / flickr

Denise Cross / flickr

Though it means nothing for 2016, the 2020 presidential election may be decided by popular vote — or at least that’s the timeline given by one of the main proponents.

As it stands now, there really is no national election for president, rather 51 elections (including Washington, D.C.), where electors are doled out by the states/D.C., with the winner needing at least 270 electoral votes.

But most states are a foregone conclusion. Would blue California really go for a Republican? Or would red Mississippi chose a Democrat?

In most instance, no chance, so that gives a disproportionate share of attention by presidential candidates to a relatively small group of states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

National Popular Vote is pushing to replace the current race to 270 with a simple majority of the popular vote. Bay Area campaign and election lawyer Barry Fadem, who is working with NPV, says this goal can be achieved by 2020.

How Close Are They, Really?

It may seem like a farfetched idea, but the movement is halfway there. Ten states, including California, have ratified the measure (D.C. has signed on as well). Once enough states have ratified the interstate compact to represent 270 electoral votes — a majority — the county will move to the popular vote.

Last week, the Arizona House of Representatives approved the measure. And although it hasn’t voted yet, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate are sponsors. And there are several other states where at least one chamber has approved.

The way the law is structured, the (Constiutionally-mandated) electors of the states that have ratified the compact would choose the candidate who won the popular vote. Therefore, states that didn’t sign on are free to not participate, but they wouldn’t have enough electoral votes to matter.

The theory is that these states would ultimately fall in line, as they’d then have no incentive to stay under the current system once a majority starts with the popular vote.

Why Go Through This Trouble?

Many voters are still upset that in 2000, Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore for president by winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. While this is largely Democrats who are upset, supporters of the losing candidate would be sour in any similar situation.

“The disadvantages of the current system, of course, are first that you can have an election where the winner of the popular vote loses the election,” said Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “It happened in 2000, without many repercussions, but the next time? Watch out.”

Swing states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia have a disproportionate influence on the general election. There are 12 or so states where candidates spend most of their time because the rest are viewed as forgone conclusions. According to NPV, no campaign events were held by the 2012 presidential candidates outside of these 12 states during the general election.

“Two-thirds of the states now are irrelevant, since they are firmly blue or red, giving all the focus to a small number of competitive ones and distorting the election,” Ornstein.

Downsides

Critics have said that a close election could result in a national recount (“take Florida in 2000 and multiply by 50, with a hundred times the number of lawyers,” said Ornstein), but that the federal government really isn’t equipped to handle a recount of that magnitude.

“The federal government does not conduct elections,” said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a non-partisan political publication from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “So if there was an election that was so close a recount was required, it would have to be a 50-state recount. That sounds challenging.”

There’s also a concern that attention would shift from swing states to heavily-populated areas, like Los Angeles or New York City, on the theory that time-strapped candidates would plan visits to the densest areas to reach the most people at once.

But NPV contends that the densest cities still only make up a small part of the population. According to Census data, the 30 most heavily-populated cites account for only about 12 percent of the population — nowhere near a majority.

Is It Even Constitutional?

While something that fundamentally changes how the president is elected will likely be challenged in court, Fadem says “a Constitutional amendment is not required,” pointing to language in the Constitution giving each state the right to decide how to direct its electors.

13 comments

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  1. Dude
    Dude 11 February, 2016, 09:48

    I smell a liberal conspiracy to start and keep generations of socialists in office to allow them to perpetuate the welfare state.

    Reply this comment
    • mvymvy
      mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 12:54

      The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressman John Buchanan (R–Alabama), and former Senators David Durenberger (R–Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R–Utah).

      Supporters include former Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA)

      Newt Gingrich summarized his support for the National Popular Vote bill by saying: “No one should become president of the United States without speaking to the needs and hopes of Americans in all 50 states. … America would be better served with a presidential election process that treated citizens across the country equally. The National Popular Vote bill accomplishes this in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with our fundamental democratic principles.”

      On February 4, 2016 the Arizona House of Representatives passed the bill 40-16-4.
      Two-thirds of the Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives sponsored the National Popular Vote bill.
      In January 2016, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate sponsored the National Popular Vote bill.

      On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 28–18 margin.

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia, Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), Oklahoma (7), and Oregon (7), and both houses in Colorado (9).

      Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the National Popular Vote plan would not help either party over the other.

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    • mvymvy
      mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 12:55

      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 every state surveyed recently. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

      NationalPopularVote

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  2. Dude
    Dude 11 February, 2016, 09:53

    Know this, if this succeeds only California and New York will be deciding who sits in the White House. The scary thing about that is these state elected Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown and Andrew Cuomo as their respective governors. Both are ultra-liberal.

    Reply this comment
    • mvymvy
      mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 12:59

      The big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. Among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

      8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

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    • Yhaceed
      Yhaceed 10 November, 2016, 22:16

      Yeah I think that would be pretty accurate to say. However looking at the map the northwest as well as New York would choose the president ignoring all the other states. As of the time of this posting the popular vote is going to Hillary but most of it is coming from a few states particularly California, Oregon, and Washington. And while I understand it seems more fair to go with the popular vote it would mean a few states are not considering all the others. It’s just a fact that certain areas are more heavily populated. I think all the other states would be at the mercy of Hollywood and yet they’re conservative. So any candidate has to do extremely well in many states just to make up for what happens in a few states. If these were extremely in the minority I’d get behind this idea but when this country was founded every state wanted to feel important no matter the fact that some were small. I think our founders got it right.

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      • Yhaceed
        Yhaceed 11 November, 2016, 20:59

        I also just wanted to add one more thing to just put it out there. If a segment of the population wants things a specific way and let’s say they constitute 10% of it, in these modern times they may actually get their way. Now specifically that could be any group in the minority such as blacks but honestly I’m thinking about gays and lesbians. They constitute a small portion of California yet they were able to overturn the will of the majority to legalize same sex marriage. Therefore if we really wanted to take this concept to its ultimate conclusion then neither gay people nor any other group could get their way if their in the minority. And that’s exactly what the founders had in mind. How do you provide for the least? Do the small states have any say in political issues? This concept would change the face of politics and open up “a whole can of worms”. I don’t think many would be ready for the consequences.

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  3. dmallonee
    dmallonee 11 February, 2016, 10:36

    It’s not constitutional. The legislature of each state has plenary power to decide how electors are selected. That power can’t be delegated to other states, which is what this would do.

    Reply this comment
    • mvymvy
      mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 13:00

      “The bottom line is that the electors from those states who cast their ballot for the nationwide vote winner are completely accountable (to the extent that independent agents are ever accountable to anyone) to the people of those states. The National Popular Vote states aren’t delegating their Electoral College votes to voters outside the state; they have made a policy choice about the substantive intelligible criteria (i.e., national popularity) that they want to use to make their selection of electors. There is nothing in Article II (or elsewhere in the Constitution) that prevents them from making the decision that, in the Twenty-First Century, national voter popularity is a (or perhaps the) crucial factor in worthiness for the office of the President.”
      – Vikram David Amar – professor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UC Davis School of Law. Before becoming a professor, he clerked for Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justice Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court of the United States.

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  4. mvymvy
    mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 12:46

    The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It’s much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we’d had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

    The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

    No recount, much less a nationwide recount, would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.
    The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
    “It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

    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.

    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 creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

    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 with the National Popular Vote. 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.

    The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.

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  5. mvymvy
    mvymvy 11 February, 2016, 12:48

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

    16% of the U.S. population lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Rural America has voted 60% Republican. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

    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 15% of the population of the United States. 16% of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities. They voted 63% Democratic in 2004.

    Suburbs divide almost exactly equally between Republicans and Democrats.

    A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

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  6. desmond
    desmond 11 February, 2016, 19:59

    Verbose!
    I take a crap every time I see Hillary. Wonder if Billy has that reaction?
    Man, isn’t Chelsea the definition of Butt Ugly?
    That looks like a toothy asshole, with hair between the teeth..ooh, nasty.
    For a good laugh, check out the exploits of her father in law. Fits right in with Bildo and his satanic spouse….666 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Reply this comment
  7. Queeg
    Queeg 11 February, 2016, 22:24

    Comrades

    Command economies have high voter participation due to love of their leaders….

    You’re being set up for a positive long term “D” voting record!

    You’ll love Kamila, believe.

    Reply this comment

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