New Yorker Political columnist Hendrik Hertzberg writes about the National Popular Vote plan.
The National Popular Vote plan is the state compact that, if enacted by enough states, would have member states award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Essentially, the plan is a constitutional way of creating a national popular vote without the difficulties of amending the U.S. Constitution. The National Popular Vote plan has been championed by Dr. John R. Koza, who is Chairman of National Popular Vote Inc.
Hertzberg looks at Koza’s research into the “wrong winner” problem, in which the winner of the electoral college vote loses the popular vote (like happened in 2000). Koza uses national head-to-head general election polls and compares them to state head-to-head polls. Hertzberg writes:
A 2000-style disaster for democracy could easily befall us again this year, as Koza has just written an interesting analysis to show.
By compiling state-by-state polling data, Darryl Holman, a University of Washington social scientist, has run eight mock general-election pair-ups between Democratic and Republican candidates, showing who would win and who would lose in the Electoral College if the election were held today. What Koza has done is to compare Holman’s findings with a calculation of what the national popular vote would be, using national polls taken in the same time periods.
Koza’s startling finding: In three out of Holman’s eight head-to-head face-offs, the national popular-vote winner loses the electoral vote—and with it, of course, the mock election.
(Hey…I’m glad someone found those analyses useful!)
Hertzberg provides Koza’s entire analysis.
It is hard to argue in favor of our current system of electing our Presidents via the winner-take-all Electoral College approach. (Well…ignoring the “It’s how we’ve always done it!” argument, anyway.) Two hundred years ago the system might have made some sense, but today we really should be electing the President through a popular vote.
One thing is certain though…the Electoral College is not going to go away anytime soon. But since the Constitution give the states control over how electors are selected, the National Popular Vote compact (if enacted by enough states to control the majority of the Electoral College votes) would effectively and legally create a popular vote for President. And with no need to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Think of the advantages to this system…. First, candidates will no longer spend the vast majority of their time pandering to a few important swing states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Right now, a voter in Ohio has far more influence in electing the President than you have. It just shouldn’t be so. In an ideal democracy, every person’s vote should carry the same weight.
A popular vote would encourage candidates to campaign more broadly so as to reach as many voters as possible. It would mean that candidates visiting Washington for fundraising would actually engage in this activity called campaigning. Imagine that…Washington state no longer being treated like an ATM machine!
Finally, a popular vote gets rid of the embarrassing (albeit rare) situation—like we saw in 2000—where the loser of the popular vote ends up being President.
The Washington state legislature is about to take up work on a National Popular Vote bill:
The 10 legislative sponsors of the National Popular Vote bill in Washington State include Representatives Joe McDermott, Shirley Hankins, Mark Miloscia, Mike Armstrong, Fred Jarrett, and Tom Campbell and Senators Eric Oemig, Darlene Fairley, Craig Pridemore, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles. The House bill is HB 1750 (Status of HB 1750), and the Senate bill is SB 5628 (Status of SB 5628).
If you like the idea of Washington state participating in the compact, contact your Washington state Senator and Representatives. Here is a good place to start.
To learn more about the progress of the compact in other states, visit the National Popular Vote web site.
(Cross-posted at Hominid Views.)