New York has joined the campaign to effectively end the Electoral College’s role in determining winners of presidential elections.
Under the National Popular Vote Compact, which Gov. Cuomo signed off on Tuesday, the state has agreed to award its electoral college votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote…
The compact only takes effect once enough states have signed on to give it the required 270 electoral college votes. With New York’s participation, the movement has 165 votes.
“With the passage of this legislation, New York is taking a bold step to fundamentally increase the strength and fairness of our nation’s presidential elections,” Cuomo said.
Replacing the Electoral College by electing the U.S. president through the national popular vote is as democratic an ideal as there is, says Democratic strategist Ben Wikler.
“The uniting principal is actually the idea that votes should count,” Wikler told J.D. Hayworth on “America’s Forum” Thursday on Newsmax TV.”
“So the question is now, do we want to be divided into red states and blue states, or do we all want to be Americans voting for president just the way as our brothers and sisters in other states across the country? Both parties should be competing for a national mandate, should be competing for support from a majority of Americans.”…
“I don’t know of any place in the debates among the Founding Fathers where they said that a small sliver of swing states should determine who becomes president,” he said.
The best case for passing the law might be this map from the National Popular Vote group, which shows how many 2012 presidential campaign events were held in each state between the party conventions and the election:
You’ll notice that the majority of states never saw Romney or Obama at all, because their electoral votes were already foregone conclusions. And when a president can get elected by basically ignoring the specific needs and interests of most of the states in the country, that is, like, pretty messed up.
This got me wondering: Which states get the worst deal from the Electoral College, technically speaking? Everyone knows that the good people of Wyoming make out like bandits, but which voters are least represented in a presidential contest?
I assumed that since the least populated states are the most preposterously over-represented, the largest states, like California and Texas, would suffer the most when compared against the ideal of a “one-person, one vote” standard.
In any case, as Hertzberg makes clear, every state that doesn’t have a delicate ideological balance is actually getting screwed by the Electoral College — that is to say, practically all of them. However, it is still striking to note that the vote of a Wyoming resident is weighted nearly three and half times more than that of a Pennsylvania resident. Not to mention that it’s theoretically possible to win the presidency with nearly 80 percent of the population voting against you.
N.P.V. is a good idea for all sorts of high-minded civic reasons. When an election is for a single office and only one candidate can win, it’s obviously outrageous when the candidate who gets more votes somehow loses to the one who gets fewer. But that doesn’t happen very often—”only” four of our thirty-nine elected Presidents, including “only” one of the two most recent, made it to the White House despite the citizenry’s preference for somebody else. What’s more outrageous is what happens every time: four-fifths of the states are ignored in the general election.
If you live in one of those states, you see neither hide nor hair of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees, scarcely even in television commercials. Grassroots politics does not exist in your state as far as the Presidential campaign is concerned, because there’s no point in ringing your neighbors’ doorbells if the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. The relative power of money vs. people is magnified, because while campaign cash is raised everywhere, including your state, it gets funnelled exclusively into places like Ohio and Florida. And, between elections, states like yours get measurably less federal attention and federal money, per capita, than is lavished on the swingin’ few.
But it’s not just the voters in those spectator states who are ignored. It’s also the politicians, including the state legislators—no matter which party they belong to, no matter whether their state is red or blue, no matter whether the sure winner in their state is the candidate of their party or the other party. Either way, they’re nobodies. The National Popular Vote plan would make them somebodies—and that, perhaps more than the high-minded stuff, is why N.P.V. has a pretty good chance of actually happening…
The absence of red states from the roster is due largely to to a suspicion among Republican politicians and operatives that N.P.V. is somehow an attempt to get revenge for 2000. In opinion polls, Republican rank-and-filers, as distinct from Party professionals, strongly favor the idea of popular election. And a nontrivial number of Republican pros favor the plan itself.
Here’s the problem: All the states to have joined so far are very blue. Until some purple states and red states sign on, the compact has little in the way of territory to conquer…
Perhaps the compact can get Delaware, Connecticut and Maine to join, where Obama also won by 15 percentage points or more. But they account for only 14 total electoral votes (and Maine already has a unique way of apportioning electoral votes). Oregon and New Mexico also re-elected Obama by double-digit margins — and those two states have become increasingly off-limits to Republican presidential candidates — but have just 12 electoral votes between them.
After that, you get into states such as Michigan and Minnesota, which are blue-leaning but that receive plenty of attention from presidential campaigns. Their votes might not be quite as influential in the Electoral College as the campaigns presume — a Democrat who lost Minnesota would probably be in too much trouble elsewhere to cobble together a 270-vote majority. Still, they receive an influx of media dollars and political pandering every four years, and probably have little incentive to bite the hand that feeds them.
Soon after comes outright swing states, such as Ohio, New Hampshire and Colorado. These states, along with Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, collectively had a 98.6 percent chance of determining the Electoral College winner in 2012, according to the FiveThirtyEight tipping-point index as it was calculated on election morning. In other words, these nine states are 70 times more powerful than the other 41 (which collectively had a 1.4 percent chance of determining the winner) combined. That’s part of the reason so many Americans object to the Electoral College. But states whose voters have a disproportionate amount of influence may be in no mood to give it up.
Why are Democrats pushing this plan?
Democrats usually see a smaller percentage of their people go to the polls than Republicans do.
Under the electoral vote system, they figure why beat the drums to get a high turnout in New York City when the state will go Democratic anyway? But if it’s the popular vote that matters, the big-city machines can do their thing — with devastating impact…
If the popular vote determines who will be the next president, we can bet that the machines will be out in force lining up voters, real and phony, to pad their statistics.
It comes down to whether parties have confidence in their policies and ability to earn majorities. If you do, you can be confident in winning majority support in a truly representative democracy.
Under the current system, however, majority support does not guarantee electoral success. In any given election, one party or the other can have an advantage based on the vagaries of the leanings of a few swing states. Republicans used to have an edge, but in recent elections, pundits like Nate Silver of 538 convincingly argue that Democrats have had an edge. The 2016 race, however, is anyone’s guess. We know that there will be a distortion — but we don’t know who it will help…
Nothing would be better for restoring Americans’ faith in their elected officials if those officials made it clear that voters and their democracy come first. Our political leaders should be willing to allow fair completion and encourage high participation in exchange for earning the consent of the governed as intended by our Constitution.