If John Koza gets his way, American voters will never again have to wonder about the workings of the Electoral College and why it decides who sits in the White House.
Koza is behind a push to have states circumvent the odd political math of the Electoral College and ensure that the presidency always goes to the winner of the popular vote.
Basically, states would promise to award their electoral votes to the candidate with the most support nationwide, regardless of who carries each particular state.
"We're just coming along and saying, 'Why not add up the votes of all 50 states and award the electoral votes to the 50-state winner?'" said Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote Inc. "I think that the candidate who gets the most votes should win."
The proposal is aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2000 election, when Al Gore got the most votes nationwide but George W. Bush put together enough victories in key states to win a majority in the Electoral College and capture the White House.
So far, Maryland and New Jersey have signed up for the plan. Legislation that would include Illinois is on the governor's desk. But dozens more states would have to join before the plan could take effect.
The idea is a long shot. But it appears to be easier than the approach tried previously - amending the Constitution, which takes approval by Congress and then ratification by 38 states.
The Electoral College was set up to make the final decision on who becomes president. Each state has a certain number of votes in the college based on the size of its congressional delegation.
Often, all of a state's electoral votes are given to whoever wins that state's popular vote. For instance, even someone who wins New York by two percentage points, 51-49, would get all 31 of the state's electoral votes.
'A 50-state exercise'
This creates some problems.
One is that candidates can ignore voters in states that aren't competitive. If the Democrat is clearly going to win a state, the Republican has no reason to court its minority of GOP voters.
Another problem is the possibility of a result like that in 2000, where one candidate gets more votes overall but the other candidate gets narrow victories in just the right states to eke out a majority in the Electoral College.
National Popular Vote says its plan would change all that.
"What's important to the country is that it would make presidential campaigns a 50-state exercise," said Koza, a Stanford University computer science professor.
Here's how it would work:
States forge an agreement to change the way they allocate general election votes. The agreement would take effect once it has been approved by states with a majority in the Electoral College, or 270 votes.
At that point, the states would begin awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who carries each state.
If the candidates tied in the popular vote, each state would give its electoral votes to the candidate who carried that particular state - basically the same system used now.
There are critics. The downside, they argue, is that a close election would require recounts not just in one or two key states, but throughout the country.
They also say it would further reduce the influence of small states as politicians focus on such places as voter-rich California, New York and Texas.
"Any way you look at it, I think smaller populations have a greater voice under the current system than they would under a national popular vote system," said North Dakota state Rep. Lawrence Klemin, a Republican who voted against adding his state to National Popular Vote's agreement.