I read with interest an essay in last Sunday’s Perspective section about American voters’ attitudes toward the Electoral College. The authors’ survey showed that a small majority of 53 percent advocated for changing away from the current Electoral College system to a national popular vote.
But it doesn’t have to be an either/or. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact does not eliminate the Electoral College but works in concert with it. The idea is simple: When a state joins the national vote compact, it agrees to cast all of its Electoral Votes for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. That ensures that the candidate who wins the popular vote becomes president and yet leaves the Electoral College intact. The compact would not take effect until enough states to total 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win the presidency — have joined.
In all but the presidential election, every local, state and national election uses the “one person, one vote“ process to elect candidates. In contrast, the president of the United States, who should represent all Americans, is elected by “presidential electors” who are chosen by and represent each of the two major parties. Most of a state’s voting citizens do not know who these electors are and how they “represent” them in the electoral process.
In nearly all states, a party’s electors use the winner-take-all approach, which means they cast all their votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. Thus, it is these electors who actually choose the president and vice president. This is an antiquated, complicated and unrepresentative method of choosing the president.
Historically, interstate compacts have been in effect for a very long time. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among states, using the Electoral College, which in turn guarantees every person’s vote actually counts. Hardly a new idea, the national popular vote concept has been around since 2006.
The National Popular Vote does not “circumvent” or “abandon” the Electoral College but engages it in the context of an interstate compact to ensure that every single vote is counted. The National Popular Vote ensures every vote, in every state, in every presidential election counts — just as every vote counts in state and jurisdictional elections.
Electing the president by national popular vote is a nonpartisan issue. Many eligible voters from both parties do not vote because they know if they are of the opposite party, in historically red or blue states, their vote really doesn’t count because of the Electoral College and the winner-take-all system.
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Once the National Popular Vote passes enough states to reach 270 electors, the voting rate will most likely increase because voters will know their vote really does count.
The current state-by-state Electoral College winner-take-all system decreases the political clout of small states in presidential elections. When campaigning, presidential candidates ignore small states when not of the president’s party and focus on larger, “swing” states that cannot be counted on to vote in an historically consistent political party way.
Large cities will not dominate the national popular vote because the 100 largest cities contain approximately one sixth of the U.S. population and rural areas and those outside Metropolitan Statistical Areas also contain approximately one sixth of the U.S. population. Thus, they are basically equal. This all but guarantees that presidential candidates must campaign in every state to ensure they are capturing every single eligible vote. This is in contrast to the current 13 states in which nearly all of the presidential campaigning is focused.
As of January 2022, the National Popular Vote has been adopted by 15 states and the District of Columbia. Together, they have 195 electoral votes, 72.2 percent of the 270 votes needed to give the compact legal force.
The time has come to change the current arcane system by which we elect the president of the United States.
Jeannie Hamilton is a communications team member of Floridians for the National Popular Vote. For more information visit www.nationalpopularvote.com.