Massachusetts Could Join Anti-Electoral College Pact

The Electoral College is a frequently discussed, and often criticized, way of choosing the president. Hoping to bypass it, some states believe they’ve come up with a better method.

As The Boston Globe reports today (July 20), Massachusetts could become the sixth state — along with Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington — to pass legislation that would skip the Electoral College system altogether. Under the new plan, the state would hand all of its 12 electors to the winner of the national popular vote, even if that candidate didn’t win in Massachusetts itself.

The proposal — being pushed in legislatures around the country by an organization called National Popular Vote — wouldn’t take effect until enough states have passed identical legislation. The cutoff mark is the 270 electoral votes needed for any candidate to claim the presidency.

Thirty legislative chambers in 19 states have passed the legislation, according to National Popular Vote, though it remains relatively rare for the bills to become law. The five states that have enacted the legislation account for 61 electoral votes, or 23 percent of the total needed for the compact to go into effect.

Massachusetts would push those totals up to 73 electoral votes, or 27 percent of what is required, but it is not certain that the bill will become law. The legislation has passed both chambers, but final votes are still required and it is unclear whether Governor Deval Patrick would sign it if it reaches his desk. Similar legislation cleared both chambers in Massachusetts in 2008, but never reached the governor.

The idea behind bypassing the Electoral College is to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election, which Republican George W. Bush won on electoral votes despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore. Supporters say that the plan would ensure that every vote counts equally, rather than having the voters of just one state — like Florida in 2000 — decide the outcome nationally. Opponents have voiced numerous complaints, including that presidential candidates simply wouldn’t bother to visit rural or relatively unpopulated areas and would cater only to urban centers.

Stateline examined the national popular vote idea in 2008, not long after Maryland became the first state to embrace it.

Read more from John Gramlich at Stateline.org

3 Responses to “Massachusetts Could Join Anti-Electoral College Pact”

  1. toto

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but now used by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just six states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). California and 12 of the 13 smallest states were NOT included. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states; over 80% in nine states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states, and candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    Reply
  2. mvymvy

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but now used by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Reply
  3. mvymvy

    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 obscurely far down in name recognition as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States.

    When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all rules, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

    Likewise, under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

    If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a "big city" approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn't be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

    Reply

Leave a Reply