By Alex Dunn
Published September 27th 2007 in The Hill
Members of National Popular Vote (NPV), a small outreach organization based in California, argue that U.S. democracy does not necessarily produce a democratic electoral outcome — and they hope to change it in time for the 2012 election.
NPV wants to determine the presidential winner according to the total number of national votes cast for each candidate, not by the Electoral College. It argues that the disproportionate attention given by most candidates to a small number of battleground states renders most Americans irrelevant in the presidential selection process.
“In the 2004 election, 99 percent of all the campaign funds were spent in just 16 states, which means that the remaining 34 states and the District of Columbia were effectively disenfranchised,” says NPV spokesman John Koza.
The group’s solution is not a constitutional amendment, but a compact that state legislatures would ratify. It will take effect only if it gets the support of a majority of the Electoral College, or 270 out of the 538 total electors. NPV estimates it would take 20 to 30 states, depending on their size, to enact the measure.
In contrast to the current system, in which a candidate can win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, the new proposal would send the electoral votes of each state to the candidate who wins the popular vote in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Ted Trimpa, a Colorado lobbyist hired by NPV for national strategy, is spending this week in Washington with federal lawmakers who could prove key in pushing reforms for their states.
“Seventy percent of the American public would like to see the president elected by popular vote,” Trimpa said. He conceded that Democrats “tend to provide more support [to the plan] than Republicans,” but he added: “it doesn’t necessarily have to be a partisan issue.”
He noted that NPV’s strategy does not focus on states for partisan reasons but homes in on those that favor a transition to the popular vote. In particular, those are the states that feel most “disenfranchised” by the current system. Koza argues most states will effectively be left out of the 2008 contest, including the three most populous: California, Texas and New York.
NPV has plenty of ground to cover, however, if it plans to enlist enough support to reach the threshold of 270 electors in time for 2012. Maryland is thus far the only state that the bill has cleared.
Yet since it was founded last year, NPV boasts that 364 state legislative sponsors have signed on as sponsors, while another 405 have voted in favor of the bill. It has passed both houses in Hawaii and Illinois and one house in Arkansas, California, Colorado and North Carolina. In several cases it faces a veto threat, however.