Later today the RI House is expected to vote on the national popular vote bill (H 5569, sponsored by Rep. Lally). Using their exclusive control of presidential electors under the Constitution, five states have already enacted identical legislation, and once states with a majority in the Electoral College have signed on, we'll get a national popular vote for president. The bill won't go into effect until this happens.
A national popular vote would make for significant improvements in Rhode Island's role during presidential elections. Under the winner-take-all system we have today, Rhode Island and most other states stop mattering the day their primary is over. Most Americans--more than 60%--don't live in the privileged handful of "swing states" that have an arbitrary, outsized influence on the election process.
Those of us who live in "safe" states like Rhode Island are treated like second-class citizens; we're fit to contribute to presidential campaigns but not to receive meaningful attention from them. Rhode Islanders gave millions to presidential candidates this year--but neither of the big two visited the Ocean State after their party conventions.
Minorities are particularly hard hit; millions of African-Americans live in safely "red" Southern states where their votes are mostly symbolic. Their lack of influence today is a much less pernicious reminder of one of the original purposes of the Electoral College, which was designed to give slave states electoral "credit" for the people they kept in bondage.
As James Madison wrote,
the South "could have no influence in the election on the score of the
Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and
seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections." Today, we
If you believe--along with FairVote, the national Common Cause, the NAACP, and 74% of Rhode Islanders--that we ought to have a national popular vote for president, drop a line to your Representative. (Click here to find their name here).