How to drop out of the Electoral College

By Editorial
Published March 27th 2006 in Minneapolis Star Tribune
There's a way to ensure top vote-getter becomes president.

This country could form a more perfect union by accepting a novel idea: that the president of the United States should be elected by the people of the United States.

That's not the way it's done, of course, and, given the Constitution's enshrinement of the Electoral College, things aren't likely to change. To quit the college would take approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures, so fuggedaboudit.

But now comes a gaggle of bipartisan reformers with a cheeky idea worth considering. What if legislatures, one by one, entered their states into an interstate compact under which members would agree to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote? The compact would kick in only when enough states had joined it to elect a president -- that is, when a majority of the 538 electoral votes were assembled. As few as 11 states could ensure that the candidate with the most popular votes nationally would win the presidency. As a result, the Constitution and the Electoral College would stay intact, but the college's fangs would be removed.

That approach would be more democratic than current practice. Recall that Al Gore lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush despite getting a half-million more popular votes, and that Bush nearly lost the 2004 election despite getting 3 million more popular votes (a shift of only 60,000 votes in Ohio would have thrown the election to John Kerry). So, both parties have reason to fear the college's distortions.

That the Electoral College has "worked" in all but one election since 1888 isn't a good enough reason to stay with the status quo. The college has a perverse impact on campaigns. With no incentive to compete in states that are predictably red or blue, candidates concentrate on the battleground states -- only 13 of them in 2004, down from 24 in 1960. That's not the national campaign voters deserve. In the last election, 92 percent of campaign events took place in just 13 states, which also absorbed 97 percent of advertising during the campaign's final month. Three dozen red and blue states as large as California, New York and Texas and as small as Delaware, Utah and Wyoming were mere spectators.

Now that Minnesota is a battleground getting lots of attention, it's a lot to ask the Legislature to do the right thing and endorse the new compact. But it really should. So should other states -- both red and blue -- join, for the sake of a better democracy.
Sierra Club National Popular Vote Resolution
WHEREAS, the mission of the Sierra Club is to explore, enjoy and protect the planet through grassroots participation in politics and government; and

WHEREAS,  presidential candidates focus their efforts and resources only in battleground states.

WHEREAS, two-thirds of the states receive little to no attention in a competitive presidential election.

THERFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Sierra Club supports National Popular Vote state legislation that will elect the President of the United States by popular vote.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Sierra Club supports election of the President of the United States by direct popular vote.