A critical reform in presidential elections

By Jean Thomas
Published August 21st 2007 in The Napa Valley Register

In U.S. presidential elections, every vote should be equal. Every person's vote should count equally, no matter in which state the vote is cast. However, every vote is not equal. Forty-eight of our 50 states plus the District of Columbia have a state-wide winner-take-all system. Only Maine and Nebraska elect presidential electors by congressional district (winner-take-all on a smaller scale).

In the 2000 election, Al Gore won five electoral votes in New Mexico because he beat Bush by 365 votes. Bush won five electoral votes in Utah because he beat Gore by 312,043 votes. In the 2000 election, Gore won the national popular vote by 537,179. George Bush beat Gore in Florida by 537 votes, thus winning Florida's 25 electoral votes and the presidency. In the 2004 election, George Bush beat John Kerry with a nationwide popular vote of 3,319,608. A switch of 59,393 votes in Ohio would have given the presidency to Kerry.

The Constitution specifies that the president and vice president will be chosen every four years by a small group of people known as "electors." Each state is entitled to one presidential elector for each of its U.S. representatives and senators. Today, there are a total 538 electoral votes. A candidate must win 270 electoral votes in order to be elected to office. It doesn't matter if he/she wins the vote of the nationwide majority of voters or not.

For more than 50 years, a majority of Americans have spoken out in favor of changing the electoral college system. Congress, however, has consistently blocked this basic reform. A constitutional amendment would be required to make the change, and this has always met with resistance from certain legislators in Washington. For some reason, they prefer winner-take-all.

Now there is a proposal to change the system that will work ... "The Agreement Among the States Elect the President By National Popular Vote." This is an interstate agreement, a compact, whereby state legislatures pledge the electoral votes from their states to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. When states whose electoral votes total 270 have passed the bill into law, the outdated and antiquated electoral college system will be history.

The National Popular Vote Bill now has 364 bipartisan sponsors in 47 states. Forty-three bills have been introduced. Eleven legislative chambers have passed the bill. The Governor of Maryland has signed the bill into law.

The National Popular Vote Bill was approved by the California Legislature in August 2006. It was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The bill now has another chance in California, having passed the Senate on May 14. Will the governor veto it again? If so, why?

Go to nationalpopularvote.com for the latest information on this important reform.

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.