Opinion

The Great Debate

Can National Popular Vote end the voting wars?

One of the most pernicious outcomes of the intense political struggle between Democrats and Republicans is the parties’ breathtaking capacity to game our voting rules. Nothing makes voters more cynical than seeing political leaders seemingly supporting or opposing election laws based solely on their partisan impact — from redistricting reform to fights over whether to allow early voting. ­

But a reform win in New York could foreshadow a cease-fire in the voting wars. On April 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation making New York the 10th state to pass the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact for president. Overwhelming majorities of both Republicans and Democrats approved the bill, which seeks to guarantee election of the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

We don’t need a constitutional amendment to achieve this goal. The Constitution gives each state power over how to allocate its electoral votes and the ability to enter into binding interstate compacts. The Founding Fathers gave states freedom to structure how to select the president — and national popular vote embodies that tradition.

It can only go into effect after adoption in jurisdictions that collectively hold a majority of electoral votes. Right now, the supporting states together have 165 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to activate the national popular vote. Once states with at least 105 more electoral votes pass it, we will hold a presidential election in which, for the first time in U.S. history, every vote in every state will count equally. The candidate with the most votes will always win.

It’s hard to overemphasize the value of passing the national popular vote. Today, a partisan wall blocks out meaningful competition in more than two-thirds of states and even larger majorities of congressional districts. As soon as a state has an underlying preference of more than eight or nine percentage points for one party — with New Mexico and Missouri examples of such former swing states — no amount of money or voter mobilization can influence that state’s presidential outcome in a nationally competitive year.

Delegitimization of Obama begins

 

The Republican drive to delegitimize President Barack Obama’s possible second term has started.

As recent polls have allowed for the possibility that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney could win the popular vote while the president carries the Electoral College, the conservative blogosphere has lit up not only with long-overdue attacks on the Electoral College but also with the specious argument that a popular-vote loss for Obama will undermine his mandate and justify continued obstruction by Republican lawmakers.

Nonsense.

Under the Constitution, the Electoral College winner becomes president. Candidates know that when they plan their campaigns, and wise candidates could care less about the popular vote when they plot strategy and deploy resources. The popular vote, therefore, is a misleading measure of a candidate’s success or the strength of a mandate.

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