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Thanks to the archaic Electoral College system of electing American Presidents and Vice Presidents, approximately 50% of votes cast are thrown out. Any my vote in Illinois is worth about 1/6th of a vote in Alaska. Corrupt? No, it’s the law. How could this be?

How to fix it? Rewrite the 24th amendment which established the Electoral College. Good luck with that. The other way is to support the National Popular Vote legislation in your state (Google it), which would at least assure the winner of the popular vote wins. You will hear a lot about the importance of the Electoral College between now and the election, as the campaigns game the system, but you won’t hear much now, and less after the election, about how it is stealing your vote.

Here’s how the EC works (from Wikipedia):

The United States Electoral College is the body that elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years. Citizens of the United States do not directly elect the president or the vice president; instead they choose “electors”, who usually pledge to vote for particular candidates.

Electors are apportioned to each of the 50 states as well as to the District of Columbia. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of members of Congress to which the state is entitled, while the Twenty-third Amendment grants the District of Columbia the same number of electors as the least populous state, currently three. Therefore, there are currently 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, plus the three additional electors from the District of Columbia. The Constitution bars any federal official, elected or appointed, from being an elector.

Except for Maine and Nebraska, all states have chosen electors on a “winner-take-all” basis since the 1880s. That is, each state has all of its electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in that state. Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, selecting one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and selecting the remaining two electors by a statewide popular vote. Although no elector is required by federal law to honor a pledge, there have been very few occasions when an elector voted contrary to a pledge. The Twelfth Amendment, in specifying how a president and vice president are elected, requires each elector to cast one vote for president and another vote for vice president.

The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (currently 270) for the office of president or of vice president is elected to that office. The Twelfth Amendment provides for what happens if the Electoral College fails to elect a president or vice president. If no candidate receives a majority for president, then the House of Representatives will select the president, with each state delegation (instead of each representative) having only one vote. If no candidate receives a majority for vice president, then the Senate will select the vice president, with each senator having one vote. On four occasions, most recently in the 2000 presidential election, the Electoral College system has resulted in the election of a candidate who did not receive the most popular votes in the election.

ImageWhen Lyndon Johnson stepped before a joint session of Congress nearly 50 years ago, on March 15, 1965, to endorse the Voting Rights Act, he proclaimed,: “It is very deadly to deny your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.” Of course, he was referring to blacks.

Yet today, in 2014, the unwillingness of Congress to replace the dangerous and obsolete Electoral College system of electing our Presidents means that we are still far, far away from a one-person/one-vote democracy in America. Twice before, as recently as 2000, the candidate who got the lesser electoral votes was elected President. There is a path open to change that failure. Go to to learn how.

States representing about half the electoral votes have already enacted legislation to enable a national popular vote. Has yours? Let’s bring true democracy to America in our lifetimes.

That’s right, your vote in the November Presidential election probably won’t count if you vote in Illinois or Wisconsin!


Because the archaic Electoral College is where the President is really elected, and because of the College’s “winner-take-all” voting system,  the states that are reliably liberal or conservative are already in the bag for the respective candidates. That leaves the current nine battleground swing states, where the election could go either way, to determine our next President.

If you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, you do not, at this writing,  live in one of those crucial swing states that will almost certainly determine the next President. If you lived in CO, FL, NC, NH, NE, OH, PA, or VA, that’s where the candidates will focus their campaign appearances and spending. This could change before the election, but it probably won’t.

It’s too late to change the system before this Novermber’s election, but not before the next one. Google National Popular Vote for a discussion of how and why this is so, and what YOU can do about it. Make a difference for the future. Bring democracy back to America, while there is still time. You can matter, if you take action.

US Electoral college map

Image via Wikipedia

Vermont Is 8th State to Enact National Popular Vote Bill
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the National Popular Vote bill, making Vermont the eighth jurisdiction to enact the legislation.

The bill has now been enacted by jurisdictions possessing 77 electoral votes—29% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the legislation, including the District of Columbia (3 electoral votes), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), New Jersey (15), Vermont (3), and Washington state (11).

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The National Popular Vote bill has now passed 31 legislative chambers in 21 places, including chamber(s) in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. A map on our web site shows the progress of the bill in each state.

At the present time, the National Popular Vote bill has been endorsed by 2,003 of the nation’s state legislators (27% of 7,424 state legislators).

Please Write Your State Legislators Asking Them to Support the Bill
One of the most important things you can do to support the National Popular Vote bill is to write your state legislators and state officials asking them to support the bill. You can quickly and easily send an e-mail to your state legislators by going to Our system will provide a suggested letter, which you can edit.

Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from all the states that have enacted the bill would be awarded, as a bloc, to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes-that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The shortcomings of the current system are caused by the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each separate state).

Under the current system of electing the President, two thirds of the states are ignored by the presidential campaign; a second-place candidate can win the Presidency; turnout is depressed in the spectator states; and every vote is not equal.

Because of the winner-take-all rule, presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, or pay attention to voter concerns in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a small handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the post-convention campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Two thirds of the states were ignored by the presidential campaigns in 2008.

Take a look at this straightforward video by Tom Golisano, philanthropist and founder of Paychex, the 2nd largest payroll company in the U.S.

The disconnect between the rhetoric of government, especially the Federal government, and the life and prospects of ordinary Americans is a vast chasm. The poor and working poor grow poorer. The rich and super rich grow richer, flaunting their political influence, wealth and extravagant lifestyles, provoking those less clever and lucky. The un-necessary wars go on and on, and cost more and more in lives and treasure, while the government refuses to restrain the military industrial complex or engage the 99% of the untouched population by risking a draft or war taxes. The Left/right political process is broken, yet hangs on because of fear of change, fear of disrupting the obsolete political norm, and fixing things like the dangerous Electoral College process for electing Presidents, where a vote in Alaska is worth 6 times more than a vote in Chicago, or the Senate that leaves us with lopsided representation that is geographic instead of population-centered. And let’s look at the ramifications of the decay of standards in education, and loss of general civility throughout society. All of that, together with inflammatory rhetoric emanating from some of our politicians and what used to be the news media, leaves little doubt that some of those on the fringe of mental stability might resort to acts of brutal terror to gain attention or express their utter frustration with society. Thus it is not surprising that Tucson happened, but that it doesn’t happen more often. The remedies, or at least the most glaring opportunities for remedy, are implied in the shortcomings I’ve just summarized. Was Tucson but a violent expression of a latent madness which ultimately infects us all.

It’s been exactly a decade since the outmoded Electoral College system of electing our Presidents, with the aid of the Supreme Court, handed the Presidency of the U.S. to a man who lost the popular vote in the nation by the population of Milwaukee. It was a close election all right, and the finger on the scale of history tipped the balance away from the people’s choice.

It’s happened three times before in our history, and it will happen again, and again, until the Electoral College is eliminated or marginalized. The electoral college was a political compromise made in the founding days of the republic, when it was feared that the common man, in the days before mass media, could not know enough about the candidates to make an informed choice. So now, in all but two states, electors unknown to the people cast all of each state’s electoral votes for the winner of the popular votes in that state, throwing out all votes cast for the opposition, and in effect dumbing down the national electoral votes, so they do not necessarily reflect the overall popular will. How dumb is that?

Indeed the American people are on the verge of running over their very lame indeed so-called Lame Duck Session of Congress, which seems unable to get together to pass any legislation that the people need and want. Whether it’s tax relief, at least for the hard-pressed middle, or unemployment relief or eliminating the hypocrisy of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” in the military, this Congress is useless. They might as well all go home and just stay there, and hope the citizens with the pitchforks stay in for the holidays.

Notes on politics, mostly.
National Popular Vote
August 31, 2010
W.S.J. on N.P.V.: Surprisingly Fair
Posted by Hendrik HertzbergI’m a bit late getting to this, but on July 29th the Wall Street Journal’s online opinion Web site got around to publishing a piece on the National Popular Vote plan.

It’s by James Taranto, who edits the site, and it comes out against N.P.V. No surprise there, really. Even though all available polling shows that rank-and-file Republicans support popular election, by majorities of roughly 2 to 1—nearly as overwhelming as rank-and-file Democratic support, which averages around 3 to 1—the default position on the professional right seems to be: No way, José. The usual argument is that electing Presidents the way we elect governors, senators, mayors, state legislators, etc., etc., would be a totalitarian horror that would doom America to permanent mob rule by the urban masses and their corrupt bosses, augmented by whatever illegal aliens ACORN hasn’t yet got around to illegally registering.

What is surprising is that Taranto, after a bit of standard right-wing throat clearing (“a partisan protest masquerading as a high-minded reform,” “a too-clever-by-half attempt to circumvent America’s constitutional structure”) does not take this tack. Nor does he sully himself with any of the other usual specious arguments—e.g., residents of small states would be disadvantaged, campaigning would occur only in big cities, the two-party system would be destroyed, vote-stealing would be rampant, recounts would be a bigger danger than under the status quo, etc.

I have to give him extra props for the following:

1. He gives his readers a reasonably fair description of the plan:

The idea is known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If and only if enough states have joined by July 20 of any presidential election year, those states affirm that their election officials will choose the slate of electors pledged to the candidate with the highest national popular-vote total, regardless of the preferences of their own states’ voters.

In other words, it takes effect only if enough states have joined to ensure that the result will be to hand the presidency to the popular-vote “winner.”

One may question some of the tonal body language (e.g., those air quotes around “winner”), but still: succinct and accurate.

Continue Reading >> .POSTED INHendrik Hertzberg
| Electoral Reform| National Popular Vote| The Constitution| The Right

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Here is the update from the bill’s website. Now is the time to effectively ditch the outmoded and dangerous Electoral College system of electing our Presidents. This is a non-partisan issue, which I wrote about in an essay for the Chicago Literary Club, at

Not counting Massachusetts, the National Popular Vote bill has, at the present time, support of

26% of the nation’s 7,400 state legislators,
30% of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers, and
states with 23% of the electoral votes needed to bring it into force.
So far, the National Popular Vote compact has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington. The compact, called the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote,” will take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of electoral votes (that is, 270 of 538). The five states that have now enacted the compact have a total of 61 electoral votes (23% of the 270 electoral votes needed). The goal of National Popular Vote is to reach 270 electoral votes in time for the 2012 presidential election.

March 2023

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