By Ted Trimpa
The rapidly growing movement toward a national popular vote for president got a boost on July 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can legally require presidential electors to vote for the candidate they promised to support when their political party nominated them.
The decision on so-called “faithless electors” underscores Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, which gives each state legislature the power to decide the manner in which presidential electors are chosen within their jurisdiction. Under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, states that combine for 270 or more electoral votes would use that power to award their electors to the candidate who receives the most individual votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In other words, the compact would ensure that the Electoral College always reflects the will of the majority of voters across the U.S. Thus far, 15 states and the District of Columbia – comprising 196 electoral votes – have passed the National Popular Vote law and signed onto the compact. There are at least three important reasons why this reform measure makes sense.
First and foremost, a National Popular Vote would bring on a true 50-state presidential campaign in which every voter in every state is politically relevant.
Under the current system, we don’t so much elect the President of the United States as we do the President of the Battleground States – the handful of jurisdictions where the candidates spend virtually all their resources chasing blocks of electoral votes with the propensity to swing back and forth every four years. Candidates all but ignore the other 40 or so states, which can be expected to faithfully go red or blue without any further attention.
Under a National Popular Vote, candidates would surely be compelled to chase down every voter in every state, listen to their concerns, and pay attention to their local and regional issues. Imagine the Republican ticket barnstorming through Massachusetts, New York, and other ‘blue’ states they would otherwise ignore, while Democrats rally in reliably ‘red’ states like the Dakotas, Kansas, and West Virginia. The entire character of our presidential elections would change because winning 270 electoral votes and the White House would directly depend on winning the national popular vote.
Secondly, National Popular Vote would significantly amplify the power of voters in small states and rural states to help elect a president.
For example, under the current system, my home state of Colorado has a direct voice in allocating just our own block of nine electoral votes. Under a National Popular Vote, Coloradans gain a direct voice over the selection of 270 electors – enough to elect a president. Everyone would have their vote counted directly toward their choice for president. And the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes would become president.
And third, a National Popular Vote would provide powerful insurance against the possibility of voter fraud swinging a presidential election to the wrong candidate.
Simple math and logic dictate that under a National Popular Vote, it would be virtually impossible to alter the hundreds of thousands, or more likely the millions of votes it would take to fraudulently elect a president.
Not so under the current system. Today, a handful of tampered votes could easily swing a razor-close presidential election one way or another. Changing a few hundred votes in Florida in 2000 would have swung the state’s 25 electoral votes, and the election, from Bush to Gore. Changing a few thousand votes in just a state or two in 2004 could have given the presidency to John Kerry, even though George W. Bush scored a national popular vote victory of more than three million.
The National Popular Vote movement is a constitutionally, uniquely, American idea whose time is fast approaching – and with just 74 electoral votes left in order to take effect, perhaps as soon as 2024.