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Al Gore Voices His Support of the National Popular Vote Initiative : The New Yorker

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The mechanics of the N.P.V. can be hard to grasp. It took three patient explanations to get me to my “Aha!” moment, and in the above clip Jennifer Granholm, a fearsomely intelligent former governor, seems to be having a little trouble getting a firm grip on how it works.* But what the N.P.V. does, if not how it does it, is simple. It allows the President to be elected the same way that governors, senators, legislators, and mayors are elected: by his or her constituents, with every voter’s vote of equal value, no matter where he or she happens to reside within the constituency.

So far, eight states plus D.C., representing a hundred and thirty-two of the needed two hundred and seventy electoral votes, have signed on. We’re forty-nine per cent of the way there. Getting the other fifty-one per cent will be the hard part.

We have an electoral college for many reasons, a big one is to give smaller states a slightly weighted advantage over larger, more populous states, to prevent the tyranny of the urban over the rural. Since we have more small states than large states, I don't expect the NPV idea going very far.

I prefer if we went in the other direction: voting for electors directly by name.

Why? That system was created in days when communications were physically moved from place to place. With the internet, everyone can learn about the candidates and don't need another "representative" to go and elect the President.

The speed of communication was not the reason for the Electoral College, the power equation was. The Constitutional Conventioneers derived the EC from three sources: the Papal Conclave, the Prince-Electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, and the political turmoil of the Roman Late Republic period. What they sought to create was a body composed of people who were 'Cardinals' of the Republic, making a solemn decision, geographically distributed so as to be without the threat of interference from the existing government, and electing a person without direct appeal to the masses of people, understanding that indirect election makes an executive inherently weak politically.

A President elected entirely indirectly has no mandate to shove through his agenda and this is what was intended! He's not elected by Congress so he owes them nothing. He's not elected by the people so he cannot claim a mandate. He's elected by a body which immediately ceases to exist so he's also not beholden to those who elected him.

He has no political capital whatsoever. This is a good thing.

Just because we've developed an Imperial Presidency doesn't mean we should endorse it!

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,453 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome. Since 1796, the Electoral College has had the form, but not the substance, of the deliberative body envisioned by the Founders. The electors now are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

If a Democratic presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Democratic party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. If a Republican presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Republican party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate who collects 270 votes from Electoral College voters from among the winning party's dedicated activists.

Yes, SE. That does seem to be the case. Jason, who in America would prefer this type of voting? How could we realistically go back?

The problem with our political process today is it has become nationalized: people are voting for school boards and town councils based upon a candidate's views of the PATRIOT Act and/or Obamacare and/or Israel and/or Gay Rights. And the one thing which binds the national parties together is the Presidential election. Denationalize that, and the national parties disintegrate and parochialize: A conservative in California will no longer be beholden to what a group of churches in rural Virginia define as 'conservative'.

The EC was created to prevent the situation we have right now. It is simply that no one with social authority has sought to make the case.

Abandoning the only check we have on the power of a President's political capital, simply because we're not using it, is absurd and folly.

I like your points, but how do you get the check back into place? Why would Americans want to go back to that style of EC when they already prefer majority rule?

It would take someone with considerable social authority of his own, like a President, to lay out the case, and as part of a general refactoring of our unwritten constitutional conventions. Or perhaps the next Ross Perot to make it a populist position.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

More than 2,110 state legislators (in 50 states) have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states.


Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

The National Popular Vote bill would end the disproportionate attention and influence of the "mob" in the current handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, while the "mobs" of the vast majority of states are ignored. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive are ignored, in presidential elections. 9 of the original 13 states are considered “fly-over” now. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states.

In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree that, at most, only 6-12 states and their voters will matter under the current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states. At most, 12 states will determine the election. Candidates will not care about at least 76% of the voters-- voters in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and in 16 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. 2012 campaigning could be even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004.

Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE --75%, ID -77%, ME - 77%, MT- 72%, NE - 74%, NH--69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%, SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%, and WY- 69%.

In the lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.

Of the 25 smallest states (with a total of 155 electoral votes) 18 received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. Of the seven smallest states with any post-convention visits, Only 4 of the smallest states - NH (12 events), NM (8), NV (12), and IA (7) - got the outsized attention of 39 of the 43 total events in the 25 smallest states. In contrast, Ohio (with only 20 electoral votes) was lavishly wooed with 62 of the total 300 post-convention campaign events in the whole country.

With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 26% of the nation's votes!

But the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five "red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Among the 11 most populous states in 2004, the highest levels of popular support, hardly overwhelming, were found in the following seven non-battleground states:

* Texas (62% Republican),

* New York (59% Democratic),

* Georgia (58% Republican),

* North Carolina (56% Republican),

* Illinois (55% Democratic),

* California (55% Democratic), and

* New Jersey (53% Democratic).

In addition, the margins generated by the nation's largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:

* Texas -- 1,691,267 Republican

* New York -- 1,192,436 Democratic

* Georgia -- 544,634 Republican

* North Carolina -- 426,778 Republican

* Illinois -- 513,342 Democratic

* California -- 1,023,560 Democratic

* New Jersey -- 211,826 Democratic

To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004 -- larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored.

With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States. Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

Any candidate who ignored, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.

The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

Candidates would need to build a winning coalition across demographics. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as soccer mom voters in Ohio.

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