Why we need the National Popular Vote

Our electoral college system skews the Presidential vote in some weird ways. First, not everyone’s vote counts equally. Votes in the electoral college from less populous states are given more weight. For example, if you live in Nebraska, Rhode Island or Vermont, your vote counts about twice as much as our votes here in Missouri.

Currently, all but two states (Nebraska and Maine) give ALL their electoral votes to the statewide winner. If your candidate didn’t win state-wide, your vote is essentially discarded. So Presidential candidates are wise to avoid campaigning in states where the race is not close.

There are now only five to eight “battleground” states where the election is close. Presidential candidates focus all their attention on these states and concentrate on those issues that play well there. In the other forty-two states, there is often little reason for voters to go to the polls. Republicans in New York can be assured that their votes will not matter and so can Democrats in Georgia.

The state-by-state, winner-take-all, system for electing the President also means that sometimes the candidate who gets the most votes doesn’t win. Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but lost a key battleground state and thereby lost in the electoral college. Bush won the popular vote in 2004 by several million votes, but if he had received 130,000 fewer votes in Ohio, he would have lost the electoral college and the presidency.

An effort is now underway to reform the electoral college to ensure that everyone’s vote counts equally and that the person who gets the most votes wins. The National Popular Vote initiative (www.nationalpopularvote.com) is an innovative idea that doesn’t attempt to eliminate the electoral college but uses the power of each state to determine how its votes are cast in the electoral college.

It works like this. Individual state legislatures, such as Missouri’s General assembly, pass a law to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote. This legislation is part of an interstate compact with other states that pass the same legislation. This law would not come into effect until enough states have entered the compact to elect the president (270 votes out of the 538 in the electoral college).

Surveys conducted in Missouri show that over sixty-five percent of Missourians support the concept of a national popular vote, so you think it would be a no-brainer for the General Assembly to make this happen.

Unfortunately, the National Popular Vote Initiative bill has been introduced into the Missouri House several times but has never made it out of committee.

Fortunately, every state representative and half of the state senators are up for election again in 2018. This is the year for them to get something done. As the general assembly gets going, and representatives and senators start making their rounds to tell us what good works they are doing, take the opportunity to ask these candidates if they support the National Popular Vote initiative. Ask them if they support making everyone’s vote count, and count equally, when we elect the next President in 2020.

Everyone’s vote counts. Everyone’s vote counts equally. Whoever gets the most votes wins. Our Presidential elections should hold to these principles of democracy.

Portions of this post previously appeared in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

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