With a stroke of his pen, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick committed his state to a new way of electing presidents Wednesday.
For over two hundred years, we've elected presidents not by who carries the most individual voters, but by who carries the most states. The distinction is subtle but decisive. For example, Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the presidency--the fourth time that's happened in our country's history.
Partly spurred by that decade-old disappointment, activists are urging states to bypass the Constitutionally mandated Electoral College in favor of a more--well, democratic approach. While it sounds good in theory--the man or woman who has the preference of the greatest number of individuals should lead them--it has some far-reaching ramifications if realized.
National Popular Vote, Inc. is spearheading the effort to convince states like Massachusetts to adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would commit all a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate that has the most votes nationwide.
Currently, states are assigned a number of electors that equal the quantity of Congressional representatives and senators. In most states, the electors cast their votes for the top-vote-getter in the state. National Popular Vote wants to shift those electors' votes to the national winner--so even if a candidate carries, say California, but his opponent gets more votes in the country overall, all of California's electoral votes would go to the opponent.
Why even bother with Electoral College if we're just going to automatically give the votes to the top national vote getter? It's because of that perpetually pesky document, the Constitution. Article II, Section I mandated the system, and the only way to get rid of it is to pass an amendment, a notoriously difficult process.
Consequently, National Popular Vote, Inc., unable to abolish the system, sought out to bypass it by convincing state legislatures to enact a law to force the hand of its electors. [continue reading]