John Koza is the chairman of National Popular Vote Inc.
It's time for a national popular vote. Both the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns have been myopically focused on nine so-called swing states. These are states in which neither candidate is comfortably ahead, and campaigns are devoting almost all of their attention, visits, and money to winning them.
Alas, Americans living in the other 41 states just don't matter in presidential elections. Issues of concern to voters in these 41 states are not on the candidates's minds. Of course, when it comes time to govern, those voter concerns are not shared by the White House.
Presidential campaigns ignore 41 states because electoral votes are currently awarded to the candidate who gets the most popular votes within each separate state. Candidates, therefore, ignore states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. That means $1 billion will be spent in 2012 to woo a small percentage of the voters in just nine states. Moreover, the number of states that matter in presidential elections is shrinking. In 2008, Obama campaigned in 14 states after being nominated (ignoring "only" 36 states).
Also, in four of the nation's 56 presidential elections, the current system has permitted candidates to win a majority of the Electoral College (and hence, the presidency) without winning the most popular votes nationwide. That's one in 14 times.
Near misses are also common under the current system. In 2004, a shift of 60,000 votes in the state of Ohio would have given the Electoral College majority vote to John Kerry despite incumbent President George W. Bush's nationwide popular vote lead of 3 million votes.
With the electorate becoming more and more polarized, close elections are becoming the norm. That means the potential for these "wrong way" elections is increasing. This is yet another disturbing trend.
This is why about 75 percent of voters tell pollsters that they want to move to a national popular vote. Under the National Popular Vote plan, states commit to awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in all 50 states and D.C. The plan would preserve the Electoral College and state control of elections without unnecessarily amending our Constitution. The National Popular Vote plan would only go into effect once states representing the majority of the Electoral College (270 of 538 electoral votes) have enacted the bill.
And yes, the plan is constitutional. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power and responsibility to fix a system that ignores 41 states in presidential elections. Article II, Section 1 grants states exclusive control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes. The Founders intended for states to use this power to make sure their citizens were represented.
The National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine jurisdictions (Hawaii, Washington, California, Illinois, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.) representing 132 of the 270 votes (49 percent) required for passage.
Our plan addresses a very real problem in the manner our Founders intended. It no longer works to have a small handful of states determine the outcome of every presidential election. It's time to stop talking about battleground states and safe states, and force our candidates to campaign for every vote in every state. We need a national popular vote.
- Campaigns Know How You'll Vote Before You Do
- Read Mary Kate Cary: We Need Real Plans from Obama and Romney
- Read Leslie Marshall: Poll Aside, Mitt Romney Hurts the Middle Class
The subheading of a previous version of this article mischaracterized the author's stance on the electoral college.