National Popular Vote: Bipartisan Reform to Presidential Elections

National Popular Vote: Bipartisan Reform to Presidential Elections
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File
National Popular Vote: Bipartisan Reform to Presidential Elections
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File
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Entering 2020 as battle-scarred political operatives who routinely crisscross the nation plotting against each other’s candidates and issues (Pat the conservative and Scott the progressive), let us state for the record that we completely agree on one big thing:

It’s time to set partisanship aside, move to a National Popular Vote for president, and preserve the integrity of our presidential elections for generations to come. It’s time to end the tyranny of a handful of battleground states that suck up every dollar and ounce of candidate time, money, and energy and leave 215 million Americans in 38 states sitting on the political sidelines.  It’s time to leverage the power of the Constitution to ensure that every voter in every state is politically relevant in every presidential election.

There is nothing partisan or complicated about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. States that combine for at least 270 electoral votes – enough to elect a president – simply agree to award those votes in a package to the candidate who wins the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

2019 was a banner year for National Popular Vote. With support from both Republican and Democratic legislators, New Mexico, Delaware, Oregon, and Colorado joined up. The compact now includes 16 jurisdictions totaling 196 electoral votes, just 74 short of the 270 necessary to become effective. Grassroots supporters – Democrats and Republicans alike – are already working hard in several other states to boost those numbers in 2020.

In fact, a National Popular Vote would bring big bipartisan wins for every voter:  

--Voters in small states and rural states. With every voter politically relevant, campaigns would surely be compelled to conduct 50-state campaigns. Today, if you live in a less populated, rural, predictably red or blue state – say the conservative Dakotas or progressive Vermont – you are politically irrelevant. Candidates don’t spend valuable time and money in states where they are too far ahead to lose or too far behind to win. For example, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Wisconsin (with 10 electoral votes) received 40 campaign visits. Meanwhile, Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont, South Dakota, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Montana and North Dakota (combining for 24 electoral votes) received a total of one campaign visit.

--Voters who don’t go along with the majority in their states. The current winner-take-all system used by 48 states to award their electoral votes effectively disenfranchises tens of millions of voters. GOP voters caught behind the blue wall in Massachusetts, for example, might just as well stay home. Same for Democrats stuck behind the red wall in Kansas. But under a National Popular Vote, every individual vote counts toward a candidate getting the most votes across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. No more walls.

Moreover, a National Popular Vote would be a win for our presidential elections process itself: 

--A bipartisan boost in lagging voter turnout.  The U.S. ranks an abysmal 26th – right between Estonia and Luxemburg – in turnout for national elections among the highly developed democracies that make up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. One reason is clear. Except for drive-by fundraisers, the candidates virtually ignore voters in all but a handful of battleground states. And here’s the result: Average 2016 voter turnout in the 12 “swing” states where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually campaigned was 65.3%, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Among the other 38 “spectator” states, average turnout was just 56.3% – a margin of nine percentage points between the “haves” and “have nots” of presidential politics.

--Insurance against massive ballot tampering. Simple math dictates that under a National Popular Vote, it would be virtually impossible to alter the hundreds of thousands – or more likely millions – of individual votes it would take to change the result of a presidential election. Not so under the current system, where just a handful of altered ballots could swing a state’s electoral votes, and a presidential election, from one candidate to another. Think George W. Bush’s squeaky thin 537-vote margin in Florida in 2000.

Finally, Republicans and Democrats alike stand behind the Constitution of the United States, the decidedly nonpartisan foundation of our republic. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is fully constitutional. The Constitution grants states the power to form agreements like the compact for any number of reasons. And under Article 2, Section 1, states have the option to allocate their electoral votes “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct…” The Electoral College itself stays intact.

The National Popular Vote is not a partisan idea. It is an American idea whose time has come. Our 2020 New Year’s resolution is to speed that outcome for the good of our entire nation and all our people.

Patrick Rosenstiel, a nationally known Republican consultant, is a senior adviser for National Popular Vote.

Scott Drexel, a nationally recognized Democratic consultant, is a senior adviser for National Popular Vote.

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