Oregon House Passes National Popular Vote

Oregon could become the fifth state to implement a plan to circumvent the electoral college. Today the House voted overwhelmingly to send the legislation to the Senate.

Four states have endorsed legislation to ban the current system, which awards all the electoral college votes in a state to one candidate. The states pushing for direct election are Hawaii (4 votes), Illinois (21), Maryland (10) and New Jersey (15). Oregon has 7 votes.

The National Popular Vote would take effect when and if enough states equaling 270 electoral votes -- a majority --approve the legislation to join the multi-state compact.


  • billy (unverified)

    How do we do a recount? Answer - the whole country!

    Thanks JK

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    I am assuming this means that in 2004, Oregon's electors would vote for George W. Bush. Assuming the requisite number of states adopt this knee-jerk idea. Nice.

    Especially when enough states, faced with violating their voters wishes at the moment of truth (in the month after the election), rescind their own state law endorsing this.

    Memo to the legislators behind this really pointless idea: solve the education funding crisis. I know you're looking for fun distractions. Please don't.

  • (Show?)

    Oh, dear. I guess I need to follow some legislation this session after all. When's the Senate hearing, so I can go point out that this legislation makes Oregon's electoral votes depedent on the integrity of election officials in every other state?

    Srsly, it's a nifty approach, but until we have a uniform code for the conduct of elections, including an easy way for Oregonians to check (& challenge) the validity of an election in Ohio (where OR and OH are arbitrary states), this concept is insufficient.

  • Jeff (unverified)

    A National Popular Vote for president would invite anarchy and other really yucky things -- like foreign foods with funny names. If electoral colleges work for Burundi, Estonia, India, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Trinidad & Tobago, why isn't it good enough for the USofA?

  • LT (unverified)

    Starting at about 1:10, during the Q & A period, the Minn. Sec. of State has interesting things to say about this


    He has logistical questions, and says he is a radical institutionalist.

    This sounds to me like another example of "we have a great idea, therefore it will work".

    Better to consider Posted by: Ed Blatch | Mar 12, 2009 11:19:40 PM

    Who here wants to stand in front of a group of activists and say "sorry you worked your heart out winning the state for the presidential candidate, but because of this thing passed by the 2009 legislative session, that doesn't really matter"?

    Who here, who has lived through a recount, thinks a national recount would not be worse than Florida 2000?

    In this scenario, who picks the electors?

    Anyone really think there wouldn't be a court case if this were imposed in 2012?

    How many state senators have even heard about this issue yet? (Not the offices I talked with today!)

    There are more important things to do then messing with the Electoral College system just because there is a national campaign to do so. There was once a national term limits campaign, and we know how well that worked out.

  • (Show?)

    The Oregonian piece mischaracterises the present system. Nebraska is subject to the same Constitution that every other state is yet it does not automatically award all it's Electoral College votes to one candidate. Instead they apportion their E.C. votes by Congressional District and then have two "at-large" Electors who represent whichever candidates won the state.

    That being the case, why is this remedy necessary?

    Also, as the Oregonian piece notes, the point of an Electoral College is to help protect the rights of less populous states... which Oregon happens to be one of. Go to a straight popular vote and that would only further marginalize Oregon's relevance in the process. A handful of the most populous states could decide every future President if this new compact is adopted. The only thing preventing them from dominating the process now (any more than they obviously already do) is the Electoral College.

    If Oregon really wanted to boost it's role in the process then we should adopt Nebraska's approach. That way in close elections there would be all the incentive in the world for one or both major candidates to try to peel off an Electoral College vote or two by trying to win those Congressional Districts. This past November Obama/Biden peeled off one of Nebraska's E.C. votes while McCain/Palin got the other three.

  • (Show?)

    Oops... Correction: McCain/Palin got four E.C. votes from Nebraska while Obama/Biden got one E.C. vote from Nebraska.

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    The claim about the Electoral College "helping small states" is debatable. Proponents will claim that a "A handful of the most populous states already decide every President...namely, the residents of Florida, Ohio, and PA."

    What's not debatable is this: Oregon, and every other state that adopts this, will hand over its votes to a national plurality winner of a popular vote that could, easily and completely contradict the expectations of every voter in the state. Could that plurality winner capture only 40% of the vote? Or less? You bet. Could that winner be a right wing nut bag? Oh yes.

    Of course, this law doesn't kick in, unless enough states adopt it. Which is even sweeter for the proponents who get to appear all "reformy" without generating any real consequences. Because...once this thing approaches its 270 vote requirement, it will die on the vine, once the smarter national commentariat gets a hold of it.

    And the fact that legislators are taking using legislative oxygen to even consider this dross is the infuriating thing.

    I'm looking at you, Ben Cannon. You seem like a smart, energetic guy with a great resume. Between this and the beer tax, I'm concerned.

  • (Show?)

    What's not debatable is this: Oregon, and every other state that adopts this, will hand over its votes to a national plurality winner of a popular vote that could, easily and completely contradict the expectations of every voter in the state.

    I'm not sure how I feel about this proposal - but your argument here is judging a new system by the expectations of the old system.

    Under the NPV system, the winners of individual state popular votes wouldn't matter anymore. The idea that Oregon would "hand over its votes" is irrelevant. Instead, all the votes cast in Oregon would be added to the national total for those candidates and would contribute to the overall winner.

    Either a national popular vote is a good idea or its a bad idea - but the core idea is that the electoral college would be made functionally moot.

    (Though I am sympathetic to both the recount problem and the post-election take-it-back problem.)

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    One last thing: You don't have to like the Electoral College to really hate this proposal.

    If there are any proponents seeking to weigh in, please do not conflate opposition to this proposal with conservatives' support for the Electoral College.

    Proponents are spellbound by the cleverness of this idea: "lookee! we get rid of the electoral college, de facto style, with no constitutional amendment!" Sorry, you're going to have to do better.

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    Kari: So using that reasoning, fill in this blank for the average progressive voter: "Oregon's 7 electoral votes in 2004 are going to George W. Bush, when most Oregonians supported John Kerry, because __"

    I understand the desire for a national vote. I also understand that people think this would "solve" the 2000 election. But in either case.....an asset is an asset. You might give it up for some purpose that some people think is worthwhile, but you're still giving it up.

  • Will Jones (unverified)

    Too big for each citizen to be able to gauge the true character of a candidate for national office, Presidential Electors were supposed to be individuals of proven integrity - probity, in local communities who could stake their reputations with their neighbors as proof in their endorsement of a candidate from another state or region. Bush, a homosexual draft-dodger whose Knight of Malta grandfather, working for the Vatican-bank Rockefellers and the RC Church's Fifth Column treason was the money conduit to the author of "I Paid Hitler," papal baron Fritz "The Rockefeller of Germany" Thyssen, whose father was a principal in the Knight of Malta-led RC CIA's assassination of JFK six weeks after NSAM263 ordered our military withdrawal from the papal fiefdom of Vietnam: was cheated into the White House by only the Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court to commit 9/11 and send us to die shedding innocent blood. So the Republic ends? Let's fix it instead.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    This is about legitimacy. And the only way a candidate for president can be legitimate according to democratic principles is to win the popular vote of the entire country, and to campaign in the entire country, not just in the so-called "swing" states. Every voter in every state, every campaign worker must know that each vote counts and each effort to elect a candidate counts. That is not so in our present system. There will be no more blue states and red states in national presidential elections.

  • (Show?)

    Oregon's 7 electoral votes in 2004 are going to George W. Bush, when most Oregonians supported John Kerry, because __

    Um.... because he won the popular vote, and the president should be determined by who gets the most votes. Electoral votes should be irrelevant.

    Even better:

    "Oregon's 7 electoral votes in 2000 (and all 531 of the rest of them too) are going to Al Gore because he won the national popular vote."

  • (Show?)

    Gavin raises a VERY good point that a national popular vote should mean national election standards - and maybe even national election administration.

    That said, it also means that it's unlikely that any single corrupt election official could sway the national outcome. It doesn't matter anymore if Ken Blackwell puts all the voting machines in Ohio in the 'burbs, or if Teresa LaPore screws up the butterfly ballot design in Palm Beach County, Florida. The closest election in the last century was decided by a half-million votes - not close at all.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Electors were supposed to be individuals of proven integrity -

    That and "jury of your peers" has gone the way of the dodo. The kind of social homogeneity that both assume just isn't an accurate picture.

    As long as you don't have proportional representation, you're just rearranging the deck chairs. At least there's a whiff in the air that something isn't quite right...

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Kari- Doesn't a nullification of the electoral college system require a constitutional amendment? If so, does this vote by Oregon carry any weight at all?

  • (Show?)

    Bill R -- That's the whole point of the NPV proposal. States can determine how they assign their electoral votes.

    So, this proposal basically says that these states agree to all throw their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. (Assuming that there's 270 electoral votes worth of states participating.)

    Under this proposal, you would not need to amend the U.S. Constitution. The electoral college would still exist but would serve exclusively to ratify the national popular vote.

  • (Show?)

    There are two problems being addressed by this idea, plus a philosophical shift. The problems are corrupt local districts--Illinois 1960 and Ohio '04. Then there's the issue of a candidate losing the popular vote but winning the election. It seems to adequately address these without unintended consequences.

    The philosophical shift is that elections would no longer be dictated by electoral math. Supporters believe this will force candidates to go to every state, but I'm not sure about that. At the very least, it seems likely to urbanize campaigns. Why waste your time in the sticks if those few votes won't sway a state and it's electors? That could really shift the politics of the campaign. Bad? Good? Hard to predict.

  • Shocked (unverified)

    So much for the indirect democracy created by the founders. I suppose this is a national democratic interference, not unlike when North Carolina spiked their bill to change how their EV's are doled out. I honestly am surprised that this is happening in Oregon and wonder how the dozens of legislators I volunteered for over the past decade voted. Can someone please post the legislative info? Also remember that at some point in the future, maybe in our lifetimes, maybe not, this law effect and elect someone we didn't want over our candidate.

    Is this bill really what happens when groups of well-educated people get together to make the state better? This is our best? Really?

  • alcatross (unverified)

    The National Popular Vote would take effect when and if enough states equaling 270 electoral votes -- a majority --approve the legislation to join the multi-state compact.

    Bill R says: Doesn't a nullification of the electoral college system require a constitutional amendment?

    Bill R is correct. I'm not sure what 'take effect' means in the story. This 'National Popular Vote' multi-state compact can set whatever rules and declare whatever it wants - it won't change the US Constitution and how we elect presidents.

    The electoral college system is defined in Article II of the US Constitution.

    Amending the constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the state legislatures (not just states accounting for a 270 electoral vote majority) to call a Constitutional Convention (which has never been done or even tried) or a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress.

    So 4.5 states down - only votes from another ~29 state legislatures and a Constitutional Convention to go...

    Yet another goofy episode of our state tax dollars 'at work'...

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    Alcatross: I think you realize this, but note that the system of electors stays in place. The idea is that states "commit" to allocate these votes based on a result that has nothing to do with the popular vote outcome within their state.

    The idea is that the effect of the Electoral College of swinging the election to the popular vote loser goes away. The Electoral College, nominally, stays around. So the proponents hope, anyway.

    States "commit" as in "oh yes, we really really pinky swear double secret promise!" to allocate electors to the national vote winner. Would they really do it, when the chips are down? Ummm...

  • (Show?)

    I see no reason why NPV would force candidates to campaign in more states rather than in fewer states.

    The populations of Alaska, Deleware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming add up to quite a bit less than the population of the state of Washington - and we all know what a Presidential Candidate magnet Washington State is...

  • (Show?)

    Under this proposal, you would not need to amend the U.S. Constitution. The electoral college would still exist but would serve exclusively to ratify the national popular vote.

    Actually, Article I, section 10, of the U. S. Constitution says, "No state shall, without the consent of Congress, . . . enter into any agreement or compact with another state . . . ."

    The courts have watered this requirement down to apply only where the subject of the agreement or compact impinges on federal prerogatives, but that would certainly seem to be the case where election of the President is concerned.

    Of course, the agreement appears to have no enforcement mechanism anyway, so maybe they're just counting on the good faith of the participating states.

  • Josh Reynolds (unverified)

    Is this about making up for the election of 1824, 1876 and 2000? I also believe Jeff raises a good point. The unintended consequences will be urban vs. rural and is this what you want? Better yet to Bill R., this will mean a candidate really only needs to campaign in about 25 largest metro areas in the country to secure the votes he/she needs. Sounds like running statewide in Oregon. As long as you pull in most of the Portland metro vote you win.

  • LT (unverified)

    "This is about legitimacy. And the only way a candidate for president can be legitimate according to democratic principles is to win the popular vote of the entire country, and to campaign in the entire country, not just in the so-called "swing" states. "

    Which didn't happen in 2000 and 2004, but did happen in 2008 with at least Democratic concentration on all 50 states--if McCain didn't do the same thing, why would a law change that in the future?

    I'm also looking at the proponents, the use of legislative oxygen (and hope Senators are more deliberative), and why the Nebraska approach isn't a better answer.

    Attitude of most proponents seems to be "because we believe in this, and you should too".

    Good point, Kevin. "I see no reason why NPV would force candidates to campaign in more states rather than in fewer states. " Proponents seem to regard "they will come to small states if we pass this" as an article of faith. I tend to resist issues where logistical concerns are outweighed by article of faith statements.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    "Shocked", that horse left the barn almost a hundred years ago when we started electing Senators. Can't have an empire without a popular national will! Also keeps the argument where machinators can control it.

  • susan (unverified)

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. 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. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

  • susan (unverified)

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

    The bill is currently endorsed by 1,246 state legislators — 460 sponsors (in 48 states) and an additional 786 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    The National Popular Vote bill has been endorsed by the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Miami Herald, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sacramento Bee, The Tennessean, Fayetteville Observer, Anderson Herald Bulletin, Wichita Falls Times, The Columbian, and other newspapers. The bill has been endorsed by Common Cause, Fair Vote, and numerous other organizations.

    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). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado — 68%, Iowa — 75%, Michigan — 73%, Missouri — 70%, New Hampshire — 69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, North Carolina — 74%, Ohio — 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware — 75%, Maine — 71%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire — 69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas —80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi —77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 73% , Massachusetts — 73%, New York — 79%, and Washington — 77%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 24 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  • susan (unverified)


    A survey of 800 Oregon voters conducted on December 16-17, 2008 showed 76% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 82% among Democrats, 70% among Republicans, and 72% among independents.

    By age, support was 67% among 18-29 year olds, 68% among 30-45 year olds, 82% among 46-65 year olds, and 76% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 81% among women and 71% among men.

    By race, support was 87% among whites (representing 89% of respondents), 59% among African-Americans (representing 3% of respondents), and 80% among Hispanics (representing 2% of respondents), and 69% among Others (representing 6% of respondents).

    see www.NationalPopularVote.com

  • susan (unverified)

    What the Founding Fathers said in the U.S. Constitution is "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, that the voters may vote and the winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

    There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers in organizing the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (in particular, the fact that only three states used the winner-take-all rule) make it clear that the Founding Fathers never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all rule.

    In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote, and only 3 states used the winner-take-all rule. Since then, as a result of changes in state laws, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the winner-take-all rule is used by 48 of the 50 states.

    The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

  • susan (unverified)

    The U.S. Constitution does not require that the election laws of all 50 states are identical in virtually every respect. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment only restricts a given state in the manner it treats persons “within its jurisdiction.” The Equal Protection Clause imposes no obligation on a given state concerning a “person” in another state who is not “within its [the first state’s] jurisdiction.” State election laws are not identical now nor is there anything in the National Popular Vote compact that would force them to become identical. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution specifically permits diversity of election laws among the states because it explicitly gives the states control over the conduct of presidential elections (article II) as well as congressional elections (article I). The fact is that the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution permits states to conduct elections in varied ways.

    The National Popular Vote bill does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

    It is important to note that neither the current system nor the National Popular Vote compact permits any state to get involved in judging the election returns of other states. Existing federal law (the “safe harbor” provision in section 5 of title 3 of the United States Code) specifies that a state’s “final determination” of its presidential election returns is “conclusive” (if done in a timely manner and in accordance with laws that existed prior to Election Day).

    The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and requires each state to treat as “conclusive” each other state’s “final determination” of its vote for President. No state has any power to examine or judge the presidential election returns of any other state under the National Popular Vote compact.

  • (Show?)

    I don't have strong feelings about this bill, but on process, it feels like it should have been a good candidate for referral directly to voters.

  • susan (unverified)

    A state legislature cannot, under either the current system or the National Popular Vote plan, change the state’s method of awarding its electoral votes in the five-week period between the day when the people cast their votes for President in November and the day when the Electoral College meets in December.

    However, if anyone is genuinely concerned about this kind of hypothetical post-election withdrawal from the compact, the National Popular Vote plan offers even more protection than the current system because it is an interstate compact.

    A midstream change in the rules of the game is illegal under the current system, and there is strong additional protection provided because the National Popular Vote plan is an interstate compact. Existing state constitutional provisions and partisan divisions provide additional practical reasons why this hypothetical maneuver cannot happen in the real world (either the current system or the National Popular Vote compact).

    The hypothetical post-election maneuver would be invalid (under both the current system and the National Popular Vote plan) because it would violate existing federal law. In order to implement this maneuver, a state legislature would have to (1) repeal the existing state law for appointing the state’s presidential electors, and (2) enact a new state law for appointing the electors.

    The U.S. Constitution (Article II, section 1, clause 4) provides:

    “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.” [Spelling as per original]

    Based on this constitutional authority, Congress enacted section 1 of Title 3 of United States Code specifying that a state must choose its presidential electors on one specific and particular day in every four-year period:
    “The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.”

    That is, presidential electors may only be appointed on “election day” (which is November 4 in 2008). This is the single day during each four-year period on which presidential electors may be appointed, regardless of whether the legislature directly appoints the electors or the people are permitted to vote for the electors.

    In addition, the “safe harbor” section of federal law (section 5 of Title 3 of United States Code) treats a state’s appointment of presidential electors as “conclusive” only if the appointment is based on “laws enacted prior to the day fixed for the appointment of the electors [i.e., the Tuesday after the first Monday in November].”

    That is, presidential electors can only be appointed under a law that was in effect prior to Eelection Dday.
    Because of both section 1 and 5, the “rules of the game” cannot be changed after politicians view the results of the voting on Eelection Dday.

  • susan (unverified)

    The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

    Under the current system, there are 51 separate vote pools in every presidential election. Thus, our nation’s 55 presidential elections have really been 2,084 separate elections. This is the reason why there have been five seriously disputed counts in the nation’s 55 presidential elections. The 51 separate pools regularly create artificial crises in elections in which the vote is not at all close on a nationwide basis, but close in particular states.

    A recount is not an unimaginable horror or logistical impossibility. A recount is a recognized contingency that is occasionally required (about once in 332 elections). All states routinely make arrangements for a recount in advance of every election. The personnel and resources necessary to conduct a recount are indigenous to each state. A state’s ability to conduct a recount inside its own borders is unrelated to whether or not a recount may be occurring in another state.

    If anyone is genuinely concerned about the possibility of recounts, then a single national pool of votes is the way to drastically reduce the likelihood of recounts and eliminate the artificial crises produced by the current system.

  • susan (unverified)

    The U.S. Constitution, existing federal statutes, and independent state statutes guarantee “finality” in presidential elections long before the inauguration day in January. These constitutional provisions, statutes, and precedents apply equally to a presidential election conducted under the National Popular Vote legislation and an election conducted under the current system.

    The U.S. Constitution (Article II, section 1, clause 4) provides: “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.” [Spelling as per original]

    The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

    Under both the current system and the National Popular Vote approach, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the common nationwide date for the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets (the so-called “safe harbor” date established by section 5 of title 3 of the United States Code).

    In addition, in almost all states, state statutes already impose independent (typically earlier) deadlines for finalizing the count for the presidential election. The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that state election officials and the state judiciary must conduct counts and recounts in presidential elections within the confines of existing state election laws.

    It may be argued that the schedule established by the U.S. Constitution may sometimes rush the count (and possibly even create injustice). However, there can be no argument that this schedule exists in the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and state statutes; that this schedule guarantees “finality” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College in mid-December. This existing constitutional schedule would govern the National Popular Vote compact in exactly the same way that it governs elections under the current system.

  • susan (unverified)

    The concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically “radioactive” in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

    As of 2008, the National Popular Vote bill has been approved by a total of seven state legislative chambers in small states, including one house in Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by Hawaii.

    Most of the medium-small states (with five or six electoral votes) are similarly non-competitive in presidential elections (and therefore similarly disadvantaged). In fact, of the 22 medium-smallest states (those with three, four, five, or six electoral votes), only New Hampshire (with four electoral votes), New Mexico (five electoral votes), and Nevada (five electoral votes) have been battleground states in recent elections.

    Because so few of the 22 small and medium-small states are closely divided battleground states in presidential elections, the current system actually shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states. The New York Times reported early in 2008 (May 11, 2008) that both major political parties were already in agreement that there would be at most 14 battleground states in 2008 (involving only 166 of the 538 electoral votes). In other words, three-quarters of the states were ignored under the current system in the 2008 election. Michigan (17 electoral votes), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21), and Florida (27) contain over half of the electoral votes that mattered in 2008 (85 of the 166 electoral votes). There were only three battleground states among the 22 small and medium-small states (i.e., New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada). These three states contain only 14 of the 166 electoral votes. Anyone concerned about the relative power of big states and small states should realize that the current system shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states.

  • susan (unverified)

    The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and that a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

    Of course, the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely act in concert 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.

    Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support 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 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 votes for Bush in 2004.

  • susan (unverified)

    When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

    Under a national popular vote, every vote is equally important politically. There is nothing special about a vote cast in a big city. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties know that they must seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the state in order to win the state. A vote cast in a big city is no more valuable than a vote cast in a small town or rural area.

    Another way to look at this is that there are approximately 300 million Americans. 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 is only 19% of the population of the United States. Even if one makes the far-fetched assumption that a candidate won 100% of the votes in the nation’s top five cities, he would only have won 6% of the national vote.

    Further evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium, and large towns of every small, medium, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every single possible customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off Indiana or Illinois merely because their competitor has an 8% lead in sales in those states. And, a national advertiser with an 8%-edge over its competitor does not stop trying to make additional sales in Indiana or Illinois merely because they are in the lead.

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    Proponents need to address two show-stopping problems with this proposal:

    1. The NPV (if states actually abide by it) could elect a candidate with a small regionally based plurality of the popular vote.

    For all the Electoral College's problem, it ensure, at least, that a candidate has to have SOME KIND of majority to win election. With NPV, if George Wallace gets 40% of the vote and two other candidates split the 60%, George Wallace is elected president. Are you really okay with that? Remember Al Gore only won 48.4% of the popular vote. The plurality problem is a very slippery slope.

    1. The more serious problem: nothing, absolutely nothing, commits the states to this formula. States can pass laws, and they can pass constitutional amendments, but in the heat of the aftermath of a close election, if a state wants to unplug this thing, they will find a way to do it.

    You really think Texas in 2000 would have sent its electors for Al Gore, under any circumstances, for love or money? Think again.

    This will increase the leverage of the states who choose to buck it. And because of that, states will individually choose to ignore it.

    And what does that add up to? A huge waste of time and focus. That's the real problem with this proposal.

    I understand the desire to find a solution that bypasses the constitutional amendment process. We need to resist the temptation. In an ideal world, we would have seen enough leadership post-2000 to tackle this problem head on, with a complete national debate leading to the only thing that will truly resolve it: a constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, it will have to stand in a long line of missed opportunities courtesy of the Bush Adminstration.

    Let the Obama Administration take this on, in the second term, after the economy is working again. Get a real debate and get the country ready for it.

  • KJ (unverified)

    As Gavin says the NPV proposal would put Oregon's electoral votes at risk because of the way elections are conducted in other States. That is a serious problem, given the problematic way elections are conducted in other states. Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 are just the tip of the iceberg -- and these problems have not gone away or been completely fixed in the subsequent years.

    There is a deeper problem which has not been directly addressed. Our system of government can be defined as a "constitutionally limited federal system of representative democracy" (h/t Thom Hartmann).

    This NPV proposal runs counter to the federal nature of our government by attempting to ignore the role of states in electing a President. We do not have a national election for President -- under the Constitution we have separate elections in each state, which each select Electors who act as our representatives in casting their votes in the Electoral College.

    I am also troubled by the fact that the threshhold for the adoption of NPV is so much lower than the 2/3 required for ratification of a Constitutional amendment -- not even a majority of states are required, just enough states to muster the majority of EV's, which is not the same. The bar is being set too low for a major restructuring of our Constitutional process for electing our president.

    I am no fan of the Electoral College but the NPV proposal is not the correct solution. I would urge anyone who shares these concerns to contact their state senator to try to stop this bill.

  • (Show?)

    Susan, would you please stop cutting and pasting directly from National Popular Vote? People can click through and check out the site on their own.

  • KJ (unverified)


    You presented this as evidence for support of this particular NPV proposal but did not present any proof that there was any nexus between a generic wish for a national popular vote and support for this particular proposal. This is a misuse of statistical data amounting to malpractice.

    BTW, what was the Margin of Error (MOE) for the survey you cited? Who conducted it? Was it conducted via in-person interviews or by telephone? All of these details impact the credibility of the source and you have not supplied them.

  • Ed Blatch (unverified)

    You know what I hate? Political movements who spam message boards like this one, all over the country, with boilerplate from the movement's web site.

    In the case of National Popular Vote, "Susan" and friends have fallen into this habit, here and elsewhere. This practice reflects very badly on your proposal.

    Kari has done a good job of articulating a few arguments on this proposals behalf, even if hasn't necessarily embraced them. Memo to the pro-NPV activists: If you can't write and don't have any original arguments, go away.

  • (Show?)

    In response to those who claim NPV would reduce, rather than increase, the risk of corrupt officials manipulating the vote: consider that it may be a lot easier to hide half a million extra votes across all the precincts in several states with corrupt officials (or corrupted software) than it is to hide the sorts of shenanigans required to tip the vote in one such state. If all I have to do to tip the election is add three fake voters in every precinct in the country (where three is an arbitrary number), isn't that somewhat easier than we'd like?

    If we're going to have national elections, we need national standards, including statistically valid hand-counted audits in an evenly distributed set of precincts randomly selected after vote totals have been reported, total recounts in cases where errors are found by the audit, and voter-verified physical ballots that serve as the official record for all recounts.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    I'm with Zara on this: "As long as you don't have proportional representation, you're just rearranging the deck chairs. At least there's a whiff in the air that something isn't quite right..."

    That "something" is the total domination of the political system by two wings of the same business party.

    "In 2004, Ralph Nader was the target of an unprecedented legal attack in almost two dozen states with 29 legal actions brought, financed or instigated by the Democratic Party. The lawsuits, many of them frivolous, were brought to keep Ralph in court and not on the campaign stump...

    "Nader charged the Democrats were guilty of 'overtly corrupt and even unlawful conduct'...

    "Nader alleges that in Pennsylvania the political conspirators 'planted approximately 7,000 fake signatures' in his petitions so they could later claim the petitions were fraudulent. The Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett has indicted a dozen Democrats for illegal work on petition challenges in 2004 in a scandal dubbed 'Bonusgate' because the state legislative workers were paid a bonus for their dirty work. Nader continued his assault on his Democrat opponents, 'Conspirators engaged in sabotage and other unlawful acts intended to manufacture grounds for their otherwise baseless litigation.'" (Ralph Nader vs. Democratic National Committee conspiracy lawsuit over ballot access litigation)

  • (Show?)

    We were designed to be a close confederation of states, not a single entity. A national popular vote goes strongly against this idea, IMO. Each state holds its own election and submits their result to the federal government. I've never really understood why people have a problem with the Electoral College. It maintains the ability of states to conduct their own election, while simultaneously apportioning the weight of their result based on their population--and no matter how small, every state gets a certain weight. The "national popular vote" is embedded into the EC; each state votes and then its population weights how much their vote counts.

    I'm with Ben on the beer tax; this one is confounding...

  • (Show?)

    Supposedly "battleground" states are those where the candidates are the closest and thus choose to spend more time, attention and money on persuading the voters in those states.

    On their website NPV equates candidate visits and per capita campaign ad spending with "attention" being paid to that state. But their own charts undermine their reasoning.

    In the 2004 election Oregon was more evenly split between Bush and Kerry than Florida was and yet Florida received 61 candidate visits compared to Oregon's anemic 5 visits. On per capita spending Florida was the recipient of $4.02 per capita while Oregon received a paltry $0.67 per capita.

    Of course Florida had 27 Electoral College votes at stake compared to Oregon's 7 and NPV wouldn't change that...

  • (Show?)

    BTW, in 2004 Maine and West Virginia were both less competitive than Oregon and yet each received roughly twice as much in per capita campaign ad dollars than Oregon did.

  • alcatross (unverified)

    okay okay... got it-

    The wording of the original news bit above is a bit misleading. This NPV multi-state compact isn't 'banning' anything. It's the signatory states agreeing to change how they allocate their electoral votes.

    Anyway, there are a ton of arguments pro- and con- for direct election vs our current system. KJ has it right above that the poll results supporting a national popular vote are not by definition support for this particular 'National Popular Vote' proposal.

    NPV is not something I would support but I understand the appeal here at BO. It's fully in line with the progressive emphasis on national community, a purely national electorate, and the empowered executive (assuming he/she isn't a Republican, of course... heh!) - counter to our founding aspirations for limited government and individual liberty.

  • LT (unverified)

    "NPV is not something I would support but I understand the appeal here at BO. It's fully in line with the progressive emphasis on national community, a purely national electorate, and the empowered executive (assuming he/she isn't a Republican, of course... heh!) - counter to our founding aspirations for limited government and individual liberty."

    If you can find the video online, listen to Rep. Berger's speech. How does that fit this quote?

    Someone told me there were only 17 no votes, which would mean a lot of Republican votes.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    I believe this isssue is addressing this point: That when a candidate wins by a very narrow margin, they get all the electoral votes. Am I assuming that the bill will allocate the electoral votes based on the popular vote and not just winner take all the votes?

    Based on above, if the winner has, say a 52%-48% win, they get (if it is 7 electroral votes) 4 votes, loser gets 3 instead of the usual winner gets 7 and loser 0?

  • (Show?)

    Jeff, i know this happened last year so it's probably hard to remember back then (various winkages to communicate leg-pulling), but Barack Obama won the Dem nomination because he fought in all 50 states. Hillary tried the "urban" approach you describe and lost. under an NPV scenario, a candidate will still need broad-based support to win, since a "big" victory is going to be 5-7%. no one is going to win a few big states & the election; the votes don't break that way. Obama won most of the big states in Nov but still needed a bunch of small states -- like Oregon -- to win the presidency.

    to me, the bottom line is that we have to work our way to a real popular vote for presidency. Oregon will only ever have a small percentage of the vote, whether it's 7 EVs or 1.x million; and the idea that a candidate wins 52% (eg) of a state's votes & gets 100% of the EVs is undemocratic and needs to be dumped.

  • LT (unverified)

    HB 2588 By Representatives CANNON, FREEMAN, HUNT; Representatives BAILEY, BARKER, BARNHART, BERGER, BRUUN, BUCKLEY, DEMBROW, C EDWARDS, D EDWARDS, GALIZIO, GARRARD, GARRETT, GILLIAM, HARKER, KAHL, KOMP, MATTHEWS, READ, SHIELDS, J SMITH, THOMPSON, TOMEI, Senators BOQUIST, MONROE, ROSENBAUM, WALKER -- Relating to Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. 02/05 (H) First reading. Referred to Speaker's desk.
    02/11 (H) Referred to Rules.
    02/20 (H) Public Hearing held.
    03/04 (H) Work Session held.
    03/10 (H) Recommendation: Do pass.
    03/11 (H) Second reading.
    03/12 (H) Third reading. Carried by Cannon. Passed. Ayes, 39; Nays, 19--Bentz, Cameron, Esquivel, Hanna, Jenson, Kennemer, Krieger, Maurer, Olson, Richardson, Riley, Schaufler, Sprenger, Stiegler, Thatcher, Weidner, Whisnant, Wingard, Witt; Excused, 2--Gilman, Shields.

    Text of the bill: http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/hb2500.dir/hb2588.intro.html

    Eric, as I understand this bill, that is not the way it works. Read the bill yourself, but as I understand it, had this been in effect in 2004 (assuming Rove & Co. would have allowed that to happen) and Kerry had won the popular vote, all those electors in Texas would have been required to vote for Kerry.

    Any bets on how likely that would have been to happen? And who exactly would have named the electors to gather at the state capitol to cast those votes?

    But for those who view this as an article of faith issue, such logistical questions are annoying if not subversive.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)

    I can't see this working. And there's no particular reason for it. Cases of the popular vote winner losing the electoral vote are quite rare. It didn't "really" happen that way in 2000, because Gore actually got more votes in Florida -- they just weren't counted. If it hadn't been for a perfect storm of vote-rigging and sheer incompetence, Gore would have walked away with Florida's electoral votes as well as the popular vote victory.

    A better solution: states, especially large states, need to follow the lead of Maine and Nebraska. Allocate delegates by Congressional district, with two at-large seats to carry the state. Get California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio to adopt the Congressional District Method of allocating electors and an electoral win with a popular minority becomes all but impossible.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Agreed, Harry. No one wants to talk about the systemic rot.

    OK, since numbers are popular, I'll make it short, numeric and sweet. How many seats are there in the US House? What is 4% of that? It's a number of seats. Today, four per cent is meaningless. That's why niche causes have to inflate the rhetoric to make it relevant to the other 46 per cent needed to make it meaningful in a non-proportional system, like ours.

    Can you understand why it's hard to get hepped up about electoral reform until you address that?

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Was the bill written to anticipate that 270 may no longer constitute a majority of the electoral college, assuming the bill expanding the House of Representatives by two (to award DC and Utah extra seats, at least until redistricting) passes?

    (Apologies if this was already stated, I haven't read all the comments).

  • Bill Walker (unverified)

    There are two problems with this news story. Both are problems of inaccuracy.

    1. The story fails to mention that under the terms of the Constitution any "compact" must be approved by Congress and therefore cannot be valid until Congress does approve it but even if Congress were to go along---

    2. what the states are attempting is unconstitutional. To change the election of the president requires an amendment to the Constitution and there is no way around that.

    The story does not mention the fact that repeal of the electoral college is one of the issues before an Article V Convention. Many states have already asked for its repeal and the only reason a convention has not acted already on this issue is the fact Congress refuses to obey the Constitution and call for it as required.

    All 50 states have submitted over 700 applications for an Article V Convention nearly 20 times the number required to cause a convention call. These applications can be read at www.foavc.org .

  • (Show?)

    There is another huge problem with this bill, in my opinion. It relies on an interstate compact that is written in law in many different states. That law contains hard numbers like "270," and "538." Those numbers will become very problematic if the number of electoral votes changes (say, if we add another state, or if Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh secede from the union and it turns out that electoral votes are apportioned based on tonnage/pharmaceutical consumption). We have to keep in mind that this bill doesn't get rid of the electoral college, it just tries to establish a cute workaround.

    It may sound silly, but if Puerto Rico becomes a state after everyone has adopted NPV, we suddenly have a binding legal agreement between states to uphold what will be a non-sensical electoral system.

  • (Show?)

    "Those numbers will become very problematic if the number of electoral votes changes (say, if we add another state, or if Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh secede from the union and it turns out that electoral votes are apportioned based on tonnage/pharmaceutical consumption). "

    Or, much more concretely, if DC gets a seat and the new number is 539.

  • (Show?)

    Or, much more concretely, if DC gets a seat and the new number is 539.


    I guess for me the bottom line is that if we want to get rid of the electoral college, we should do so. Attempting to ameliorate something to which people (rightly, I think) object on the grounds that it is a cockamamie clusterf'ck waiting to happen by adding another elaborate layer of silliness just seems like an inherently cursed enterprise.

    The fact that "getting rid" of the electoral college, as I so casually suggest, is just short of impossible doesn't change that unfortunate fact.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    Gee, lots of rhetoric and cut/paste in order to end around a process that exists, Amending the Constitution. If this is such a hot idea why can't it sustain such a process? I get that it is hard and I suppose someone is ready to point out all the benefits to Oregon of our Amendment process? I don't like end arounds, I don't like taking the easy way out rather than the prescribed method and I've seen way too much wreckage from the easy way crowds.

  • (Show?)

    Vera, Patton, and TJ --

    You need not worry about the numbers 270 or 538 (or 539).

    The bill does not actually include those numbers. At least not in the version that just passed the Oregon House.

    From the bill:

    This article shall govern the appointment of presidential electors in each member state in any year in which this agreement is, on July 20, in effect in states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes.

    And incidentally, if the DC congressional representation bill passes we'll be at 539 electoral votes - but not because DC picks up a seat. DC has always had 3 electoral votes. We'll be at 539 because we're expanding the U.S. House from 435 to 437. One of those two is DC, but is already in the current 538. It's the other new seat that's going to add an electoral vote.

    For now, that seat (and its vote) will go to Utah. But after the 2010 Census, and the subsequent 2011 reapportionment, it'll go to whatever state normally qualifies for it. And there's a strong reason to believe that the final seat could go to Oregon.

  • LT (unverified)

    "This article shall govern the appointment of presidential electors in each member state in any year in which this agreement is, on July 20, in effect in states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes."

    So, had McCain won the national popular vote but Obama won Oregon, the Republicans would have had the opportunity to choose electors for the first time in 20 years?

    Why is that fair? "Because we passed HB 2558" doesn't sound like an answer that would please most people.

    Which may be why the senate offices I have talked with didn't seem to place this bill as a top priority. One staffer even said, "Well, if it reaches the Senate floor, we will have to take a position on it".

    For all the rush to get it through the House, this wouldn't be the first bill that passed one chamber and died in the other chamber.

  • (Show?)

    Kari- I don't believe that is the case for the laws passed by all of the other states currently in the compact, but hopefully I'm just completely wrong. Thanks for pointing that out.

    For the record, I have no idea if I agree with this idea or not. It is such a collision-of-worlds thing in terms of two values I really prize: abject democracy-as-such and federalism/the "American experiment."

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Yeah, you either get rid of it or leave it alone. That would require a Constitutional Congress, to do it right, like Harry and I were saying...

    Odd that this would be debated ahead of making voting a requirement, under the same kind of statutory penalty as would be applied vis a vis jury duty. You have to serve on a jury, under penalty of law, because you voted, but you can choose not to vote. That makes a lot of sense.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    This is a stupid idea.

    There are two better ones:

    1. A Nebraska/Maine-type system. If enough states adopted it, the chances of a popular vote winner winning the electoral college would be less.

    2. Pure proportional electoral votes - I'm surprised no state has done this. If Obama gets 51% of Oregon's vote, he should get 4 of the 7 electoral votes, and McCain's 49% should get three.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    I did a quick calculation - if instead of signing on to this idea each state allocated its electoral votes according to proportional represenation, the 2000 Presidential election would have ended thus:

    George Bush 267 Al Gore 266 Ralph Nader 5.

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