By Grant Schott of Fossil, Oregon. Grant is a union organizer and political activist. Previously, he contributed "Joe Miller, Oregon's first Democratic media consultant".
As we all remember too well, the winner of the 2000 popular vote, Al Gore, lost the Electoral College, and thus the presidency, to George W. Bush. This was the fourth time in our nation's history that our Electoral College system made the loser the winner. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the electors will be chosen by the states "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct."
By the early 1800s, all states had adopted a state electoral vote winner-take-all system, awarded to the winner of a state's popular vote, leading to the four disparities and numerous close calls. The recent National Popular Vote campaign, launched in 2006, has made great strides in state legislatures, but still has a long ways to go.
The last serious and nearly successful attempt to abolish the Electoral College was in 1969/70, in response to the 1968 election. Richard Nixon's '68 electoral vote margin was far greater than his 1% popular vote margin over Hubert Humphrey. George Wallace's third-party candidacy came close to denying a majority to the top two candidates, which would have thrown the decision to the House of Representatives.
HJR 681, the Bayh-Celler Constitutional Amendment, would have abolished the Electoral College and replaced it with a system where the leading candidate who won at least 40% of the national popular vote would win the Presidency, with a runoff scheduled if no candidate received 40%. The proposal, halfheartedly endorsed by President Nixon, passed the U.S. House 339 to 70 and the Senate Judiciary Committee 11-6, before being filibustered by Southern and small state conservatives.
Since that failed attempt, in addition to the 2000 fiasco, two close calls have occurred. Had 1976 independent candidate Eugene McCarthy achieved ballot access in New York, he would likely have cost Jimmy Carter his margin there (as he did in Oregon, Iowa, and Maine) and thus given Gerald Ford an electoral victory. In 2004, a shift of a relatively few votes in Ohio would have made John Kerry the winner of the electoral college without the popular vote.
The recent National Popular Vote drive was launched in 2006, spearheaded by the leader of the 1969 movement, former Senator Birch Bayh, as well as former Republican Congressman and 1980 independent candidate John Anderson, along with former Republican Senators Jake Garn and David Durenberger.
Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill will take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). The bill has passed 30 legislative chambers in 20 states, is endorsed by 1,922 legislators, and has been signed into law in seven states, including Washington. Those seven states (plus DC) account for 76 electoral votes - just more than a quarter of the way there.
The Oregon House of Representatives voted for the bill, carried by Ben Cannon, 39-19 on March 12, 2009.
The vote was somewhat along party lines, but with eight Republicans voting yes and four Democrats voting no. The bill then went to the Senate Rules Committee where it remained until the end of session.
The bill will likely be introduced in the 2011 Oregon Legislature. Please take the time to contact your legislators to urge their support. To assist in this process, here is a letter-writing system on the NPV website.
Jan. 06, 2011 | |