Proposal: Skip Electoral College

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the election.  John Kerry lost the popular vote by a margin of nearly three million, but if he had carried Ohio, he would be president.  To rectify this, state legislators intend to take up a plan by National Popular Vote to send Oregon's electors to whomever wins the popular vote, not who carries Oregon:

Currently, it takes 270 electoral votes to be elected president. Each state has one elector for every member that it has in the U.S. House and Senate.

Changing that system would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- politically, a difficult mountain to climb. The legislation proposed by the National Popular Vote group, though, would bypass that by getting states to agree to give their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, regardless of their own state's leanings....

"I think this is very promising," said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, a key backer of the popular vote legislation in Oregon. "Clearly, the national electoral college is antiquated. I believe that whoever wins the popular vote should win, whether that is a school board or the U.S. presidency."

Supporters contend that this move would not only force the electors to follow the will of the people, but would compel candidates to visit even safe states.  That's exactly what's wrong with the plan, though, opponents say:

Wayne Kinney, a Democratic National Committeeman who lives in Bend, said he fears that moving to such a system would mean relatively small states like Oregon would be overlooked.

"Logic tells you, you go where the votes are," he said. "Look at how they campaign here in Oregon -- they do a lot more in Portland than in Burns."


  • Garrett (unverified)

    I think this is a good idea and its a good starting point. The problem I see with this is that I don't think it would work unless a lot of states signed on at the same time. It's a good conversation starter though.

  • LT (unverified)

    I happen to agree with Wayne Kinney. One more thought: Florida was a recount in one state. It was a mess, but it was one state. If the president is decided by popular vote, it could mean recounts in more than one state. And those of us who have lived through a recount, esp. a statewide recount, would think twice about subjecting a national contest to that possibility.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I also agree with Wayne - if you think you live at the edge of the world now, change away from current system and see what happens.

    LT brings in a good point too, but I have a twist on it. With a nationalized election for President, I'm sure it would follow that we'd have nationalized election standards. We could very well end up with the same voting machines in every State, and end up having to give up vote by mail for Presidential elections here in Oregon.

    Our current system makes it harder to manipulate an election, with every State having a different twist on things. Standardize our elections, standardize fraud.

    In any case, we are small potatoes in this debate. We have about 1% of the population of the US, and about 1.3% of the Electoral College.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    The problem that small states will be overlooked is silly.

    (1) If elections were not decided by the Electoral College, then states would be irrelevant units. Campaigns would think in terms of media markets where swing voters live. New York City is the biggest media market in the country, but it's also the most expensive. National campaigns won't advertise in that market if they don't believe there are enough swing voters in the region to make it worth the enormous expense. And there aren't. There is no reason to believe campaigns will shift their attention to big states and ignore small states.

    (2) Under the current system, campaigns already pay much more attention to big states over small states. Oregon is lucky to be one of the 14 most competitive "swing states." But do you think Mississippi, Alabama, Maine, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming see any action in presidential elections? Of course not! And which states see the most action? The big ones: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and historically, Texas, California, and New York!

    (3) Even if Wayne Kinney's premise about small states were correct (it isn't), why does he think small states should get more attention in presidential elections than big states? Does he believe his vote should draw more political attention than the votes of citizens living in New York? Are Oregonians' needs more important than the needs of New Yorkers? In recent elections, New Yorkers and Texans have been all but ignored! Why is that fair? Why should Oregon have a bigger voice in the process than bigger states? I thought Democracy was about "one person, one vote."

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    I'm not sure I should reply to Betsy, being the holder of such a silly opinion. I'm pretty sure, though, that Oregon is a small state, and I'm pretty sure that if there were no Electoral College, we wouldn't see candidates as often as we do now. Obviously, I can't prove that, but Betsy can't prove her point either -- all she (and I) can do is spout a theory.

    I also can't imagine an elector voting for someone of the opposite party. If we had such a law in Oregon, and I was an elector, I would resign before voting for a presidential candidate I couldn't support.

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    I also can't imagine an elector voting for someone of the opposite party. If we had such a law in Oregon, and I was an elector, I would resign before voting for a presidential candidate I couldn't support.

    Wayne, but the whole point is that this wouldn't happen. The candidate that wins the national popular vote would win Oregon's electors.

    In 2004, Oregon's electors would have been Bush electors, not Kerry electors.

    An important point here that seems to have been missed. The states that have done this so far include this provision: It's only in effect if states totaling 270 electoral votes all have similar laws. If there's less than that, the status quo remains. Oregon wouldn't unilaterally withdraw.

    FWIW, I'm pretty sure I also disagree with this idea.

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    It's not so much about population as it is voting population.

    While we may have 1% of the population and 1.3% of the electoral college votes, we had 1.5% of the votes in the 2004 election.

    Not saying I'm 100% in support of this idea, but it does have merit. I'd much rather see a change nationally in how things are done.

    But then again, Bush's team also knew how to cheat the popular vote. After 2000, they knew they couldn't get away with not winning the popular vote. So all across the country there were huge voting irregularities in "red" areas. Areas they knew we wouldn't be watching closely.

    Example: My home county in Texas. Vote a straight dem ticket? Your vote is cast for Bush.

    Supposedly this was corrected, but without a paper trail how can we really know? Also, the percentages were way off. You had a county voting around 65% against every Republican, except the numbers were flipped on the presidential race.

    I think the two keys are changing it nationally as well as instituting better voting protection, such as vote by mail.

  • David (unverified)

    I like the idea, although I'm more in favor of what ME and NE do, apportion the votes by district and then give a 2 vote bonus to the winner of the state.

  • cwech (unverified)

    I hate this idea, it means that one can carry Oregon while ignoring the concerns of Oregonians. So the vote of someone in Wyoming has far greater significance than their portion of the population, but now the vote of an Oregonian has almost none? I dont like the electoral college, but this is a bad way to go about eliminating it, it means that citizens of States that dont do this have their vote count while citizens of States that do can be ignored, particularly smallish States like Oregon. I think if a candidate wants to carry Oregon he has to make Oregonians like him, the plan may be good for the country, but its bad for Oregon.

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    I'm sort of against the idea, too (it's a dodge around the constitution, which seems a bit dicey), but Jenni raises a really good point: it would make it harder to supress and/or jigger voting by princinct. It would require coordination on a far more impressive scale, which seems unlikely.

    Interesting ....

  • 271 is all it takes to win (unverified)

    We live in the United States of America; not the United People of America. States choose their electors in accordance with the broad guidelines in the Constitution (and the detailed precepts of the courts), as enacted by State Law.

    There were two fundamental reasons for the electoral college, rather than direct voting.

    A. Logistics. It was simply easier to have electoral representatives travel (which took much longer on horseback) from the state they represent to the place where the final tabulations were made, rather than ship all those ballots to one place (talk about hanging chads!).

    B. Fairness to lower population states. Early attempts at representative government recognized that large population centers could easily dominate dispersed populations. In order to provide an "equal voice" to the less populous states, they were accorded electoral votes based on the size of their congressional delegation.

    Reason A has been (mostly) rendered moot by technology (Florida and Ohio exceptions noted). But Federalizing the electoral process (especially as regards Presidential and Congressional seats) would require a constitutional amendment.

    Reason B still serves the interests of smaller (population) states and rural populations. Does anybody really care which Presidential hopeful winds the primary elections/polls in Iowa and New Hampshire (combined population of 4.1 million people)? They only have 11 electoral votes (or 2% of the total) vs. 1.3% of the inhabitants. That would be rounding error in most elections. But they come first, and the majority of those 11 electoral votes can be cultivated within a narrow geographic area.

    The flyover states would be the big losers without the electoral college system. Rather than spending time in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other 37 small states, candidates could simply sweep the 11 most populous states (IL, MI, NY, PA, OH, FL, TX, CA, NJ, NC, GA) and win the Presidency. I don't know if y'all have been to those eleven states, but I would hate for the entire country to look to them for political inspiration and guidance.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    I'm with Jenni, I'm for this idea IF, and it's a big, fat IF, we can trust votes elsewhere in the country, which pretty much means paper, voter-verified ballots.

    Otherwise, all of the efforts to secure our ballots here in Oregon will be moot and our Secretary of State will effectively be, for the Presidential vote, not our own cherished Bill Bradbury, but whoever the SoS of whatever Republican-controlled "swing-state" whose "irregularities" determines the elections, meaning Ken Blackwell or Katherine Harris!

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Hey 271, in case you hadn't noticed, those 11 largest states you cited (IL, MI, NY, PA, OH, FL, TX, CA, NJ, NC, GA) tend not to vote all the same way, in fact they split pretty much right down the middle and will keep doing so for sometime, which means that the winner will have to win a whole bunch of smaller states, so it looks like we'd have a national election after all.

    Personally, I find the Electoral College a disgrace, it gives the same weight (more, in fact, per capita) to Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc., which have populations in the few hundreds of thousands each or maybe a million total, as to D.C., which has a population of millions (can't recall off hand). And the largest states, like California and New York, get screwed because every state, no matter how small its population, can have no fewer than 3 electoral votes, so the bigger states are way underrepresented because they can't get a proportinate amount of electoral votes with respect to their population.

    Nope, I'm all for scrapping the antiquated Electoral College and enshrining "one person, one vote" as the law of the land, so long as we can trust the actual voting (i.e. voter-verified paper ballots).

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    Cwech wrote, it means that citizens of States that dont do this have their vote count while citizens of States that do can be ignored

    Once again, ya gotta pay attention to a key wrinkle - this only goes into effect if states totalling 270 votes pass these laws.

    Once that happens, NO electoral votes will "count". It won't matter what happens in any of the nonparticipating states, because a full 270 will swing to the winner of the popular vote -- guaranteeing a victory.

    (Btw, not 271, Mr. 271. There are 538 votes. 50% is 269. You need 270 to win.)

    Again, I'm still overly concerned about the mechanisms for a national recount - and the chaos and gamesmanship that would entail. But the idea has a simplicity and audacity that seems rather beautiful to me.

    (Chaos? Yeah, a vote as close as Florida 537-vote official margin in 2000 would have been only 9491 votes nationwide that year. That's an invitation for chaos. FYI, I did the math over here.)

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    Also, keep in mind that any discussion of "you could win X states and win it all" is silly.

    After all, that's exactly how the system works now. You win 270 electoral votes - even by razor-thin margins - and you're president.

    Here's the top 10 closest states in 2004:

    1. Wisconsin, 0.38% Kerry
    2. Iowa, 0.67% Bush
    3. New Mexico, 0.79% Kerry
    4. New Hampshire, 1.37% Kerry
    5. Ohio, 2.11% Bush
    6. Pennsylvania, 2.50% Kerry
    7. Nevada, 2.59% Bush
    8. Michigan, 3.42% Kerry
    9. Minnesota, 3.48% Kerry
    10. Oregon, 4.16% Kerry

    No matter how close they were, the winner won 100% of the electoral votes in each of these states. So, there's tremendous incentive to invest heavily and disproportionately in the closest states.

    But under a national popular vote, there's just as much incentive - say - for Hillary Clinton to seek to boost her vote in New York by 100,000 as there is for - say - Mitt Romney to boost his vote total in Utah by 100,000.

    Under a national popular vote, swing voters everywhere are in play - regardless of where they live. Right now, swing voters only count if they're in swing states.

    Which is to say, I support the idea of a national popular vote in theory -- but I'm very, very, very concerned about the logistics of it.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Kari, do you mean to say that you're "very, very, very concerned" that the Democrats couldn't win in a popular vote? Gore should dispel that notion, so what it would come down to, as has been the rule of late, is who has the best ground game, i.e. who can get the most votes for them out of states and regions that had been typically ignored.

    With the rise of the New Left (or whatever the Liberal Blogosphere is calling itself), I think we held the Right in check in 2006 and can build on that in the future. The best sign will be to see if the Republicans line up behind this is the states where they hold sway in the legislature, or if they oppose this. My bet is on the latter, as they already think (and have shown) that they can win in the current system and don't want to do anything to change that.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    I'm not much of a fan of jiggering with the Constitution. There are unforeseen consequences to all actions. Living in E OR does tend to give one an usderstanding of the tyrrany of the majority. It has been said frequently that the US Senate is imbalanced in favor of the rural States, it is, actually. That argument's promoters tend to be the losers in that equation. It currently gets currency with the "Blues," there was a time when those were reliably "Blue" areas, were that to come back yo could expect the argument to be made by "Reds." If you marginalize the rural population you risk the loss of a point of view that may have much more value than you credit.

  • Win (unverified)

    I've been going over these comments and I must say, I think we are forgetting the one fundamental thing about political parties...they want to win elections to influence government. It doesn't matter if you live in a big state or small state. Your goal is to win, and you should be willing to make that sacrifice of not seeing the candidate if it means their time can be better used somewhere else.

    If you are running a campaign with limited resources, you have to make tough choices. Had Direct Democracy been in effect this last election, and Kerry had traveled all over the country except Oregon, if we were really good Democrats that have done our part in the 50 SS, would we have really lost a lot of votes simply just because Kerry couldn't show up? Or not used ASTRO to go out and knock on those doors of people who have not voted in the last two elections? Of course not, we would have done those things regardless if Kerry had shown up or not.

    Sure it's nice to be able to see candidates in real life, but at the end of the day we want to win. We want to be able to influence the government. To put the Democratic message into public policy.

    These are not the days of William Jennings Bryan where candidates hit as many states as possible, and stopped at every city, town, and hamlet that had a rail station nearby.

    When you are in a tight spot in a local race, do you knock on all doors in every precinct? No, we have things like VAN and ASTRO that help us carefully target which doors get knocked. National campaigns are more sophisticated than they have ever been.

    In college towns, you always get on campus and try to turn out those student voters, lots of voters in a confined area, might help you balance out in a few precincts where you know you are not going to get the votes. If a candidate doesn't go to Vermont for 5,000 voters but goes to New York for that extra 100,000 or 200,000 so be it...the party wins.

    Howard Dean is doing an amazing thing...he is trying to pull us away from candidate centered campaigns. The DNC is building the party, the fifty state strategy in 2006 showed us what is possible. If we have strong surrogates, strong state and local party organizations it shouldn't matter if a small state doesn't get the candidate to show up.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, if our first concern is winning the election, than we have to sacrifice a visit by a candidate in the small states in the 'one person, one vote' model, if we are worried about not getting our photo op with the candidate in our state, than we've got a lot more to worry about than the election

    So long as we continue building the 50 state strategy, getting these state and county, and yes even smaller than that i.e. campus/young democrats mobilized during the election all some places should need is a strong surrogate.

    The popular vote model can work, send your candidate to the highest concentrations of swing voters and then get those party leaders, and other surrogates out there where the candidate can't go.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    While the above discussion may be a good way to waste time on a cold winter day, the reality is that we will all be commuting to work in our space ships before the electoral college system is abandoned.

    For those of you who crave being in the center of the political whirlwind, I recommend moving from Oregon to either Washington DC or to the east side of midtown Manhattan. When we were in NYC you could set your watch by the number of VIP motorcades what whizzed in and out of the neighborhood, mostly carrying national and international political big shots. If you want contact with politicians, there's your place.

    Personally, I prefer Oregon.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    Why would we want to vote for Candidate A, but have our electoral votes go for Candidate B just because more people in Florida, or California, or Texas, or some other large state decided they would vote in greater numbers for Candidate B?

    The electoral college has its problems that are worth discussing and even amending, but a statement that Oregon's votes will always follow the prevailing national breeze seems like a quick way to totally marginalize any influence we might have--don't bother campaigning in Oregon, just win votes in the other states and you'll win there by default.

    Seems we could come up with something better than that; and any "solution" to the percieved problem will need to be adopted nationally at the same time for it to work; i.e. a Constitutional amendment.

  • TR (unverified)

    Such a proposal only demonstrates how the elected public servants in Salem would rather push their own special interest agendas and listen to the big money political contributor interests instead of representing the will of all Oregon voters for whom they are elected to serve.

  • (Show?)

    There are a number of misconceptions here about how this plan would work. You can go look at Rob Richie's website,, to see the specifics.

    1) Above, someone suggested that a national vote would lead to standardized voting technology. This is false. This is not a national vote. This is a reform that works within the current constitutionally mandated electoral college system. The electoral college has always let states allocate their EC votes as they see fit. There is nothing in this proposal that takes away from state control over the way elections are conducted.

    2) Above, someone said they don't like jiggering with the Constitution. Good, because this proposal does not involve a constitutional amendment. Getting rid of the EC would require an amendment.

    3)Many posters have expressed concerns that this plan means that rural Oregon would be ignored. With all due respect, I have to ask: compared to what? What we have now? It is always the case that candidates are going to go where the votes are--and that means the metropolitan areas in large states.

    But, along with Win, what I find most discouraging is the parochialism on this thread. Are we Oregonians first or progressives first? Some have laid out scenarios whereby this plan would increase Oregon's pull in the presidential vote contest--but is that really the point?

    The relevant comparison is to what we have NOW--where

    • "flyover" states (mainly very conservative) have influence on the presidential contest that far outweighs their population (with ill effects on all sorts of national policies)

    • where the South is essentially locked up for the GOP (and thus millions of Southern blacks--candidly, a group we progressives ought to be a lot more concerned about than relatively well-off Oregonians--are ignored)

    • where presidential elections are won and lost in a few large Midwestern states.

    And you think this is better for progressive interests than the national vote proposal, which would give metropolitan areas a far more proportional weight in choosing a president??

  • thetadelta (unverified)


    You claim that this would not nationalize the election. I beg to differ.

    First, currently each state has a different definition of who is a voter. Some states allow felons to vote, some do not. Each state has different registration requirements. If everyone's vote counts to determine who wins an election, then the rolls of voters must be standardize.

    Second, each state specifies different time periods for voting. Indiana and Kentucky close their polls at 6pm. If other states close their polls at 8pm or 9pm, then voters in states that close their polls early are disadvantaged, compared to voters in other states.

    In a system that rewards the popular vote winner, each voter must be treated equally. Currently, all voters in a state must be treated equally. In order to create equality across the country, the states need to standardize their election practices.

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    verasoie asked, Kari, do you mean to say that you're "very, very, very concerned" that the Democrats couldn't win in a popular vote?

    No. I certainly believe Democrats are capable of winning a popular vote. I am, however, concerned - as I said - about the logistics of conducting such a vote. In particular, a national recount - which would be a nightmare. You want armed civil conflict in America? A national recount might just give it to you. (Remember the guys storming the elections office in Florida?)

  • IndependentAndy (unverified)

    Not that I endorse the Electoral College, but this thread begs a question:

    What other parts of the US Constitution can we circumvent with a vote of the states? Anyone for dumping parts of the Bill of Rights next?

    If you want to change the Constitution, change it. But don't circumvent it. That makes for a very dangerous precedent.

  • John Q. Adams (Mssr. T) (unverified)


    Is it parochial to say that "flyover states (mainly very conservative)" should be marginalized in order to promote the interests of any political party?

    Y'all were screaming like banshees when Bush/Alberto said the protections of the U.S. Constitution may not extend to our foreign enemies; but you're willing to advocate for a supra-constitutional bypass in order to gain power (marginalizing 30 or so States in the process). The Civil War was precipitated by no less an affront. Nobody likes to be told their votes don't count.

    On an altogether sad note: Molly Ivins has passed away, following her third skirmish with breast cancer. She was the funniest political satirist of our time....To put it in the Texan Vernacular: she done Liberals good by shining the bright light of day into the darkest corners of the life and times of Texas Pols.

    And that's coming from a recovering Democrat.

  • My kingdom for a Porsche (unverified)

    Let me see if I understand this correctly:

    1. Oregonians will vote in the general Presidential Election by mail.

    2. Those votes will be tallied (and locked in a safe?) because...

    3. The winner of the most Oregon votes won't actually receive Oregon's electoral votes unless he/she also won a majority of the national popular vote.

    4. For examplem, where a majority of Oregonians voted for Kerry in 2004, our electoral votes would be cast in favor of Bush, because he won the popular vote.

    And this is a good idea to whom? Am I missing something?

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    For those who point out that Bush would have won over Kerry...

    Actually, we wouldn't have had that situation. Gore would have been sworn in as President, and therefore would have been running as an incumbent president in the 2004 election. We'd very likely have Gore right now as our President.

    This is about how to keep the situation that happened in 2000 from happening again-- a candidate loses the popular vote, yet becomes President. The majority of those voting didn't even vote for him. He should have never been president. But thanks to the electoral college votes, it was easy for them to use the courts to ensure he was (s)elected.

    Not that I'm saying I like this plan. I just don't like the current situation.

  • Get this PARTY STARTED (unverified)

    I have a better idea: let's just change Oregon Law to say we don't trust Oregonians to vote the "right" way.

    Instead of voting for Presidential Candidates, we're all going to drink beer, get baked, and make Tim Russert jokes. We can have two different telephone numbers to call (staffed by throaty voiced coeds) for those who insist on stating their preference.


    Let's get this Party STARTED! Pass the big bong.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    I never said rural OR would lose under "pure democracy" I said the rural point of view would be discounted. There is currently a push for Dems to win the west. Why? certainly not vote count.

    I have a lot of agendas that NYNY doesn't have, the 2nd Amendment for one. I don't care that it's primarily Red state push back that's got everybody real quiet about gun banning, licensing, grabbing, etc. Thank you very damn much, I'll keep the Electoral College and a lot of half baked assininities will die quiet deaths.

    Like it or not, this is a rural vs urban fight and you don't get to win this one. If you don't like M37, consider that it is a push back over YOUR ideas. YOU decided that YOUR experience was sufficient to deal with everybody. It wasn't. So now you've got major push back and it really stinks, it's bad law - in response to bad law. You don't like the way schools are funded - M5 - your law, bad law, failed in all rural counties. Rural areas can be a set of brakes and they can be instigation - see Populism. You're bound and determined to further marginalize the rural areas and you've repeatedly paid with bad law - maybe you should pay some attention.

    Gore and Kerry ran bad campaigns, Gore was sunk with the gun vote as was Kerry very nearly, neither could connect with plain spoken people. Neither had rock solid campaign themes. There's no sense blaming the Electoral College for loser campaigns. (and I worked damn hard for Kerry & held my nose the entire time)

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    My Kingdom for a Porsche:

    Yes, I'm pretty sure you are missing something, but it's not your fault - the initiative just wasn't described very well.

    I'm not sure whether or not I buy into this idea, but there is a logic behind it - it's not as insane as you think. I think it at least merits a clearer presentation.

    The guy behind the initative (written up here) envisions only two possibilities:

    (1) the electoral college (2) popular vote decides

    He's found a different, legal way to get to (2) WITHOUT a constitutional amendment:

    Multiple states, at various times, pass laws stating this:

    Our electors will go to the popular-vote getter if AND ONLY IF enough states have passed the same law that we're passing, to actually ELECT the popular-vote getter.

    In other words, the law proposed would do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING until just over half the states (counted by electors) have passed the same law. If and when that does happen, the candidate who wins the popular vote automatically wins in the electoral college system as well.

    You may agree or disagree, but please don't tell me it ain't a neat idea!

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)

    Pete: let's assume that 2/3 of all the states adopted this initiative, and a majority of Oregonians cast ballots in favor of John Kerry in 2004.

    As soon as it became clear that Bush won more of the national popular vote, Oregon's electors (together with the 2/3 of the rest of the country) would have been required to vote in favor OF BUSH!

    Ergo, instead of winning with the 286 electoral votes, Bush would have won in a landslide, with somewere north of 400 electoral votes (vs. the 271 vote hurdle). Hello....MCFLY, HELLO!!!

    The only way this initiative benefits liberals is if it prevents a LARGE POPULATION Blue State from voting Republican with the thinnest of margins. In effect, it would prevent us from having "close" Presidential vote tallies: the winner will always win with an electoral vote tally that (in percentage terms) is much larger than his/her popular vote margin of victory.

    Stupid is as Stupid Does! I would rather see 2/3 of the states pass a constitutional amendment banning the production of tobacco in the United States (so that smokers rely on imported smokes).

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    Forrest, you're not paying attention. Under this system, the electoral college would become irrelevant. Of course the winner would have some kind of huge electoral landslide.

    The whole point is that we'd have one popular election, in which the most votes wins. Right now, we've got 50 separate popular elections - and in each state, it's winner-take-all, then we tally up the states on a point-scoring system.

    Will it help liberals? I don't know. We should evaluate the rules of the game on one simple premise: Is it pro-democracy?

    Ultimately, I believe that when the people have the power, the people win.

    And this system will more accurately reflect the will of the people. Or don't you think President Gore would have been a good idea?

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    The only way this initiative benefits liberals is if it prevents a LARGE POPULATION Blue State from voting Republican with the thinnest of margins.

    Um, Florida?

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    Kari, I'm amused by the compelling arguments you keep mustering for an idea you said you were against. Convinced yourself?

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)

    [I]n each state, it's winner-take-all, then we tally up the states on a point-scoring system.

    Actually, it's winner-take-all in 48 states. In Maine and Nebraska, 2 electoral votes go to the statewide winner, while one electoral vote is awarded to the winner in each congressional district. Thus far in both of these states, the candidate who has won statewide has also carried each congressional district.

    This National Popular Vote plan is an obvious attempt to circumvent the Electoral College without amending the Constitution. It strikes me as being very vulnerable to federal litigation.

    Direct election of the president would change the very nature of the campaign. Take the 2000 race, e.g. Neither candidate spent much time in California or Texas, since those were not close states. But if we had direct election, Bush and Gore would've spent lots of time in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, etc.

    With direct election, the campaign would be waged almost totally on the airwaves and in the large population centers. A president elected by big-city votes would surely be less sympathetic to small-town and rural issues.

    And imagine the uncertainty of a nationwide vote recount.

  • Richard Pope (unverified)

    Here is an even worse nightmare. Let's suppose there is electoral fraud or irregularity in some state that is NOT a member of the "National Popular Vote Plan" compact.

    For example, let's suppose the national popular vote, after everything is counted, is only 5,000 votes separated between the Democrat and Republican candidates. Mississippi has been carried (as usual) by the Republican candidate by over 200,000 votes, and is not a member of the "National Popular Vote Plan" compact. There are 10,000 disputed ballots in Mississippi -- enough to tip the national popular vote either way.

    The disputed ballots are irrelevant under Mississippi law. The GOP carried the state by over 200,000 votes and will get Mississippi's 6 presidential electors under state law, since Mississippi continues to use the "winner take-all system". So no court in Mississippi will entertain a lawsuit over the 10,000 disputed ballots, since the issue will not determine anything that the Mississippi Secretary of State has to do.

    Instead, you have several dozen lawsuits filed over the Mississippi ballots in the various states. The lawsuit in Mississippi, of course, is thrown out as irrelevant. But courts in every single state that adopted the "National Popular Vote Plan" are being asked to make decisions about the 10,000 disputed Mississippi ballots! Not to mention that the Secretaries of State in various states have made conflicting decisions about "certifying" the Mississippi vote totals, when they decided who should be certified as the presidential elector winners in their own state.

    To further complicate matters, the several dozen lawsuits in other states over the Mississippi vote totals cannot even obtain proper evidence to decide the matter. The ballots are sealed under Mississippi law, unless there is an election lawsuit that can be entertained under Mississippi law. The courts in Mississippi refuse to allow unsealing of Mississippi ballots to determine lawsuits in other states that are completely irrelevant to the election certification made by the Mississippi Secretary of State.

    Even if Mississippi were a member of the "National Popular Vote Plan" under this scenario, things would only be slightly better. There is still not any mechanism in the plan for resolving disputes over election results at a nationwide level. Each state could have hundreds or thousands of disputed ballots. Would election contest lawsuits be filed in dozens of states to determine ballots that were relevant nationwide, but not at the state level? And would the court system of each state in the "National Popular Vote Plan" be asked to determine all ballot disputes nationwide, leading to possibly inconsistent determinations in each contest?

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)

    This proposal is DOA. I can't believe Oregon legislators would waste their time. On second thought, I'm not surprised.

    This plan clearly violates the equal protection clause.

    If a subset of "National Popular Vote" States act in concert (call it OPEC for short) to vote for a common Presidential Ticket, their aggregation of electors will diminish the electoral weight of those states who send winner take all (or proportionate electors) to the Federal count. The states who don't join the plan are effectively marginalized, as are the weighting of the individual voters in the "Non-OPEC" states compared to OPEC collusion.

    They also subvert the spirit of the representative democracy (per the 12th Amendment ratified in 1804), which states: Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President....


    Any "Interstate Compact" requires the consent of Congress. Just as thirty states can't decide they will meet for sessions of the Federal Congress in Hawaii, they can't act in concert to circumvent the Constitution.

    Of the 1800 Presidential election, James Bayard (Federalist elector from Delaware) recalled:

    "Representing the smallest State in the Union, without resources which could furnish the means of self protection, I was compelled by the obligation of a sacred duty so to act as not to hazard the constitution upon which the political existence of the State depends."

    Compelled to decide between loyalty to Federalism and to his home state, Bayard abandoned Federalism.

  • (Show?)

    I just sent an email inviting Rob Richie ( to respond to some of these comments. Hopefully he'll have some time.

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)

    I am told that Professor John Koza has written a book which explains the National Popular Vote plan in great detail.

    The book is available free on the Internet.

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)

    I am told that Professor John Koza has written a book which explains the National Popular Vote plan in great detail.

    The book is available free on the Internet.

  • Rob Richie (unverified)

    Thanks to Paul's invitation to weigh in. It's early evening on a Friday, and my family awaits, but I did want to post a few comments quickly, moving backwards through the chronology.

    As background, I direct FairVote, one of the early backers of the the National Popular Vote plan. I see the plan as quite likely to be successful, at least by 2012, because it's one of those ideas that holds up very well to scrutiny and that addresses very real problems with the status quo -- ones that are far more serious than many people realize. The current Electoral College system in my eyes is simply indefensible. It leads directly to gross violations of political equality and bizarre distortions of power that would make our founders spin rapidly in their graves. You can see more on what we think is wrong with the system by skimmming through our Presidential Election Inequality report at National Popular Vote, the coalition leading this effort, is at

    Also, to honor Molly Ivins, she wrote a great column last year backing the plan. It's also been endorsed by the New York Times, LA Times and Chicago Sun Times, among various publications. Nearly 200 state legislators have already signed onto bills backing it. We're talking about something very serious, not a fly-by-night proposal.

    Moving to particulars, hitting some of the many points amde:

    1. As Steve Rankin points out (with double emphasis), John Koza has a book out, of which I am a co-author. It goes through the proposal in great detail, with a table of contents and index that help you get to the questions you have. See

    2. Forrest Gump is simply in error in the proposal violating the 14th amendment. If it did, then the current system would -- indeed small states led by Delaware in 1966 tried to challenge big states' use of the winner-take-all unit rule and lost. Gump also is in error that Congress must approve all interstate compacts - numerous ones are in place without congressional approval if they don't infringe upon federal power. The book goes into great detail about this point, but of course the "worst" that would happen relating to this concern is that Congress would have to approve the compact. More broadly, Gump doesn't get the point that states have the right to act in their interest in choosing how to allocate electors. Their interest in this case happens to be the national interest -- a vote where every vote is equally powerful and equally meaningful wherever it is cast.

    In his earlier post, Gump also gets all caught up in electoral vote margins as if that matters. If I'm running for president, I want to get 270 electoral votes, a majority. Period. Few remember electoral vote margins any more than they know electors. Once in place, the National Popular Vote will decisively elect the candidate who wins the national popular vote in all 50 states and D.C. Period. The electoral vote margin doesn't matter any more than it matters for British foreign policy what color dress Queen Elizabeth wears to greet the guards at Buckingham Palace.

    1. Richard Pope and others worry about a nationally close election causing problems. Of course we know that regularly can happen in our current system - -with 51 separate contests deciding the presidency, even a vaguely close race nationally can tilt based on a close vote in a big state. But the fact is that we have had only one race won by fewer than a half million votes since the 19th century -- and that was the Kennedy-Nixon vote, one that still had a relatively large margin. If and when the compact comes into place, the reality is that it is extremely unlikely to have such a super close election -- in contrast to the fact that we absolutely know for certain that the current system is grossly distorting basic notions of what democracy should be, and makes it more likely that a state's flawed voting process will tilt the result. Furthermore, there would be nothing to stop Congress from statutorily setting standards to address Pope's concerns - although, to address others' concern, that in no ways requires uniformity in waht states do, but rather could lead to higher standards all states must meet and processes to handle the unlikely recount.

    2. Steve Rankin worries that a national popular vote would lead to the candidates trying to get more votes in places where now they don't try to get votes. Well, yes, that's true, and that's one of the "hazards" of democracy -- when your vote counts, you matter. Of course the alternative is the current system where most people and most votes mean absolutely nothing in presidential races, which seems like a curious thing to defend. But as Win points out well, he also mistakes what candidates might do and what those who care about the results might do. You would see real grassroots energy all over the nation if people care who wins. You wouldn't need to call into a swing state to matter - you could talk to your neighbors. More institutionally, it would greatly behoove the parties and those who care about who wins to spend more energy developing an infrastructure of participation. You will want to get your vote out year after year, and investing in GOTV networks would make sense. Right now, it doesn't. Oregon was close in 2000 but almost certainly won't be close in 2008, so it would have been "pointless" by those interested most in presidential races to invest in voter-turnout operations in Oregon.

    3. Chuck wants some people to count more than others -- in this case, rural people to count more than urban people. That's not my idea of democracy, frankly, and he's always got the U.S. Senate, which of course this proposal doesn't touch. More directly, however, how are "rural interests" losing out when every vote matters? Do rural interests lose out in your statewide races in Oregon? Did George Bush win Ohio by sweeping the cities? When every vote matters... every vote matters. A candidate who ignores rural votes he or she might otherwise win is a fool -- and a loser.

    This is a long message, but I hope useful.

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)

    Rob Richie:

    In response to your above item 2...The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the "1966 Delaware Case". That hardly constitutes a legal precedent. Legislated collusion between states in defiance of the 14th Amendment would quickly escalate to the U.S. Supreme Court for review (whether or not it constitutes an Interstate Compact). Letting each State decide how to choose their electors is very different than letting groups of States form supra-regional alliances (ask the descendents of "President" Jefferson Davis).

    Wikipedia's entry on "Interstate Compacts"under the heading Congressional Consent notes: Article I, Section 10, Clause III of the U.S. Constitution provides in part that “no state shall, without the consent of Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” Historically, this clause generally meant all compacts must receive congressional consent. However, it has been found in a number of instances, notably the US Supreme Court case Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U.S. 503 (1893), that not all compacts require congressional consent. It is well established today that only those compacts that affect a power delegated to the federal government or alter the political balance within the federal system, require the consent of Congress.

    If the choosing of electors for the office of U.S. President doesn't "alter the political balance within the federal system" I don't know what would constitute an "alteration".

    Do you guys have any lawyers working on this project? It looks more like a political movement predicated on populist good intentions, not Constitutional Law.

    If you believe the Electoral College status quo is bad for democracy, why not lobby for a Constitutional Amendment?

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)

    It's worth noting that "Professor John Koza" received his PhD in Computer Science and is currently teaching Biomedical Informatics. While that is surely an admirable achievement, it is not relevant to any discussion of Constitutional Law. I won't bore you with a discussion of the Board Game, exept to say games aren't laws.

    I'm glad the proponents are putting their time and energy into this effort (however misguided it may prove to be), but I believe you are misleading the readers to suggest the legality of a "National Popular Vote" is a slam-dunk winner.

    I also wonder what ulterior motives are at work.

  • Rob Richie (unverified)

    Four quickies, Forrest:

    1. No ulterior motives. One doesn't need an ulterior motive to want to establish a national popular vote, as backed by two-thirds of Americans.

    2. Very serious lawyers have worked with National Popular Vote. Note that ven opponents like American Enterprise Institute's conservative scholar John Fortier grant the legality of this approach. See his 206 column where he says inaccurately that we're trying to amend the Constitutios (states' use of the unit rule is by no means in the Constitution),k but gets it right on the law: "What if they amended the Constitution but didn’t ask Congress? hat is just what some opponents of the Electoral College want to do. And there is nothing wrong with it."

    3. The precedent set by the Delaware case is that it was defeated.

    4. As to whether this interstate compact would need federal approval, you haven't absorbed the reality that the Constitution gives plenary power to state legislatures for deciding how to electoral votes. Post-14th amendment Supreme Court opinions have affirmed this plenary power. The Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore reminded us in its opinion that states don't even need to hold elecitons.

    Every Vote Equal very meticulously deals with all these issues. I urge people interested in presidential elections grounded in political equality to check the book out and review .

    As a final point, I see Oregon as losing its 2000 battleground status. And in the current system, when you lose that status, you mean absolutely NOTHING in presidential elections. Even when you are a battleground, note that the poeple of your state will support a naitional popular vote over the current system as the belief in one person, one vote is a strong principle of fairness that is broadly accepted. This issue in my eyes is a winning issue and excellent policy.

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)
    1. I looked for the "Book" on, but couldn't find it. I found eleven other books by John Koza.

    2. Please provide the name and/or a link to one Constitutional Lawyer or scholar who believes this plan wouldn't be subjected to many court challenges in advance of implementation.

    3. Was the "Delaware Case" of 1966 ever heard by the U.S. Supreme Court? If so, please provide a link to the majority opinion. I can't find one.

    4. I read the relevant sections of "the book" and found it silent on any dispositive legal argument to suggest an interstate compact relating to the election of the U.S. President would not require Congressional approval.

    5. Oregon is a flyover state between California and Washington. Were it not for this geographic reality, we would never see a candidate beyond the occasional Kucinich or Nader (i.e. the eco-warrior pretenders).

  • Rob Richie (unverified)


    Some responses, with you queries s in quotes:

    "I looked for the "Book" on, but couldn't find it. I found eleven other books by John Koza."

    Book is available directly at

    "Please provide the name and/or a link to one Constitutional Lawyer or scholar who believes this plan wouldn't be subjected to many court challenges in advance of implementation."

    Various top constitutional lawyers have looked at it and given a thumbs up -- I'm not familiar with one who has said otherwise. One example is our former board member Jamin Raskin of Washington College of Law, now a state senator in Maryland introducing the proposal just today.

    "Was the "Delaware Case" of 1966 ever heard by the U.S. Supreme Court? If so, please provide a link to the majority opinion. I can't find one."

    The Supreme Court didn't take the case after a lower case rejected it. We plan to post the docs from that case soon, as it's interesting -- and contradicts errant conventional wisdom that the current system is good for small population states.

    "I read the relevant sections of "the book" and found it silent on any dispositive legal argument to suggest an interstate compact relating to the election of the U.S. President would not require Congressional approval."

    The book has an excellent table of contents. Go to section 5.9 on page 209 for an extended discussion of this topic.

    "Oregon is a flyover state between California and Washington. Were it not for this geographic reality, we would never see a candidate beyond the occasional Kucinich or Nader (i.e. the eco-warrior pretenders)."

    When every votes equally, every voter will matter. As it is, the Bush campaign never polled a SINGLE person outside of 17 states for the whole duration of the campaign. When you don't count in our current system, you don't count at all.

    I'm for one-person, one-vote and standing up for basic democratic principles. If you think you're "beating the system" when it's not fair, I suspect you're not -- and even if you are, your advantage probably is fleeting. Just ask the states that used to be battlegrounds and now are completely shut out. Rob

  • Forrest Gump (unverified)
    1. The book was self-published online. Did you seek an independent publisher as well?

    2. I reviewed your website (and the authors of the "book"), and found no Constitutional Lawyer on staff.

    3. The "1966 Delaware Case" was rejected by a lower court, and never made it to the Supreme Court. Having failed to reach the high court, it offers little guidance for how the National Popular Vote Compact would be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    4. The legal ambiguities that are glossed over with this strategy would be of GREAT INTEREST to the Congress, the non-participating states, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Page 209-243 merely defines the broad parameters and historical context of Interstate Compacts. It is silent as to how THIS Interstate Compact may elude Congressional approval.

    5. This strategy would clearly pit rural interests against urban interests, with a discernible bias in favor of the largest states (most of which have voted Democratic of late, with the exception of Texas and Florida).

    I can save you a couple million dollars in legal fees, given the probability that the majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court will conclude:

    a de facto abolition of the electoral college by Interstate Compact violates the Articles II, V, and the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs seek ratification of a "National Popular Vote" by interstate compact, and have stated that Congressional approval is unnecessary. As a matter of law, the U.S. Congress has no authority to suspend the XII and XIV Amendments, which may only be amended in accordance with Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

    Article XIV states, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

    To permit State A's electors to be selected by the popular vote of citizens outside the boundaries of State A is a clear violation of Article II, Section 1 which reads, "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

    It makes no allowance for multi-state collusion in the choosing of electors, and clearly delegates this responsibility to each State individually.

  • Rob Richie (unverified)

    Always good to have confidence in yourself, Forrest. But I can assure you the effort has been well-vetted legally. The folks at National Popular Vote can share with you the details they want to share.

    This bill doesn't pit rural interests against urban interests. It is founded on one person, one vote. I don't have problems with that principle when we're talking about electing our one national leader.

  • Richard Winger (unverified)

    Democrats are suckers if they don't support the National Popular Vote plan. Four times, Democrats have been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college (1824 Andrew Jackson, 1876 Samuel Tilden, 1888 Grover Cleveland, 2000 Al Gore). Republicans have NEVER been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. How many more times must Democrats suffer before they end their oppression?

    And the plan does not subvert the US Constitution. The Constitution says states can appoint their electors any way they wish. The National Popular Vote Plan fits into the Constitution. However, I guess that if the Plan went into operation, the country would then pass a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College. Does anyone really think that if we were starting from scratch, the Electoral College is the method we'd choose? Don't forget about the dangers of disobedient electors.

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