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Entrepreneur Tom Golisano Endorses National Popular Vote

Short Explanation
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee a majority of the Electoral College to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote in the Electoral College reflects the choice of the nation's voters for President of the United States.   more
11 Enactments
The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law in states possessing 165 electoral votes — 61% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the legislation.

  • Maryland - 10 votes
  • Massachusetts - 11
  • Washington - 12 votes
  • Vermont - 3 votes
  • Rhode Island - 4 votes
  • DC - 3 votes
  • Hawaii - 4 votes
  • New Jersey - 14 votes
  • Illinois - 20 votes
  • New York - 29 votes
  • California - 55 votes

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    2007 Proposal to Allocate California's Electoral Votes by Congressional District Would Be Worse Than Current State-by-State Winner-Take-All System

    One alternative to the current system of electing the President is the “congressional district” approach in which the voters would elect one presidential elector for each of a state’s congressional districts. Maine and Nebraska currently use this approach. In California in 2007, a initiative petition to divide the state’s 55 electoral votes by congressional district failed to get enough signatures for the June 2008 ballot. Maine Senator John Martin (the author of the 1969 congressional district legislation in Maine) sponsored the National Popular Vote bill in the Maine legislature in 2007.      Article on Senator Martin’s 1969 Maine legislation and current bill      Op-Ed entitled "As Maine went, so shouldn't the nation"

    The district approach would magnify the shortcomings of the current system.

    • The district approach would less accurately reflect the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the chance of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.
    • The district approach would reduce the already small percentage of the people of the country who are relevant in presidential elections. Seven-eighths of the people of the country live in non-competitive “spectator” congressional districts, compared to two-thirds who live in non-competitive “spectator” states.
    • The district approach would not make every vote equal.

    As to accuracy, when Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he nonetheless won 55% of the country’s 435 congressional districts. In 2004, Bush’s won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. If the district approach were implemented selectively (say, in California, but not Texas), the overall system would be less reflective of the national popular vote than the current system and would increase the likelihood of electing a President who did not win the national popular vote.

    As to competitiveness, candidates have no reason to campaign in areas where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In California, the presidential race is a foregone conclusion in 50 of the state’s 53 congressional districts. Nationally, there are only 55 congressional districts that are competitive in presidential elections. The number dropped to 41 in 2004.

    Under the district approach, every vote would not be equal. Congressional districts are created with equal population, but not an equal number of voters. There were, for example, three times more votes cast for President in Congressman Mike Thompson’s district in northern California than in Jim Costa’s district in the Central Valley or in Loretta Sanchez’s district in Orange County.

    As John Samples of the Cato Institute recently pointed out in a panel discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures, the district approach would extend the effects of gerrymandering of congressional districts to the highest office in the land. Video


    News Stories on 2007 Petition for District Plan in California
    • Votescam—by Hendrik Hertzberg—The New Yorker—August 6, 2007
    • Is California GOP Trying to Steal the 2008 Election? There’s some malicious mischief at play in efforts to reform our electoral system—by Jonathan Alter—Newsweek—August 13, 2007
    • Governor uneasy on electoral-vote change—Associated Press—August 23, 2007
    • Editorial: 'Reform' for losers—Orange County Register—August 29, 2007
    • KTXL-TV—Sacramento—“Golden State Electoral Reform”—August 27, 2007—Video (3:19)
    • KNBC—Los Angeles—"Presidential Politics"—August 23, 2007—Video (2:42)
    • KPIX—San Francisco—"California Senator Dianne Feinstein is proposing a constitutional amendment to do away with the electoral college"—August 30, 2007—Video (3:40)
    • CNN—The Situation Room—"A Republican Head Start"—August 23, 2007—Video (2:52)
    • Comedy Central—The Colbert Report—"Let My People Go"—September 2007—Video (1:39)
    • CNN—360° Raw Politics—Anderson Cooper—"Ahnold"—September 6, 2007—Video (0:33)
    • KNTV—San Francisco—"Fair Election Reform"—September 8, 2007—Video (2:18)

    Constitutionality of District Plan

    The congressional district plan is clearly constitutional. In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (1892), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s switch from the winner-take-all system to a system in which one electoral vote was awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each congressional district (and in which the state’s remaining two electoral votes were awarded to the candidate who received the most votes in each of two special districts, each containing half of the state). The manner of conducting presidential elections is covered in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution saying “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” The constitutional wording “as the Legislature thereof may direct” contains no restrictions. It does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes. For example, the now-prevailing winner-take-all rule was used by only three states when the Founding Fathers went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. It became prominent in the pre-Civil-Ware era. Maine enacted its congressional-district system in 1969, and Nebraska did so in 1992. The U.S. Supreme Court has characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.” The district system was used in Michigan for the 1892 presidential election, but immediately repealed.


    Constitutionality of Using Initiative Petition

    It is also reasonably clear that the citizen-initiative process may be used to change the method by which a state awards its electoral votes. Superficially, the use of the word “legislature” in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution would appear to raise the question of whether the initiative process may be used to enact legislation specifying the manner of choosing presidential electors. In the only court case in which there was a written opinion on the interpretation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution in connection with the referendum process, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the use of the referendum process. This 1919 case involved the use of the referendum process on a state statute entitled “An act granting to women the right to vote for presidential electors.” Additional light on this issue comes from an examination of the two distinct ways that the word “legislature” is used in the U.S. Constitution. The word “legislature” appears in 15 places in the U.S. Constitution—13 of which relate to the powers of state legislatures. There are many cases interpreting the analogous and “parallel” section of the U.S. Constitution concerning the “legislature” choosing the manner of electing members of Congress (Article I (section 4, clause 1 saying “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the legislature thereof”). This issue is discussed in detail in section 8.3 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

    Whatever the merits of the congressional-district approach, there is a prohibitive practical impediment associated with the adoption of this approach on a piecemeal basis by individual states. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson argued that Virginia should switch from its then-existing district system to the statewide winner-take-all system. Jefferson cited the political disadvantage suffered by states that divided their electoral votes in a political environment in which other states employed the winner-take-all approach. He said "while 10. states chuse either by their legislatures or by a general ticket [winner-take-all], it is folly & worse than folly for the other 6. not to do it." The now-prevailing statewide winner-take-all system became entrenched in the political landscape in the 1830s precisely because dividing a state’s electoral votes diminishes the state’s political influence relative to states employing the statewide winner-take-all approach. Suppose that 45 states chose to allocate their electoral votes by district, but the others did not. The states continuing to use the statewide winner-take-all system would then be the only states that would matter in presidential politics. The congressional-district approach only makes sense if 100% of the states adopt it. Moreover, if states started unilaterally adopting the congressional-district approach on a piecemeal basis, each additional state adopting the approach would increase the influence of the remaining states and thereby would increase the disincentive for the remaining states to adopt it. Thus, a state-by-state process adopting the congressional-district approach would bring itself to a halt. For more details, see sections 3.3 and 4.2 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.


    Reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote reflects the nationwide popular vote for President