The candidate with the most votes should become President
The current Presidential Selection system is broken:
two of the last three Presidents took office after finishing second in the national popular vote. The general will of the people often does not determine the winner of the only nationally elected officials in the country.
As a result, the major Presidential campaigns do not engage in significant registration drives, get out the vote efforts, policy discussions, or even advertising in regions of the country accounting for more than two-thirds of citizens. Increased partisanship and cemented voting patterns have convinced voters that the outcome is foreordained for those voting in up to 45 states. This leads to low voter turnout, lack of legitimacy in the system and widespread disillusionment with the election and governing process. Because individual voters have no say in the outcome of the election except when they compose a plurality in a state, the two major parties do not try to persuade or pay attention to voters in the conceded states. All extra votes above a bare plurality in a state count for nothing in determining the President; all votes against the plurality winner in a state count for nothing, even if in the aggregate they compose a majority in that state. The system renders most individual votes meaningless.
If candidates were obliged to value each voter equally, everything about the general election process would be different. We do not know who would be elected in a system that gave equal weight to all votes. We only know that if the national popular vote selected the President, the whole country’s wishes would have been fairly taken into account in forming the consensus behind the winner. However, we can reasonably believe that equal weighting of every voter would cause the election to be more focused on achieving broad bases of support, more compromise among factions, more attention to the diverse issues in the country, and more commitment of the people to participate in and support the process of governing.
We can and must create a fairer system. We can address dysfunctionality in politics. The national popular vote can determine how the electors select the President, and thus all voters equally weighted can choose the President.
Races for governors, U.S. Senators, mayors, state legislators, local school boards and zoning panels all are determined by giving equal weight to all votes. But not for the highest office in our democracy -- the leadership of the free world.
Making Every Vote Count (MEVC) is a nonpartisan non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Making Every Vote Count Foundation is a nonpartisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. CEO and board member of both is Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The board of the former includes Lisa Foster, Jake Fuentes and Blair Levin. It has a distinguished list of advisors and supporters. The board of the latter includes Fred Goldberg and Richard Tedlow. The Covington law firm represents MEVC.
MEVC seeks your support for a viable remedy: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact—in which states pass laws obliging electors to select the candidate who has won the plurality of votes cast from every part of our vast and diverse country, provided that a majority of electors are so obligated. In this way the President would represent the general will of the people.
Most Americans agree that all votes should be weighted equally and the candidate who wins the most votes should become President. That, however, is not the reality of our system. Twice in the past five Presidential elections the popular vote loser became President. And if about 75,000 votes in Ohio had switched from Bush to Kerry in 2004, then three of the last four Presidents would have been the loser of the national popular vote. In the first 200 years of our country’s history, the clash of the popular and Electoral College vote occurred in a little less than 10% of elections. As unfortunate as were those relatively rare occasions, the probability of the clash has increased significantly. This non-democratic system cannot go uncorrected if our Republic is to thrive. We are approaching a system in which the national election is entertaining, but a coin flip picks the President. Neither party can count on the coin flip to go their way.
The country’s Presidential selection system has two components—the Electoral College system mandated by the federal Constitution, and the rules covering the allocation of electors which, as specified by the Constitution, are determined by the states. In 48 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, electors are required to vote under a strict winner-take-all principle. This feature was never part of the Constitution and wasn’t even considered by the founders. It was used by Virginia in the country’s fourth Presidential election to help assure that Thomas Jefferson prevailed over John Adams in that election. Over the next several decades, the other states followed so as not to be disadvantaged vis-à-vis the bloc voting by Virginia’s electors. Today, only Maine and Nebraska—which allocate electors by congressional district—are exceptions to this winner-take-all system. A very few states are considering legislation to adopt the district method. However, that system too does not accord all votes equal weight on a single scale that selects a President. It also is subject to the distortions of gerrymandering.
The pernicious effect of winner-take-all has been exacerbated by other trends. Since the Revolution, America has been increasingly urbanized. Now more than 50% of voters live in only 9 states. Only 15% live in rural areas. In this densifying social landscape, people are also coalescing in physical and virtual communities composed of others who share similar beliefs. As a result of these trends, political strategists deem 40 to 45 states to be locks for one of the two major parties. Because states award electors to the candidate who has garnered a bare plurality of votes in a state, in a “lock” state neither the likely winner nor the likely loser has significant incentive to spend time and money on registration, get out the vote efforts, policy framing, or even advertising. Downballot, the likely losing party is discouraged from competing in those races. Extreme candidates win primary nominating contests but face little risk of losing the general election, and often become entrenched in office. In summary, the current Presidential selection system intensifies partisanship, discourages voter participation, limits the ability of the country to choose a President who reflects the general will, and threatens the viability of the Republic.
Congress has tried to amend the Presidential selection system on over 500 different occasions, most often in the form of Constitutional amendments. However, a clearer path to reform is available: simple legislative or ballot measure action at the state level – and the solution is more than halfway in place already.
The MEVC mission is to adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. To date, 10 states and the District of Columbia, representing a total of 165 electoral votes, have adopted the Compact. In addition, in 12 states one house has passed legislation to adopt the Compact. And legislation to adopt the Compact has been introduced in numerous other states (red, purple, and blue) almost always with bipartisan support. If states with only 105 electoral votes out of the remaining 373 – less than a third – adopt the Compact it will take effect, and the national popular vote will determine the winner of the Presidency.
The Constitution expressly authorizes interstate compacts, and states can decide to participate either by state law or ballot measure. This Compact does not require Congressional approval because states have the authority to conduct elections.
MEVC intends to cooperate with all other similarly motivated groups and political actors. It believes that by pursuing the NPVIC in all states, all votes cast in the United States can be given equal weight.
According to demographers, political scientists, political strategists, and other experts, the effects of this reform in our Presidential selection system would be far-reaching and all salutary. Our country would be a better place almost immediately, though some of the advantages of the reformed system would take longer to be realized, as the political process adjusts. The benefits of the reformed system include:
- The ballot of every voter in the country would count equally in tallying election results; thus, votes of individual Republicans in California would have equal weight to those of individual Democrats in California – and both would be as powerful as voters in neighboring Nevada, which currently wields more power in determining the Presidency. Likewise, the votes of individual Democrats in Texas would matter equally with the votes of their Republican counterparts – and both would be as powerful as voters in New Mexico and Colorado. As residents of safe states, all voters in California and Texas, Democratic or Republican, are given short shrift during the campaigns and in Administration policies and economic benefits from the federal government once the new President takes office.
- Attention would be paid to minorities and other voters previously ignored and to the issues that matter to African Americans, Hispanics, Baptists, and Mormons, because campaigns would seek to appeal to voters in all states. Over time, these reforms should reduce polarization and extremism both inside and outside politics, as well as the resulting trend toward paralyzing government stalemate.
- By making Presidential elections demonstrably fair and transparently rooted in democratic and American principles, voter disillusionment and distrust would also be reduced over time. Because every vote would count, there would be massive increases in voter registration and turnout.
- Because the votes of every voter in every state would count equally, hostile foreign governments and other enemies would face a near-impossible challenge to manipulate Presidential campaigns and elections compared to the present system under which they need target only five battleground states, and their efforts at intervention would be far easier to detect.
Making Every Vote Count supports other remedies in pursuit of the fundamental goal: equality in all aspects of the democratic process of electing representatives to office. That includes equal access to the ballot, equal opportunity to participate in elections, equal weight to every vote, and equality in counting votes accurately and securely.
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The founders would not have tolerated the flaws of the present system, would have been appalled by the injuries and dangers these flaws have caused, and realistically recognized that their revolutionary new government structure would have to adapt to newly revealed defects in the system and to societal change in order to continue to serve their ideals effectively. Under the Constitution, the states have the responsibility to adopt the reforms that Making Every Vote Count stands for. Our mission, which we ask you to support, is to convince them to do so, based on their state-level and national interests.