Monday, January 28, 2013

United States Popular Vote

One thing I try to avoid every talking about is politics - especially US Politics. But recently there has been a lot of media attention on the electoral college and certain states attempting to pass laws that would change how electoral votes are allocated. See: here here here here here here. What you read in the news is never the full story and I feel compelled to let as many people know that there is another story that should be getting media attention but is not.

The crux of the story is that after the republican party lost the presidency to the democratic party again in the last election, states with republican controlled legislatures decided to change the way electoral votes in their state were allocated to favor their party.

If at this point you are lost, perhaps you should read the Wikipedia page on the electoral college.

Many many people complain about the electoral college every time there is a presidential election. The most common remark you will ever hear from a US voter on the electoral college is that it should be done away with. The reason why it hasn't yet is because to abolish the electoral college would require an amendment to the constitution - something that rarely happens. In fact, in 1969 a new amendment with great support was almost passed that would have abolished the electoral college. The only reason it could not pass was for a small minority of states that were currently favored in the electoral system used the filibuster to stop the bill.

The current discussion on states like Virginia involves changing the allocation of electoral votes within a state. It is the right of each state to choose how electoral votes are allocated according to the US constitution so no amendment is needed to change this. The problem with the proposed plan is it can potentially give the presidency to the candidate who did not win the popular vote (A valid argument, yes, but four US presidents have already taken office after loosing the popular vote - clearly the system is not working). Both Maine and Nebraska currently use a method similar to the one proposed in Virginia. While there is an outcry against this so-called unfair law, this is nothing new to the United States.

You can argue that the allocation method of Virginia is more fair, you can argue that is is less fair. But almost everyone will agree that the whole electoral college system is unfair, stupid, and needs to go away. This is where I feel the need to step in and share some information I found on the matter.

There's a big idea that could end all this electoral college business without ever forcing congress to change the constitution. Since every state has the power to allocate electoral votes however they see fit, if every state agreed to allocate all of their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote, then in effect the electoral college would be in consequential. Even if not all states agree, once a majority of electoral votes are allocated this way, the remain electoral votes would have no control over the outcome; the popular vote would decide the president as most US voters would prefer.

This grand idea is not just a pipe dream either. This a real thing called the National Popular Vote plan and its not that far away from happening. Currently 9 states have passed a law forming a compact allowing for all their electoral votes to be cast for the candidate that wins the national popular vote. Right now these states will allocate their electoral votes in the same way they always have but if enough states pass similar laws then the election will be decided by the popular vote just as most voters always wished.

Check out the status of your home state here. Then tell your congress and senate to pass this law if they already haven't. Most importantly, spread the word to everyone you know. Even if your state has already passed the laws public awareness of this is very low.

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