There is a movement afoot to circumvent the Electoral College and have the Presidency decided by the popular vote. This is an idea that gained popularity after the 2000 election when Gore won the popular vote but Bush was awarded the Presidency. The Constitution is clear on how the President is to be elected, by winning 270 electoral votes, but how those votes are dispersed is left up to the states. This new plan involves passing laws in state legislatures across the country that agree to cast all of their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. What this means is that once enough states agree to the new system that will guarantee 270 electors to the popular vote winner, the rest of the country will, for all practical purposes, be adhering to the new system as well. And, written into the laws is the stipulation that they won’t go into effect until the 270 electoral vote count has been reached. Pretty smart, no?
If this movement takes off, it will mean a radical shift in the way political campaigns are run. No more focusing money, time and attention solely on the battleground states. Presidential campaigns will be national again and states like California and New York will no longer be ignored and blue cities in red states will have reason to go to the polls en masse. There will also be a huge motivation for those of us living in blue cities in blue states to get as many people to the polls as possible, where right now we focus only on getting as many as we need. Image what would happen if it really meant something to go to the polls again. We might actually see 98% turnout in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Portland, Cleveland, and the myriad of other cities around the country. There really are so many more of us than there are of them, and this could really make the difference in motivating the nearly 50% who simply stay home on election day.
Regardless of where you live, your vote will matter. I imagine that if you’re a Democrat living in Mississippi, Utah, Texas, Alabama, or a host of other “red states”, Election Day can be summed up with, "why bother?" But if the popular vote is what determines the election, that defeatist thinking goes away because every vote could swing an entire election. I don’t see the downside of this beyond the annoyance of having all of, say California’s electoral votes being cast for, say Pat Buchanan when there’s no way in hell he could ever win that state. But that would only happen if Pat Buchanan won a plurality of votes throughout the entire country and if that were the case, we’d have much bigger problems on our hands than how one state cast its electoral votes. The presidency is the only office we vote for as a country and I think that the popular will of the people should mean something. If it did, we wouldn’t be where we are now, that’s for sure.
Under this new system every vote would matter again, but that all means shit if the votes aren’t tallied correctly. The rider on these bills should include the stipulation that all ballots are cast on paper, separate from the state, city and county ballot, all tallied by hand in a glass encased room with citizens and reporters on the other side of the windows. Low-tech is the answer to our electile dysfunction. If we can’t even master the basics, we’re not ready for the big fancy tricks. No electronic voting, no computerized tabulating and no private ownership of our voting systems. Print the ballots on government paper, issue government pens and let citizens count the votes, one at a time and out in the open. If we have to make precincts smaller in order to do it and if we have to wait weeks to find out who won, so be it. This is too important to ignore and we have seen the damage that can result by simply not paying attention and by accepting faith as a substiture for accuracy and accountability. Let’s not make the same mistake again.