Reforming Presidential Elections: Senate Passes National Popular Vote Legislation
The New York State Senate has passed legislation (S2286A) to enter an interstate agreement to elect the U.S. President by national popular vote, striking away an arcane system in which candidates work for votes in a handful of states while reducing voters in more progressive or conservative states to little more than bystanders in the democratic process.
Because of the concentration of states considered “toss-ups”, in 2004 presidential candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits to just five states. Additionally, over 80-percent of resources were spent in nine states; and over 99-percent of all funds in just 16 states.
Voters in more than two-thirds of other states, including New York, were ignored in the 2004 Presidential election. Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide, as was the case in the 2000 Presidential election.
“New York, along with a majority of states across the nation, has become disenfranchised in the Presidential election process as a result of the current winner takes all system,” said Senator Kevin S. Parker (D-Brooklyn), sponsor of this legislation. “Currently, candidates have no incentive to be active in areas where the race is not contested, leaving millions out of the process each election cycle. By enacting National Popular Voting, candidates and their campaigns would be active in every state and no state would be excluded as they are today.”
The discrepancy in focus between states of comparable population was no clearer than in 2008, when campaigns spent 10,225 times more on advertising in Florida than in New York.
Senate Elections Committee Chair Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) said, “We believe that we hold elections so that our representatives are chosen by majority rule. In 2000 we saw how the will of the majority was thwarted by a flaw in our electoral system that allowed a tiny number of people in one state to decide the outcome of the presidential election. Enacting national popular vote legislation will ensure this never happens again.”
Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) said, “National popular voting is a much more small-d democratic way of reflecting the will of voters. The Electoral College system has greatly skewed the importance of some states, while allowing for millions of voters to be taken for granted, or ignored altogether.”
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) said, “The electoral college is outdated. We have seen how it allows a small number of states to choose the President – even if a majority of Americans choose another candidate. Our bill corrects this inequity so all Americans are equal at the ballot box.”
Participating states would award their electoral votes together in an effort to reflect the will of the majority of voters. This legislation would come into effect only when it has been enacted, in identical form, by enough states to currently elect a President, with a majority (270) of the 538 electoral votes.
The legislation can be found online at http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S2286A