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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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    Advisory Board
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    Los Angeles Daily Journal
    Presidential Election Reformer Takes It State by State
    By Lawrence Hurley
    April 10, 2007

    WASHINGTON - A California lawyer hoping to change the way presidential elections are decided is one step closer to achieving his dream.

    He just has another 49 steps to go.

    That's because Lafayette-based Barry Fadem, president of nonprofit group National Popular Vote Inc., wants to convince every state legislature and governor that his plan is worth adopting.

    So far, only Maryland is playing along, although others, including California, have shown interest.

    The proposal Fadem is pushing, which so far has more support from Democrats than Republicans, would amend the Electoral College system by assigning all electoral votes to whoever wins the popular vote nationally.

    Changing the vote counting method doesn't require a unanimous consensus of the 50 states, just enough states to control a majority of the 538 votes up for grabs in the Electoral College, the same as it takes to win a presidential election.

    This is no small feat and may be politically impossible. Fadem has to win over several of the bigger states to stand any chance. California is the biggest of all, with 55 Electoral College votes.

    Proponents say a popular vote system would encourage presidential candidates to campaign throughout the country rather than in selected swing states, like Florida and Ohio, which proved pivotal in the last two elections.

    Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote in each state is awarded that state's Electoral College votes.

    The innovative new measure passed the Democratic-controlled California Assembly last year but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    This year, Fadem has his first major victory in sight: Maryland's Democratic General Assembly is on the verge of passing legislation and its new Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley, has indicated he will sign it.

    The legislature in Hawaii, also controlled by Democrats, has passed the measure, but it's unclear whether the Republican governor, Linda Lingle, will sign it.

    National Popular Vote launched its nationwide campaign in February 2006.

    Fadem, who specializes in public policy initiatives and referendums on such issues as the environment and education, became involved in the campaign through an old friend, John R. Koza.

    Koza, a computer scientist at Stanford University, has a long-standing fascination in the Electoral College and is a fervent believer that the status quo should be changed.

    Fadem insists that the campaign is aimed purely at making every vote count. "The proposal is about making all the states relevant," he said. "California is one of 34 non-battleground states."

    But the proposal clearly has some hurdles to clear both in California and elsewhere.

    When Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure last year he said that the plan "disregards the will of a majority of Californians." That's because all of the state's electoral votes could go, in theory to a candidate that the majority of voters in California do not support, the governor wrote in his veto message. "This is counter to the tradition of our great nation, which honors states rights and the unique pride and identity of each state," Schwarzenegger added.

    Among Republicans who opposed the proposal in the Assembly was Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, who described it as "brazenly unconstitutional," according to media reports. He contended that the Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College for the very reason that they didn't want a direct popular vote. McClintock could not be reached for further comment.

    The legislation is seen by most as a response to the 2000 election, when Democrat Al Gore lost to Republican George W. Bush despite winning the popular vote. That may be why Democrats are more enthusiastic about it than Republicans. Supporters are quick to note, however, that in the 2004 election, Bush easily won the popular vote but the entire election hinged on the outcome in Ohio.

    If Democratic challenger John Kerry had won Ohio then he, like Bush in 2000, would have won the election despite losing the popular vote.

    Proponents of the plan stress that it's not a partisan issue, just good public policy, and point to the fact that of the seven politicians on National Popular Vote's advisory board, five are Republicans, including Schwarzenegger's former director of finance and former congressman Thomas J. Campbell.

    It's clear, though, that Republicans have not embraced the plan in the state legislatures that have voted on it.

    In Sacramento last year, Rick Keene of Chico was the only Republican Assembly member to support the plan.

    Election expert Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said he doesn't really understand why Republicans are so suspicious of the plan, because there is no evidence that one single party would benefit. He puts it down to Republicans being more reluctant to tamper with the existing system. "It's about tradition," he said.

    The Assembly is considering the legislation again this year, and Fadem hopes the governor will change his mind, partly because the popular vote concept has picked up momentum in Maryland and Hawaii.

    There's no evidence, however, to support his optimism. A spokeswoman for the governor would not reveal whether Schwarzenegger had changed his mind since last year.

    In Maryland, the main proponent of the plan is newly elected Democratic state Sen. Jamie Raskin, who also happens to be a constitutional law professor at American University in Washington, D.C. He defended the constitutionality of the measure, noting that the Constitution explicitly allows states to decide how to allocate their Electoral College votes. Likewise, he added, the Constitution also allows states to enter into compacts with one another.

    Opponents who think it is unconstitutional have got it all wrong, Raskin insisted. "They think it offends the spirit of the Constitution, but it doesn't even do that," he said. He argued that among the states that would benefit would be Republican heartlands currently ignored by presidential contenders from both parties.

    Election law experts aren't so sure, however, whether the benefits of such a scheme would outweigh the potential problems.

    As Hasen points out, if the intent is to avoid another case like the one that led to the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, which awarded the White House to Bush, it could well be a misguided plan.

    That's because if the presidential election were determined by a national vote, then potential litigation wouldn't just be concentrated in one state, as happened in Florida in 2000.

    In a close race, there could potentially be litigation throughout the country, Hasen warned. "It could expand the amount of litigation," he said.

    Robert Bennett, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, is credited with coming up with the original idea for reforming the Electoral College system, but even he has concerns.

    The biggest one is the possibility of an electoral meltdown if one of the candidates asked for a recount in a state that doesn't belong to the compact, he argued.

    Any state that chooses not to sign up would be under no obligation to order a recount in a close election, Bennett noted. "I would like to see more up-front consideration of the difficulties," he added.

    Bennett did, however, say that the plan would probably pass constitutional muster, noting that whenever the Supreme Court touched upon the Electoral College, it had always stressed that states have the discretion to assign their votes as they see fit. "I would think that constitutionally it could be done," he said. "But, until we have had a lawsuit about it, you can't be certain."


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