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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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    Oakland Tribune
    By Josh Richman
    March 19, 2006

    New: An East Bay lawyer, a Stanford professor and a former Bay Area congressman are among those trying to change how U.S. presidents are elected, and to basically do away with a constitutional institution.

    But the nonprofit advocacy group National Popular Vote Inc. doesn’t aim to amend the Constitution. Instead, it aims to persuade some states to unite and exercise constitutional power to make the Electoral College a largely ceremonial relic.

    Unveiled with a Washington, D.C., news conference and book release Feb. 23 and lauded in a New York Times editorial March 14, the plan is slowly advancing: A bill to bring California into it quietly was introduced Feb. 24.

    “Every vote does count, and we just think it's going to invigorate the presidential race in all 50 states because no state could be taken for granted any more: any state could be the state that provides that final margin,” said National Popular Vote president Barry Fadem, a political attorney in Lafayette.

    The Constitution says winning the White House requires a majority in the Electoral College, a body comprised of electors sent by each state usually according to that state's popular-vote winner.

    Electoral College critics often note the 1800, 1876, 1888 and 2000 elections, in which one candidate won the popular vote yet lost the White House to a rival who had won more electoral votes.

    “But the real problem is that in every election, two-thirds of the voters are ignored,” said John Koza, National Popular Vote's vice president and the plan's mastermind. “The real problem is that 122 million people go to the polls but only about 40 million count. And, of course, from a California perspective, we're not part of the 40 million.”

    As a solidly “blue” state—presumed to give its electoral votes to a Democrat—California has received little attention from recent presidential candidates, except when they come asking for money to spend in about a dozen “battleground” or “swing” states still up for grabs.

    Koza—a computer scientist who’s a consulting professor in Stanford University's Electrical Engineering and Medicine departments as well as a longtime “Electoral College hobbyist”—said other big states such as Texas, New York, Illinois and North Carolina are in the same boat.

    Deemed “safe” for one candidate, they remain mostly unvisited, their issues often unaddressed while candidates tout swing-state regional issues such as ethanol subsidies. And ballots cast by voters in those states’ political minorities essentially count for nothing.

    National Popular Vote’s plan relies upon the wording of the Constitution's Article II, Section I, which says each state shall appoint electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” That means there's nothing stopping state Legislatures from agreeing—via an interstate compact—to throw their electors to the candidate who won the most votes nationwide.

    This plan’s opponents say relying only on national numbers would send candidates careening to the coasts and big cities, leaving the nation's interior as nothing but “flyover states.” Many states will realize “they would never see another presidential candidate again should this happen,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

    Critics also say it could let as few as a dozen states—the 11 biggest add up to 272 electoral votes, enough to trigger this plan's interstate compact—change how presidents are elected, rather having all states to agree to amend the Constitution.

    “For people who claim to love democracy so much, this is a remarkably undemocratic process,” said Dallas attorney Tara Ross, author of 2004's “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.”

    “They are using a provision in the Constitution that was intended to give states independence, and they're using it to rob, potentially, the vast majority of states of that independence,” she said.

    Besides, Ross said, “the people who are saying that large numbers of people are disenfranchised under the electoral college are making the mistake of looking at one or a handful of election years in isolation. It is not true over the history of our country... safe states and swing states change all the time.”

    Yet Koza notes that two-thirds of the states—including California and five more of the 10 most populous, as well as 12 of the 13 least populous—have been non-competitive in every election since 1988.

    Among his plan's supporters are former House and Senate members from both sides of the aisle; Chellie Pingree, president of the national voter advocacy group Common Cause; and Tom Campbell, formerly a South Bay Republican Congressman and state finance director and now dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

    “I do think there's a strong California interest in this because... we are the state most disenfranchised by the current system,” Campbell said—that is, California’s population divided by its 55 electoral votes leaves individual voters with the weakest Electoral College voices.

    Illinois was first to float a National Popular Vote bill, but California came second on Feb. 24 as Assemblymen Tom Umberg, D–Anaheim; Mervin Dymally, D–Los Angeles; and John Laird, D–Santa Cruz, introduced AB 2948. There has been no action on it yet.

    To those who say ending the Electoral College will just swap one group of disenfranchised states for another, Campbell replies, “The issue is, ‘Do you believe in majority rule or not?’ For electing a president, I believe in majority rule.”

    The other side has the burden of proof, he added. “They have to come forward and say ‘No, it's important for America that a Wyoming citizen have eight times the choice in selecting a president as does a California citizen.’ That's a hard argument to make—let ‘em try.''

    California has seen other recent electoral-vote reform bills.

    Assemblymen John Benoit, R–Palm Desert, and Tom Harman, R–Huntington Beach, in December 2004 introduced AB 2, which would've split California's electoral votes by congressional district.

    Assemblyman Bill Maze, R–Visalia, that same month introduced AB 45, which would've split the state’s electors proportionally by candidates’ share of the total statewide vote. Both bills died far short of the Assembly floor.

    For more information, see www.nationalpopularvote.com.

    Contact Josh Richman at

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