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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
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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.

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    The American Way of Voting Needs a Major Tune-up: Part Two
    By Joe Rothstein, Editor
    June 7, 2007

    My friend Jakub read my last column about ways to improve the American Way of Voting and felt that I left out some useful information from his own experience. Jakub votes in the Czech Republic. Here's what he wrote in a follow-up email:

    "One is - you do not need to register as a voter in the Czech Republic It's automatic when you turn 18. Once you turn 18, you start receiving your ballots at your permanent address ahead of the election.

    "I actually voted for the first time on my 18th birthday - exactly that day - didn't have to do anything, just pick up the ballots in my mail and go to the appropriate voting place in my neighborhood.

    "Second - every voting place has a committee overseeing the election and counting the votes. It always consists of representatives of more than two political parties. Every vote is being counted by at least two people from different political parties. It's really difficult to cheat.

    "And we always vote Friday afternoon/evening (till 10 pm) + the following Saturday morning through 2 pm. It's very convenient. Those leaving town for the weekend can vote on Friday. Those being tired after the working week can do so on Saturday."

    Jakub didn't mention it, but the average voter turnout in European Union countries is 83%.

    Jakub's latest email got me thinking about the vote-by-mail system. Oregon adopted such a system a few years ago after testing it for more than a decade.

    In Oregon, ballots are mailed 14 to 18 days before an election to the registered address of the voter. The voter has two weeks to return the ballot through the mail or to drop it off at official drop-off sites. This is much the same as absentee voting, except that in Oregon you must vote that way---it's not just something you do if you will be traveling on election day.

    There are some significant advantages to conducting elections entirely by mail:

    --It increases turnout. In the 2004 presidential election, 86% of Oregon's registered voters cast ballots, compared with a U.S. average of 63%.

    -- Convenience: People can vote on their own schedules.

    -- Fraud protection: The system has built-in safeguards that increase the integrity of the election process. Oregon has had few voter fraud problems since it went to mail voting.

    -- Built-in paper trail. How important is that in the age of electronic voting machines?

    --Voter eligibility: If there's a dispute over whether a voter is eligible, the voter knows it well ahead of time and can resolve the problem before election day.

    --Financial: It saves money.

    Mail voting is one way to improve the American Way of Voting.

    Another would be adoption what's called the National Popular Vote plan. Maryland last month became the first state to adopt the plan. Houses of the legislature have approved the plan in Illinois, Hawaii, Arkansas, Colorado and elsewhere.

    This is a way to make sure that the candidate who wins the most votes in a presidential election actually wins the election. The idea is simple enough. States pledge that if a presidential candidate wins the popular vote, that state's electors will support that choice when the Electoral College meets.

    Why is this important? Because with Electoral College voting the way it is now, candidates target "battleground states" that will get them a majority of electoral votes. In 2004, 97% of the campaign ads and 92% of campaign events took place in just 13 states. In the final month, 72% of the expenditures went to just five states.

    Campaigns divide up the country into two categories---battleground states and spectator states. North Carolina, for example, is a "spectator" state because a majority of its voters reliably vote for the Republican candidate for President. North Carolina hasn't seen presidential candidates actively campaigning there since 1992.

    Moving to a popular vote for President means that candidates would have to be conscious of all voters in all states. Isn't that what national elections are supposed to be about? In 2004, voter turnout was 7.4% lower in "spectator" states than in "battleground" states. How irrational is it to perpetuate a system so out of balance?

    Then there's the matter of same day registration. Seven states let you register on election day---Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the 2004 presidential election, turnout in those states was 73.8 percent. States without same day registration averaged only 60.2 percent.

    The need to improve the American Way of Voting is obvious and urgent.

    How to make those improvements doesn't require a course in rocket science. It just means adopting systems that are working well in various states and other democratic countries. There's every reason for the U.S., the nation that invented modern day democracy, to get with it. There's no good excuse not to.

    Joe Rothstein, editor of US Politics Today, is a former daily newspaper editor and long-time national political strategist based in Washington, D.C.

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