Saul Anuzis is a former Republican party chair in Michigan. He wrote this for InsideSources.com. The BDN publishes opinions from partner news services to bring a wider variety of perspectives to readers.
Our current method of electing the president of the United States is badly broken and in need of reform. The system disenfranchises millions, encourages candidates to bypass all but a handful of battleground states, drags down voter turnout and erodes confidence in our democracy and our government. Five times in our history, and twice over the last 20 years, candidates have won the national popular vote but lost the White House in the Electoral College.
It’s time to ensure that the Electoral College will always reflect the will of a majority of American voters. Accordingly, Democrats and Republicans should use their national conventions and party platforms to support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and make every presidential voter in every state politically relevant, beginning in 2024.
There is nothing partisan or complicated about it. States that combine for at least 270 electoral votes — enough to elect a president — simply agree to award those votes in a package to the candidate who garners the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Thus far, legislative bodies in 15 states and the District — combining for 196 electoral votes — have voted to join the compact. So we are just 74 electoral votes away from this constitutional, common sense, good government solution to what ails presidential campaigns and elections.
Regardless of your politics, can we agree that government works best when Americans of all persuasions pay attention, participate and vote?
That being the case, remember that as things stand, we don’t so much elect the president of the United States as we do the president of the Battleground States — the handful of states with a propensity to swing from red to blue and decide an election.
In those states, candidates show up, spend money, and pay close attention to local and regional concerns. (Think dairy prices in Wisconsin, coal in Pennsylvania and pharmaceutical prices for seniors in Florida.) Voters in the other 40 or so “flyover” states that can be reliably counted on to vote red or vote blue are relegated to spectator status.
Why would anybody want to keep a system that ignores tens of millions of voters because they don’t live in a battleground swing state?
Moreover, why would anyone support a system in which your vote doesn’t count toward the outcome unless you support the candidate who wins the popular majority in your state — or in the case of Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the majority in each congressional district?
In the 48 “winner-take-all” states, all of the electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the majority of individual votes in that state. So, for example, if you’re a Republican in Massachusetts or Vermont, your vote for president is meaningless because your state is reliably blue and all of its electoral votes can be counted on to go to the Democratic candidate. You might as well stay home. Same for Democrats who vote for president in reliably red states like the Dakotas, Kansas and West Virginia. Under the current system, you might just as well skip it.
No wonder voter turnout in U.S. presidential elections rarely cracks the 55 percent mark.
Now imagine the alternative under a national popular vote. Presidential candidates crisscrossing all 50 states in 2024. The Republican ticket barnstorming liberal New England. Democrats rallying in places like the Dakotas, Mississippi and Kansas. No more battleground states. Every vote counts toward the outcome. And the winner of the national popular vote is guaranteed to be awarded 270 electoral votes and the presidency.
This month’s political conventions would serve Americans and our democracy well by getting behind that kind of real, and long overdue, reform.