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Activists Fight For A Popular Vote For President

Above: Activists with 'National Popular Vote' say the Electoral College means presidential candidates only see the swing states whey look at this map, and they want votes in all states to matter just as much.

Aired 11/5/12 on KPBS News.

The group National Popular Vote wants presidents to be elected by every voter, not just those who live in swing states.

— A week ago, First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to San Diego. But she wasn't looking for votes for the president, she was looking for campaign money.

It's becoming an old story. California has become the ATM of national political campaigns. But it's not a swing state, so candidates spend virtually none of their time appealing to California voters.

It's something campaign consultant Jason Roe knows very well.

"There's not even a reason to have a conversation about California in a presidential campaign office," said Roe. "There is not a reason to have a conversation about Massachusetts, Wyoming, Alabama. They're not on the table because they're not competitive."

Roe is a Republican political consultant based in San Diego, and he's also a member of a national bipartisan group called National Popular Vote. To him, the problem is the Electoral College. The solution is changing the system so the president is elected by a national popular vote.

In any presidential campaign, California is home to a great wealth of electoral votes. Whoever wins the state wins all of them, and any poll will tell you those votes will almost certainly go to the Democratic candidate. In other words, California is a done deal. There's no point in fighting over it or appealing to the state's voters.

The goal of National Popular Vote is to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote, in which the presidential candidate with the most votes wins. Remember that wasn't the case in the 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the most votes but George W. Bush won the Electoral College, and therefore the presidency.

In the system Roe and his allies imagine, every vote would count the same, regardless of where they were cast.

The members of National Popular Vote say the Electoral College has created a system in which Presidential candidates focus all their energy on winning votes in swing states. Roe argued this doesn't only mean California voters, and voters in most other states, are ignored during elections. It has a real effect on national policy, and how a president does his job.

Here's Roe's take, for instance, on the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"President Obama didn't get boots on the ground, engaged, on the BP oil spill until oil washed ashore in Florida," he said. "Mississippi... Alabama? It was a tragedy, but it didn't warrant him being there. So, their policy making is driven by the Electoral College."

To change the way we elect presidents, we have to either amend the Constitution, or take the path that National Popular Vote has chosen. They are asking each state to approve a compact saying they will award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

The compact would go into effect when enough states sign on so that it truly would give the popular vote winner the majority of electoral votes as well.

Many political scientists are at least sympathetic to the cause. Ronald King, a professor of political science at San Diego State University, said reforming the Electoral College is a no-brainer if we believe government should reflect the popular majority. But majority rule of the people was not something America's founders were entirely comfortable with.

"And so we're stuck with this very complicated 200-year-old system that wasn't especially well thought out," said King.

Another political scientist, UC San Diego professor Thad Kousser, isn't sure a national popular vote for president is a good idea. He fears that having to fight for votes in every state, and in the country's largest media markets, would cause an enormous increase in the cost of a presidential campaign.

"That would put a premium on who could earn the most money, and that might be bad for democracy in the long run," said Kousser.

Roe disagreed.

"I don't know how somebody argues that it is more important that we spend less money talking to voters in 10 states than spending more and talking to voters in 50 states," said Roe.

So far the compact, sponsored by National Popular Vote, has been passed by the legislatures of nine states, including California. Interestingly, the list also includes Illinois, Hawaii and Massachusetts. In short, they are all majority-Democratic states.

Roe said he realizes it may seem strange to some that a Republican like himself has become an activist in favor of a popular vote. Much of the energy in the movement comes from Democrats who were upset that Gore won the popular vote but lost the 2000 election. To this, Roe said let's just wait and see what happens on election day.

"I think if we saw something that some people have speculated is a possibility, that Mitt Romney could win the popular vote but lose the electoral college," he said, "I have a feeling my friends on the right may look a little more favorably on National Popular Vote."

Comments

Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | November 5, 2012 at 7:06 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Making voting mandatory would make regional factions less influential on the national election, and this would give the electoral college one less reason to exist.

But then there's still the fact that switching to a national popular vote would move political power from the states to the federal government. Big Government is a bad thing.

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Avatar for user 'Dothscribble'

Dothscribble | November 5, 2012 at 10:39 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Taking the birthrates seen in the 2012 census into consideration; Wouldn't ditching the college raise the likely prospect of the outnumbered descendants of US Settlers being doomed to live in
a veritable, then followed by an actual Mexican state?

Viva la Reconquista! If lucky, Alamo II will be quick.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 5, 2012 at 11:04 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

GOTHSCRIBBLER, I think you meant to post on KFMB 760 or KOGO, not here. Try again.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | November 5, 2012 at 11:46 a.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

I like the idea of a popular vote.

It seems more Democratic.

I wonder how different our nation and world would be right now had Gore actually been able to serve as President.

Derek - making voting mandatory seems to contradict the whole idea of freedom. I think voting should be made as easy as possible and accessible to ALL citizens equally, but it should never be made mandatory.

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | November 5, 2012 at 12:26 p.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Democrats may win, but without a majority in the Senate or House there will be a stalemate in Congress. In the next 4 years without capturing the House or Senate the President will have his hands securely tied. He will have limited power and trying to pass any major policies will be impossible. It will certainly be absolutely impossible to pass any kind of mass amnesty—THANK GOD FOR THAT. Our country cannot any longer afford to take in the impoverished from foreign countries in such numbers and expect taxpayers to support their families. My family finances certainly cannot afford to pay more taxes for people who shouldn’t even be here? It makes no sense when our government cannot afford to cover the costs of maimed servicemen, the homeless and the sick and handicapped.

Two Congressional bills that guarantees bringing to a trickle the daily illegal alien invasion? 1. A nationwide E-Verify “THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT” that will forever stanch jobs being handed to illegal workers, as long as the penalties for employers are harsh and include prison time. 2. “THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP ACT” that will immediately stop the annual progression of smuggling unborn children into America, as no longer will that baby or babies be granted immediate citizenship, as at least one family member must be a U.S. citizen. These are the ONLY assurances that will not only start a self deportation of foreign nationals unlawfully settled here, but will end illegal immigration as we know it. Neither the Democrats backed by the hard core Liberal influence or even Republicans have kept these laws from being voted upon in Congress. The TEA PARTY of moderate Conservatives will force these two extremely major laws into the spotlight and insist that these laws have a chance of passage. ITS IS NOT JUST WHITE AMERICANS THAT WILL SUFFER UNDER OBAMA, AS PRESIDENT AGAIN, BUT EVERY LEGAL IMMIGRANT FROM ANY COUNTRY WHO IS NOW PAYING TAXES? You have seen gas prices, well this present President is in collusion with the environmental zealots who have already closed down coal sources, but he is out to limit drilling for oil and natural gas?

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | November 5, 2012 at 12:27 p.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

Join your local TEA PARTY.org is fighting back against the overall corruption in the dominant political parties and elected officials. But first to get the Conservative engine moving forward, we must vote in Mitt Romney, so that the TEA PARTY can gain the momentum of the GOP? NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE UNDER THE DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS. HOW MUCH MORE CAN AMERICA TAKE? SKY ROCKETING GAS PRICES, WHEN THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS COMMANDEERED “THE PEOPLE’S LAND, AND ONLY A FEW PERMITS FOR ENERGY COMPANIES TO DRILL FOR OIL, LOCATE NATURAL GAS AND HAVE DECIMATED THE COAL INDUSTRY. THIS NATION COULD BE INDEPENDENT OF COUNTRIES THAT HATE US, AND WE COULD BE SELLING OUR OVER ABUNDANT RESOURCES TO FRIENDLY COUNTRIES THAT ARE HURTING. THE SATURATION OF EPA RULES AND REGULATIONS THAT IS SMOTHERING SMALL BUSINESS CREATIVITY; ANY CHANCE OF A NEW TAX REFORM CODE, THAT WOULD ERASE SPECIAL INTERESTS OR THE WEALTHY, BUT FAIRNESS FOR ALL, EQUITY FOR ALL?

TERM LIMITS IN WASHINGTON, SO THE POLITICIANS WILL BE FREE FROM FIGHTING FOR CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE MONEY FAVORS CORPORATE ENTITIES. WHAT THE TEA PARTY INSISTS ON IS RETURNING MANY RIGHTS TO THE STATES, INSTEAD OF BEING ADMINISTERED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, SUCH AS HEALTH CARE. THE MOST OMINOUS ISSUE OF IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GROWING LIKE A DANGEROUS WEED WITHOUT ANY RECOURSE. A MONOLITH THAT IS TAKING OVER EVERYTHING--A TERRIBLE EDUCATION SYSTEM THAT IS FAILING, A TAKEOVER OF THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, THE DISMANTLING OF OUR ENERGY RESOURCES AND THE THREAT TO OUR LIBERTIES AND SAFETY FROM ENEMIES ABROAD. TODAY I LEARNED THAT THE MILITARY ARE LIVID IN THE MASSACRE BENGHAZI, LIBYA, AND THE COVER UP BY THE PRESENT ADMINISTRATION. IT’S A FACT NOW THAT OBAMA’S GOVERNMENT DECLINED ASSISTANCE WHEN THE TROUBLE BEGAN?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | November 6, 2012 at 10:32 a.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

Thank you, Brittanicus. I am glad there are still a few voices of reason on KPBS. We can't let the leftists have the only voice.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | November 6, 2012 at 11:49 a.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

I fear the popular vote for the same reason H.L. Mencken apparently did.

If we do formally circumvent the EC, and I believe it to be largely useless now, who is then expected to take a stand against everyone demanding more bread and circuses?

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Avatar for user 'Drug_Dude'

Drug_Dude | November 6, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

"people who shouldn’t even be here?"

Brit, are you nuts? Those "aliens" you reactionaries keep screaming about have lived in the Borderland region for hundreds--perhaps thousands--of years! Is it their fault that a bunch of European johnny-come-latelies cut their homeland in two with an international border? That's like the Geneva Accords that tried to turn Vietnam and Korea into North and South provinces according to political differences, a la the American Civil War.

Ho Chi Minh didn't start out as a Communist; he was a nationalist who wanted Europe to get the hell out of his country so his people could work together to solve their own problems. La Raza has been languishing under the boot of European imperialism for nearly as long. What will they have to do to get you out of their collective ass? Bring the ragheads over here to plead their cause?

We, as a nation, seem to go out of our way to create enemies around the world by oppressing our neighbors in the name of "making the world safe for democracy". I say it's time to stop pissing them off and instead practice being a good global neighbor.

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