It stands to reason that whoever gets the most votes ought to win the election. After all, that’s why we vote, in hopes that our support will directly impact the outcome of elections. In America, this is true of virtually every election in the United States.
Alas, there is one exception. Unfortunately, that exception just happens to be for the most important office in the free world.
In addition to violating common sense by allowing a candidate to win the White House without getting the most popular votes, the current system effectively disenfranchises two-thirds of states and makes some votes hundreds of times more important than others.
These problems stem from the fact 48 out of 50 states currently choose to award all of their electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state. Because of the so-called winner-take-all rule, candidates have won a majority of the Electoral College (and hence the White House) without winning the most popular votes in four of the nation’s 56 presidential elections.
That’s one in 14 times.
Near misses are common as well. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated former President George W. Bush despite his nationwide lead of 3 million votes.
Worse, the present system fails to live up to the founders’ intent to give every state a voice in the election of the president. Candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind.
In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and advertising in just six closely divided "battleground" states. A total of 98 percent went to just 15 states. Twelve of the 13 smallest states didn’t make the cut. That’s not what the founders intended.
Because of the winner-take-all rule, every vote is not equal. In 2000, a margin of 365 votes was sufficient for one candidate to get New Mexico’s five electoral votes, whereas a margin of 212,000 gave Utah’s five electoral votes to his opponent. That’s an 850-to-1 difference in the value of a vote.
Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution gives the states the power to fix our broken system. According to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, states have the power to award electoral votes as they see fit. The winner-take-all rule is not in the Constitution anywhere. Read it for yourself.
In fact, this manner of awarding electors was used by only three states in our nation’s first election in 1789. It was never the choice of the founders. Maine and Nebraska even award electoral votes by district. Individual states have the power and the responsibility to address this problem.
The National Popular Vote bill has been introduced in all 50 state Legislatures. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states. The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (270).
Under National Popular Vote, every vote will count equally. The winner of the overall popular vote will win the presidency. Simple as that.
The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 legislative chambers in 20 states. It has been enacted by eight states possessing 49 percent of the electoral votes necessary to bring it into effect, including Hawaii, Washington, California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont New Jersey as well as the District of Columbia. There is a growing movement among states to make sure their voice is heard in every presidential election.
The plan has earned the support of both parties. National Popular Vote counts former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), former governor Chet Culver (D-IA), former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and former Gov. Jim Edgar (R-IL) among its champions.
We urge Florida voters to learn more about this issue and to fight to preserve their voice.
Winners should win, especially when it comes to electing the president.
Golisano, a major donor to Ave Maria University and the Children’s Museum of Naples, is chairman and founder of Paychex Inc. and owner of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. He founded of the Independence Party in New York, running for governor three times. He is a founding sponsor and major underwriter for the Clinton Global Initiative on education, poverty, health and the environment.