Obama-McCain contest: Should winner of popular vote always win the White House?
National Popular Vote initiative would change how states cast Electoral College votes.
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Right now most of Koza’s support has come from Democrats, who still feel the sting from the 2000 election, in which Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote – and the White House. But the opposite nearly happened the next time out in 2004. President Bush easily won the popular vote by 3.5 million, but Democratic candidate John Kerry was only a miniscule 60,000 votes away from carrying Ohio and winning the Electoral College.Skip to next paragraph
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Koza says people put too much focus on just the 2000 race, although he concedes most of his support is from Democrats. But “We have Republican sponsors [of the bill] in most states,” he says. Former Republican Sens. David Durenberger of Minnesota and Jake Garn of Utah sit on the group’s advisory board.
Koza’s group is “doing a smart thing in undertaking this at the state legislative level, where getting an item on the agenda is a little bit more down-to-earth process,” says Gregory Magarian, an election law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
He hopes that the national popular vote effort will stimulate a discussion about the way Americans hold their presidential elections and whether they’re satisfied with the current system. “It’s a real, deep, important question about what the results of a presidential election are supposed to reflect” – the view of the electoral college or of individual voters.
Time to ‘get rid of it’
Professor Keyssar, who wrote a letter endorsing the National Popular Vote bill to the Massachusetts legislature, agrees that the movement could spark a valuable discussion, though he suspects that the American public eventually would want to pass a constitutional amendment too.
“I think most legislators and most citizens really think that the Electoral College is kind of dumb and would like to get rid of it,” he says.
Though no previous effort to elect the president by popular vote has succeeded, Koza remains hopeful. “I compare it to Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” he says. “When they got started everyone laughed at their proposals.... Then they went state by state, and now almost all the states have enacted their platform at least to some degree.”