By Elizabeth Wong, Associate Director
We often think we have a true democracy—whoever gets the most votes wins, right? Not quite when it comes to electing our president. In our nation’s history, four candidates have won the popular vote but lost the presidency. While much of the public could care little about those elections from the 19th century, many of us still recall the 2000 election in which Al Gore had won the popular vote, but George W. Bush was elected president.
Regardless of political affiliation, the 2000 presidential election reminded us that our single votes don’t count unless we live in a “swing” state. And that’s where the concept of National Popular Vote (NPV) comes in. You may have heard about this initiative since former U.S. senator and Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson and businessman Tom Golisano recently met with several Virginia legislators and Governor Bob McDonnell to discuss it.
Under the National Popular Vote plan, the Electoral College remains in place (as mandated by the Constitution). However, instead of the winner-takes-all rule—in which all electoral votes from the state go to the candidate who wins the popular vote in that state—the NPV pact would have the state’s electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the popular vote across the country.
NPV ensures that each voter has an equal impact on the outcome of the Presidential Election, regardless of which state the voter resides. Candidates will then be forced to campaign throughout the country rather than focusing on a few select swing states.
The NPV plan will not be enacted until enough states sign on so that the pact has a majority of electoral votes (270) and is able to elect the president. To date, 7 states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington) and D.C. have signed into the agreement for a total of 77 votes.
Virginia should add its 13 votes to the mix for a total of 90 electoral votes, bringing the country a third of the way to having a more democratic system of choosing our leader and representative to the world.
The ACLU supports the bipartisan National Popular Vote initiative because it brings us that much closer to a true one person, one vote system and guarantees that the candidate with the most votes will be elected president. Also, state polls show that 74% of Virginians favor NPV.
Let’s get our legislators on board and have Virginia join with other states to pass the National Popular Vote. Contact your delegate and senator today and urge them to introduce and support legislation in support of NPV during the 2012 General Assembly session.
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