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Should We Elect The President By Popular Vote?

After hundreds of attempts to abolish the Electoral College, opponents are promoting a plan to work around it.

With the Electoral College, voters in two-thirds of the states are effectively disenfranchised from choosing the President because they do not live in closely divided "battleground" states.

Presidential candidates now have no reason to campaign in states they are sure of winning or losing. In recent elections, candidates have spent two thirds of their time and money in six closely divided states—Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota—and 99 percent of their ad dollars in 16 states.

Another shortcoming of the Electoral College is that a candidate can win the presidency without winning the most votes nationwide. In fact, the second-place candidate was elected in 2000 (when President Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore), 1888, 1876, and 1824. And in 2004, a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio would have given John Kerry a majority of the electoral votes, despite President Bush's 3.5 million-vote lead in the nationwide popular vote.

The National Popular Vote plan—which is based on the fact that the Constitution lets each state decide how to award its electoral votes—would solve these problems: It calls for states to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationally. The plan has been approved in New Jersey and Maryland, and is being considered in 45 other states, it would take effect when it is approved by states representing a majority (270) of the 538 electoral votes.

More than 70 percent of Americans say they favor nationwide election of the President. It's time to make the change.

John R. Koza
Chairman, National Popular Vote

The Electoral College was a key part of the compromise between large and small states at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and it has served America well for more than 200 years.

There have been more than 700 attempts to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College; all have failed. The latest scheme is the National Popular Vote plan, which would circumvent the Electoral College, rather than abolish it. States would enter a compact promising all their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationally.

Under this plan, as few as 11 of the country's biggest states, which represent more than 270 electoral votes, could ignore the electoral votes of the remaining 39 states.

This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. They wanted to ensure that support for a President was broad as well as deep, so that a candidate who received 90 percent of the vote in one region and a slim majority of votes nationally would not be elected against the will of the rest of the country.

Minorities should also be alarmed by the National Popular Vote proposal. As Vernon Jordan, then-president of the Urban League, noted in 1979, "Take away the Electoral College, and the importance of being black melts away." Instead of being crucial to victory in a number of key states, black voters simply become 10 percent of the electorate, with reduced impact.

Furthermore, circumventing the Electoral College would encourage the growth of splinter parties and make it less likely that any candidate would get a majority of votes.

Robert Hardaway
Author, The Electoral College and the Constitution