MD drops out of Electoral College

Well, only if a majority of the other states do too:

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a law that would award the state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. As long as others agree to do the same. "Actually, Maryland will drop out only if a lot of other states do, too. Maryland's new law will go into effect only if enough states pass similar laws to total 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to elect a President," O'Malley said...

..the new rules would also disconnect a state's voters from its electors. Maryland voters could vote 100 percent Democratic, but if the Republican won the national vote, Maryland's electoral vote would go to the Republican. "It's based on the proposition that, say, those of us who live in Maryland care more about the national outcome of the popular vote for the president across the country than we do for our own particular state," Mann said.

It's sorta a bizarre set-up that you might have to read twice to get how it's done. There's a number of different bills out in state legislatures, at varying stages in the pipeline. National Popular Vote is the site tracking the issue.

Tags: electoral college, presidential election (all tags)

Comments

37 Comments

Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Sorry I am just not for this.  It may not legally violate the constitution but it violates the spirit.  This should be done by Amendment to eliminate the EC... It would anger me greatly to see Illinois vote Dem and then have its Electors go to the GOP.  It so rarely happens we have an EV/PV split that this just seems a bit pointless.

by yitbos96bb 2007-04-11 06:21AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

And if all 50 states aren't in then this could really give false claim of mandate to a President (although Bush pretty much tried to do that in 2004 anyway).

by yitbos96bb 2007-04-11 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

If Illinois votes Dem but its electors go to the GOP, then that means that it is basically certain that the Republican candidate would have won under the old system, even without Illinois' votes.  This means that presidential candidates would actually have a reason to care about voters in Illinois, rather than Dems taking them for granted and Reps writing them off, as happens now.

As for "this happens so rarely," that's a specious argument, because it happens sometimes.  It only needs to happen once for this reform to be worthwhile, as we saw in 2000.  And it's way, way more likely to happen to a Democrat than to a Republican, because the Electoral College is weighted towards Republicans.

And as for violating the spirit of the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation and the New Deal also did that.  I'm ok with violating the spirit of the Constitution (only legally) when we've outgrown aspects of it, as we clearly have with the Electoral College.

by lorax 2007-04-11 07:29AM | 0 recs
Spoken like someone

Who doesn't know much about the Constitution.

The "spirit" of the Constitution would have the president chosen by wise men selected by state legislatures, without the interference of people like your or me.  

That changed without any amendment to the Constitution, and there's no reason that this should require one, either.

by Drew 2007-04-11 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I kind of agree... I'd rather go directly to a popular vote by an amendment, but I think this would be a step in that direction.  And I'm going to uprate you because some ass gave you a 1 despite that your comment was perfectly reasonable.

by jallen 2007-04-11 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Unilateral Democratic disarmament, that's what that is.  The state goes from sure-thing Dem to ?.

Not smart

by PeterB 2007-04-11 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

   How is this unilateral disarmament?  That's ridiculous.  This law only goes into effect when states with a majority of the electors decide to vote for the winner of the popular vote.  How is that unfair?

by cilerder86 2007-04-11 06:45AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

The threshold is simply a set # of EV - not a requirement to have a minimum # of blue state EV's and red state EV's.  

Without that protection, you could have mostly blue state EV's given away while solid red states would still be awarded the conventional way.  

by PeterB 2007-04-11 11:48PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

  No, you're just plain wrong that this unilateral disarmament.  Sure, blue state electoral votes could go to a Republican candidate, but then the opposite is just as likely.  This system allows for the direct election of the president by popular vote.  I really suggest you read more about the bill, so you actually understand what it does.

by cilerder86 2007-04-12 09:33AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

No, it's not. Until states with a combined 270 EV do something similar, Maryland will keep giving its EVs to whoever wins the statewide popular vote(which here pretty much means the Democrat).

Only if more states sign on and it reaches the 270 EV threshold, would then Maryland (and those other states) cast its EVs for the winner of the popular vote; this isn't likely, especially not for 2008 and maybe not even 2012.

by jeff06dem 2007-04-11 06:47AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

My point is if blue states get on the bandwagon but red states do not -- you could be giving up sure-fire Dem EV's and becoming dependent on national results while red states still have their guaranteed EV's.  

Like I said - unilateral disarmament.  This only works if both sides put themselves at the mercy of the national vote.

by PeterB 2007-04-11 11:52PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Like otherse have said, you don't understand the proposal. No one cares what the final electoral vote margin is. All that matters is who wins the White House. This plan guarantees_ that the national popular vote will win the election. Period.

by FairVote 2007-04-12 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

OK, understood.  Once the majority of electoral votes sign on, then you can't have the national vote winner not win... Give me a zero for comprehension.  

So long as there couldn't be any question as to the irrevocability of the participating states' EV's going to the national winner, I think this is a great idea.  As for small swing states, I doubt they'd be willingly give up their "say" in the process quite so willingly, but they might not have a choice in the matter. Interesting.  

by PeterB 2007-04-12 09:25PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I'm not a fan of this actually, since it would only be accurate if every single state in the nation adopted a similar law.  I'd rather see them award electors based on the percentage of the popular vote within the state.  Just end the winner-take-all setup that most states currently have.

by Sean Robertson 2007-04-11 06:41AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

It doesn't matter whether it's "accurate" on the details as long as it names the winner as the winner of the popular vote.

I'd kinda like shifting to a system in which EVs are awarded on the basis of a majority in each congressional district, with the extra two votes going to the state's overall winner, but that's only if it's in conjunction with general gerrymandering reform.

by Adam B 2007-04-11 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I like your general sentiment, but note that it's not at all like the terrible idea of states dividing their electoral votes. That is prone to all kinds of partisan manipulation and overall partisan suicide for Democrats if done nationally. Note that if electoral votes had been allocated by congressional district in 2000, Bush would have won by nearly 50 electoral votes even while losing the popular vote.

by FairVote 2007-04-11 07:42AM | 0 recs
Actually all states don't have to

opt in, just enough to represent a majority of the EC.

I like the idea of adding an IRV-like option to this proposal. If no candidate gets a majority then the remaining candidates get to reassign their vote totals, IRV style, until one has a majority. It's not a true IRV but has the advantages of eliminating the spoiler effect that dooms third parties. Plus it's easier for voters themselves to use at the ballot box.

by Jeff Wegerson 2007-04-11 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Presidential elections are about electing presidents. No one cares what the electoral vote margin is. No one is happier if their favorite candidate wins their state's electoral votes but loses the presidency than the other way around.

This policy is simple: if (and only if) enough states join Maryland to guarantee election of the national popular vote winner, then the next election will be one where every vote counts equally.

70% of Americans want a national popular vote. Do dissenters really want to be on the wrong end of a 70%-30% opinion stick?

by FairVote 2007-04-11 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Percentage is the way I'd go.

by MNPundit 2007-04-11 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

  Lots of opposition for some reason.  I'd like to make the presidential race fair and democratic. This is a good start.

by cilerder86 2007-04-11 06:43AM | 0 recs
I'm a huge fan of this

If states representing the 270 votes all go for this plan, then every candidate has to campaign in every state, no matter how any given state allots its votes.  As a resident of California, a blue state with a late primary, I don't think I have ever seen a presidential campaign ad on TV.  Under the current system, someone like George W. Bush is really only running for President of red states, then the rest of us have to live with it.  Imagine what he would be like if he had to appeal to people who lived outside the South.

A national popular election is much more democratic, but it will never happen Constitutionally since small states will always be able to block it.  This plan is great.

by I voted for Kodos 2007-04-11 06:48AM | 0 recs
Distraction

Unfortunately this means only that candidates will campaign only where there is a large % of moveable swing voters. They may ignore ttally red or blue states and go where there will be bang for the buck. The campaign teams will just have a new math to calculate.
Personally I think it would be more important to get IRV voting in place, so that consensus candidates can emerge in both state and local elections.
Also setting up a parliamentary system so there is more than a 2 party system and viability for smaller passionate parties and candidates who then can forge relationships with other parties.
And then there is the campaign funding and lobbying issues - money should not equate more votes.
And then there is the 'informed citizenry' issue - we need a press who can be trusted.
Oh - and letting the people vote and then counting all the votes.

This bill is an attempt to fix something that is less broken and less important in getting us a good government than many other issues. A distraction.......

by Carolyn in Baltimore 2007-04-11 07:02AM | 0 recs
I think this could be

modified to include an IRV-like option where if no candidate gets a majority then the remaining candidates could reassign their vote totals, IRV-style, until one had a majority. Of course it's not a true IRV but may actually be better because it remains simple for voters yet eliminates the "spoiler" effect that dooms third parties.

by Jeff Wegerson 2007-04-11 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Distraction

With all due respect, Carolyn, you don't show great understanding in how you win popular vote campaigns.

When every vote is equally meaningful, it simply makes no sense to ignore people. If there is a vote to be had, you get it. If people want to get involved to help their candidate, they can do it where they live. This system would really promote grassroots activity along with general equality.

A system where every vote is equal is not an untested concept. We use it for all of our other elections.

by FairVote 2007-04-11 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Distraction

True, but there is no evidence that certain states have dramatically larger percentages of movable swing voters.  The reason Ohio and Florida are swing states is not that there is a large % of persuadables, it is that there are roughly equivalent numbers of Rs and Ds.  It's just that the different between California going 55% Dem and 60% Dem doesn't matter to the candidates--until we get a popular vote system.

by lorax 2007-04-11 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I don't know why so many of you are opposed to this plan.  This is tantamount to changing the constitution, just much easier to do and without letting small states hijack the system.  Maryland's a sure Dem state until enough states pass this same bill so we have a national popular vote.

Another thing, the Baltimore Sun said this plan would hurt Maryland because a national popular vote would draw candidates to large cities in order to get the most votes.  I don't see how that hurts Maryland as we have about 4 million people in such a small area (the I-95 corridor) and we're so close to where most of the candidates are anyway, they'd surely come here.

Another thing, California doesn't have a late primary anymore.

by umcpgreg 2007-04-11 06:57AM | 0 recs
I'm a huge fan too because...

the current system has moved too far away from what the founders intended.  I live in Illinois and we have abou 12.7 Million residents and 21 electoral votes.  My family comes from South Dakota - .75 Million residents and 3 electoral votes.  Though IL outpopulates SD by a ratio of 17 to 1, our electoral votes are only outweighed by 7 to 1.  

I know the founders wanted to give some power to smaller states, but this gap is far too wide.  It's just plain unfair that a person's vote counts 2.5 times in SD what 1 vote counts in IL.

It may not be the ideal way - I agree a Constitutional amendment would be best - but it does level the voting playing field, and make candidates listen to 50 states instead of 12-14 swing states, which I'm certain the founders would support.

There is a lot of momentum behind this and we will start to hear a lot more about this as several states will likely pass this legislation in 2007.

by passionateprogressive 2007-04-11 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm a huge fan too because...

the current system has moved too far away from what the founders intended.  I live in Illinois and we have abou 12.7 Million residents and 21 electoral votes.  My family comes from South Dakota - .75 Million residents and 3 electoral votes.  Though IL outpopulates SD by a ratio of 17 to 1, our electoral votes are only outweighed by 7 to 1.  

I know the founders wanted to give some power to smaller states, but this gap is far too wide.  It's just plain unfair that a person's vote counts 2.5 times in SD what 1 vote counts in IL.

1789
Delaware had a population of ~59,000, 3 Electoral College votes.  One EC vote per ~19,700.
Virginia had a population of ~691,000, 10 Electoral College votes.  Once EC vote per ~69,100.

So in 1789, a Delawarian had 3.5x as much voting power as a Virginian.  And given that this election took place less than two years after the Constitution was submitted to the States, I'm pretty sure the Founders did indeed intend such a discrepancy.

It is hardly anything new - it was happening from Day One of the Electoral College and was entirely predictable by anyone who bothered to even ponder the EC.  And ponder it the Founders did, at great length.

by Collideascope 2007-04-11 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I read what I perceived to be a conservative argument against this bill in a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun yesterday.  

In it, the author argued that a better law would be to have the EV split based on each party's share of the MD vote, thereby respecting the wishes of all MD voters.  Of course, that would simply weaken MD as a Dem state, widen the GOPs national advantage by another several EVs,  and do nothing to change the farce that is the EC.

I like this, since it doesn't take effect until enough states to decide the election join in and we know that in these polarized times the U.S. probably can't pass a constitutional amendment on anything.  

To comment on something further up in the comments, I doubt this law would create false mandates since as soon as the EC were irrelevant, the media would stop focusing on it.

Any mandate would have to be spun from the size of the popular win.

by howie14 2007-04-11 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

This is good bill, and I don't really understand all of the opposition.  If other states got on board quickly, we could have a popular vote election in the near future.  That means restoring the power of a single vote to every person in the country.  Suddenly its worth voting for president as a Democrat in a red state, because the state majority of democrats no longer matters, the national majority of democrats does.  

by andy k 2007-04-11 07:25AM | 0 recs
3rd Parties can still "Spoil".

It's still a plurality system, not majority rule, and leaves the ability of third parties to play a spoiler role. I would prefer a pseudo-IRV setup where if no candidate got a majority the remaining candidates could assign their votes in an IRV fashion.

I think it's doable, but clearly has more administrative headaches.

by Jeff Wegerson 2007-04-11 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

Go NPV!!!!!!!!

by nstrauss 2007-04-11 09:45AM | 0 recs
Man that article is biased.

Did anyone read the actual CNN article the post links to?  I get so tired of seeing GOP talking points barfed up on CNN's site.  It's all about how the only reason people are undertaking this campaign for a popular presidential vote is because they're bitter Democrats who are still pissed about Bush winning in 2000, and how it would have a bunch of bad effects, blah blah blah.  Depressing.

In fact, it's a great idea.  I've been following this movement for some time now, and in my experience the reasons otherwise progressive people don't support it stem from misunderstandings about the proposal itself or the dynamics of how national elections actually work.

Most of that has already been addressed here in the comments, but I did want to mention one thing.  To the folks who think that a national popular election would force candidates to focus on areas with lots of swing voters, you are 100% wrong.  That's what our current system forces candidates to do.  Winning a popular vote isn't just about getting that 10% of people in the middle who are undecided, it's about getting your base voters to show up.  If you get registered Democrats in California to show up to the polls instead of staying home, that's just as good (and probably actually much easier) than getting the undecideds to swing your way.  Especially since, generally speaking, undecideds are less informed and pay less attention to politics.

I believe it would be a big step toward getting more voters engaged in politics, and would improve turnout greatly.  It incentives candidates to speak to, engage, and energize everyone, not just play Hungry Hungry Hippos with the tiny pool of undecideds.  Right now, 80% of the country gets ignored by candidates and (rightly) feels like their vote for president doesn't count.  A popular vote doesn't just make every vote count, it makes every voter feel like they matter.

by AndyMo42 2007-04-11 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Man that article is biased.

Exactly, having lived in the SF Bay Area and in NYC, I don't think I've yet seen an ad for president. Why "waste" time on us, given the current winner-take-all environment?

This will finally allow folks outside a handful of swing states matter for something other than fundraising.

by awgupta 2007-04-11 12:05PM | 0 recs
Question

I'm not a huge fan of getting rid of the Electoral College-- instead, I'd rather see it be reformed to accurately reflect the popular vote instead. (That is, I'd like to see someone with 51% of the popular vote gets 51% of the electoral vote. It's ridiculously inconsistent that Walter Mondale got about 40% of the popular vote and only 2% of the electoral vote, while Bob Dole 12 years later got about 40% of the popular vote and 30% of the electoral vote. If you're gonna be inaccurate, be consistent about it!)

That said, the idea of a national popular vote is appealing, and I don't even mind this state-based approach, though it sort of runs contrary to the idea that the whole country (or, rather, 3/4 of it) be involved in major changes, not just enough to constitute an Electoral College majority.

But I do have one question. The framers of the Constitution provided for an alternate method of deciding an election if the Electoral College couldn't come up with a majority decision, by sending it to the House of Representatives. Would there be a similar mechanism in a popular vote system to prevent a plurality winner from walking to victory with only 30% or 35% in a multi-candidate race? A run-off, perhaps, or something else?

Granted, in the past, there've been elections where the winner has only had a plurality of votes, and been far from a majority (1968, for instance-- Nixon only had 43% of the vote. Or 1912, where Wilson only had 42%). Except for 1800 and 1824, they all had electoral majorities, but I've always thought it'd be interesting (not necessarily better, but interesting) to see what would happen if they had been forced into the House.

Ah geez... I've re-read my comment, and seen just how much I need to get some sleep. Not exactly eloquent in expressing myself today...

by Fitzy 2007-04-11 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Question

Proportional voting for electing legislatures is one thing (and a good thing in my book) but proportional voting for allocating electorat votes is a dead-end. Done state-by-state it leads to all kinds of partisan perversities, and if done nationally, it would do all the more to distort one-person, one-vote. Shifting 3% of the vote in a small-population state might give you one more electoral vote. Shifting that same percentage in a much bigger state would only give you one more electoral vote as well

Let's keep it simple: one-person, one-vote, with every vote equal and the candidate with the most votes our president.

Also, in response to your final question, note that you need a majority of electoral votes to win the presidency, but you don't need a a majority of the popular vote in order to win a majority of the electoral college under our current system. For example, if Ross Perot had won about 35% of the vote in 1992, he almost certainly would have won the presidency in the current electoral college system.

by FairVote 2007-04-12 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: MD drops out of Electoral College

I think you can file this proposal under "Very Good Ideas That Are Hard To Think About". Or maybe cross-file it under "Easier Than You Think".

The proposal requires a critical mass of states that represent a majority of the Electoral College. Until that threshold is reached, we operate under current law. After that, it's majority rules.

My guess is that after this proposal passes in a sufficient number of states (and probably then some), Congress and the States will go back and pass a constitutional amendment to clean it up. That would also be A Good Thing.

I'm wondering why the Gropinator vetoed it last year.

--Dan

by dbs 2007-04-11 02:13PM | 0 recs

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