PI Original Adam Doster Monday April 7th, 2008, 1:00pm

Blagojevich Signs National Popular Vote Bill

Today, with Gov. Blagojevich's signature, Illinois became the third state in the country to enact the National Popular Vote bill, which stipulates that all of the state's electoral votes should be allotted to the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote nationally...

Today, with Gov. Blagojevich's signature, Illinois became the third state in the country to enact the National Popular Vote bill, which stipulates that all of the state's electoral votes should be allotted to the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote nationally.

From the governor's statement:

"This nation is built on the principle 'for the people, by the people.' By signing this law, we in Illinois are making it clear that we believe every voter has an equal voice in electing our nation's leaders.

Earlier this year, the Illinois state legislature passed the bill, which is part of a nationwide effort by the organization FairVote to subvert the Electoral College by pushing states to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than their own contests. Proponents point out that the plan is legal and legitimate because the U.S. Constitution grants states the power to determine how to cast their electoral votes.

Critics from sparsely populated states have consistently bemoaned the proposal, however, arguing that issues affecting their communities will be ignored if the system is altered. Problem is, the Electoral College disadvantages them already:

Because small states are apt to be one-party states, 12 of the 13 (92%) least populous states are non-competitive in presidential elections. Non-competitive states—with or without a bonus of two extra electoral votes—simply do not matter in presidential politics.

So if it doesn't protect small states, what does it do? Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, summarized the proposal's impact succinctly in The Nation:

It gives voters unequal power based on where they live, can defeat the winner of the national popular vote and sidelines the majority of Americans, who live outside the dozen or so swing states.

The shrinking number of battleground states is perhaps the most worrisome product of the Electoral College. In 2004, presidential candidates spent 99 percent of campaign funding in only 16 states, ignoring wide swaths of the country. As The New York Times points out, urban policies are often first on the chopping block, even though the largest 100 cities and their surrounding communities are home to 65 percent of the nation’s population and account for about 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The Electoral College system depresses turnout in non-competitive states, too. It's no surprise, given the lack of targeted get-out-the-vote efforts and the knowledge that one's vote will not be decisive. Nonetheless, the statistics are startling. According to the Progressive States Network, 2004 voter turnout was 63 percent in the 12 most competitive states while only 53 percent in the 12 least competitive states. The gap was even wider among young voters; turnout among 18-29 year-olds was 64.4 percent in the 10 most competitive states and 47.6 percent in the remaining states.

All in all, it's an antiquated, undemocratic system, and one that 70 percent of Americans reject in polls. Thanks to the work of the Illinois legislature and the governor, we're now one step closer to abandoning it.

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