Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Here's an Idea: Whoever Gets the Most Votes Should Win

A President, like all other public offices, should be chosen by the time honored proposition that the candidate who receives the most votes wins. Once enough states join in a compact so that all the compact members states represent a majority of the Electoral College, all compact members will require their Electoral votes to be cast for the national popular vote winner. This thus will elect our President by a nationwide popular vote according to the system used most everywhere else: whoever has the most votes is elected.
One of the reasons I support this is because four times in our history a candidate failing to win the popular vote became President. In each of these cases, these four Presidents have been ones that most historians rate as failed Presidents.
A President who is elected with most of the public against his selection starts off with a distinct disadvantage. Presidents need to lead and galvanize a country. It is much harder to do this when a majority of the country did not want that President to be in office in the first place.
In addition, most of the Presidents elected without winning the popular vote achieved office under clouds of controversy. A major failure of the Electoral College is that fraud in a key state can alter the final results. This further weakens the public support for such a President. Furthermore, Congress recognizes this unpopularity. Congress thus generally sees less of a need to work with unpopular Presidents.
John Quincy Adams was the first President elected with fewer popular votes than his principal opponent, Andrew Jackson, in 1824. The selection was decided by Congress which was heavily influenced by the support House Speaker Henry Clay provided for Adams. When Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State, there were deep suspicions there had been a trade-off between Adams and Clay.
The Adams Presidency found much opposition even from within his own Federalist Party. Adams and Clay attempted to form their own political party which collapsed soon afterwards. Jacksonian Democrats took control of Congress in the midterm elections which further doomed the ability of Adams to enact his policies. Andrew Jackson rode this dissatisfaction with the Adams Presidency to success by defeating Adams for President in the 1828 election.
Rutherford Hayes was elected President in 1876 with fewer popular votes than his opponent Samuel Tilden. The Hayes election received diminished public support due to accusations of fraud in four states that had awarded their Electoral votes to Hayes.
Hayes was so unpopular that his Presidential inauguration was held in secret. Hayes tried to mend fences by offering patronage positions to his political opponents which resulted in alienating his own party members. The Hayes Presidency was marked by its ineffectiveness in advancing its main proposals. Hayes chose not to run for reelection.
Benjamin Harrison was chosen President in the 1888 elections even though incumbent President Grover Cleveland received more popular votes. Harrison was elected with popular votes from two states where voter fraud was widely suspected. Harrison attempted to offer political compromises to Congress. They were mostly rejected by his political party as well as the opposition. Harrison created economic policies that are credited with leading to a depression. Economic recovery was achieved with the repeal of actions Harrison took. Grover Cleveland returned to the Presidency by defeating Harrison in the 1892 elections.
The fourth person to lose the popular vote yet become President was George W. Bush. Al Gore received more votes and Bush was elected after the Supreme Court awarded Florida’s Electoral votes to Bush before a vote recount could be completed. The controversies over the Bush election and the Bush Presidency are fresh enough that we recall them. Opposition to the Bush policies led to the election of Barack Obama and Democratic control of Congress. Already some historians are placing the Bush Presidency as one of the worse Presidencies in all history.
The Electoral College has not served us when a popular vote loser becomes President. There is no good reason why the Electoral College should be the system that chooses our President. It is time we move to a popular election.


Blogger mvymvy said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware --75%, Maine -- 71%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 73% , Massachusetts -- 73%, New York -- 79%, and Washington -- 77%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

12:16 PM  
Blogger Founders Friend said...

Winner take all statutes are the problem, not the Electoral College. That's why I support the National Popular Vote bill (the Interstate Compact Among the States). NPV preserves the Electoral College and the exclusive power of the states to determine how best to award their electors. This is consistent with the intent of the founders and protects a fundamental and important principle of federalism - the state check on the federal magistrate.

As a fan of Justices Alito and Roberts, I can support the NPV compact. It is consistent with the founding principles of our Constitution.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny said...

Thank you for these comments supportive of the ideas of a national popular vote. It is interesting how such a simple idea as the candidate who receives the most votes is difficult for some people to accept. They believe that some 18th century poltiical compromise that created the Electoral College must be preserved above any rational sense. But then some states feared the inability of knowing about candidates from other states. Television, newspapers, political advertising, and other media have long ago solved that problem. The Electoral College does not work in today's environment. It should be replaced by a national popular vote.

2:43 PM  
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