Eric Black

Black

By referendum on Election Day, Colorado became the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to join an interstate compact to elect the president by popular vote. Minnesota is not yet one of them.

I favor this crazy idea — that the person who gets the most votes in a presidential election should become president. It’s called, rather plainly, “National Popular Vote.” I’ve heard all the arguments in favor of the Electoral College, and in my humble opinion they are lame, bordering on laughable. I’ll get back to them below. But the news is that with Colorado on board, states (plus D.C.) representing 196 electoral votes now have joined the compact.

If enough states join to push that up to 270, and if this crazy idea holds together, it would mean that every vote would have equal weight, replacing the current system in which a few swing votes in a few swing states are the only ones that matter. We would no longer face the prospect of “electing” a president who got fewer votes than his opponent. That has happened five times in U.S. history, most recently in 2016, when Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Trump is still pitifully hoping he can pull this off again.

The last four cases all resulted in a Republican loser of the popular vote winning the election. The oldest case occurred before the Republican Party came into existence. Therefore it’s possible, if you’re cynical, to believe that Republicans will never agree to this reform.

When I bring up the idea to Republican friends, they tend to say: “Oh, that would be terrible. The campaigns would just focus on the big states and ignore everyone else.” To which I reply: “Unlike the current system, in which the campaigns ignore the big states, where most voters live, and focus on a few states that, by whatever quirk, have been designated as the swing states that will decide the election. Why is that better or more democratic?”

I’ve lived my life basically in three states, none of which have been serious swing states, unless you believe Minnesota was in 2016 or 2020. But that’s hardly the point.

I can’t really think of any intellectually or ethically strong argument in favor of allowing the 1 or 2 percent of voters who are swing voters in swing states to be in charge of choosing our presidents. I think everyone’s vote should count equally.

In a video on the National Popular Vote website, John Koza, the head of the NPV movement, quotes Ari Fleischer on whether the electoral college system is fair to the majority of voters who live in non-swing states. Fleischer was press secretary to President George W. Bush, who was elected in 2000 while losing the popular vote. Koza quotes Fleischer as saying: “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

True. Theoretically, people who want their vote to matter can move every four years to a swing state. Or they can support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, live wherever they like, and be sure that their vote will have equal weight with all others.

The National Popular Vote website is at nationalpopularvote.com.

Veteran journalist Eric Black writes for MinnPost.

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