While the field of presidential contenders for 2008 continues to widen, the way in which our national leader is elected has been called into question and at no time in our nation’s recent history has a change in the Electoral College system been more contentious – and more likely.
National Popular Vote Inc., a national nonprofit composed of a broad group of political science academics as well as current and past national political figures, has crafted an interstate compact that would dramatically revise how state electoral votes are allocated. According to the new interstate compact, each state participating in the plan would award all its electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide (in all 50 states and the District of Columbia).
Supporters claim the measure is long overdue and point to recent presidential elections in which the popular vote winner did not obtain the required 270 electoral votes to secure the White House. Detractors simply assert that the proposed plan is unconstitutional – going against the entire purpose of the Electoral College system.
The U.S. Constitution does establish the Electoral College and assert that it must be used when electing the president (Article II, Section 1). However, the requirement does not specify who an elector will be nor how they should cast his or her vote and in fact leaves such decisions to the state legislatures. "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors …"
While the new interstate compact would not go into effect until such time as the agreement has been enacted by states collectively possessing a majority of the nation’s electoral votes – 270 of 538 – the agreement has been gaining both popular and legislative support around the country.
Thus far in 2007 (as of Jan. 18) the Popular Vote Compact, as it has come to be known, has already been introduced in seven states, most notably the electoral powerhouse of California, but also Arizona, Connecticut, Missouri, Montana, Virginia and Wyoming. Supporters claim that as many as 29 states are ready to introduce the bill in 2007, but that may be unlikely in current sessions as states traditionally, at least on contentious compacts, usually adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Congress, however, has yet to weigh in on the matter and experts remain divided as to whether Congressional consent is required for the agreement to take effect or if Congress is actually closed out of the loop given that the Constitution grants the states the exclusive right to decide electoral matters.
One thing is for certain – 2007 and 2008 will not only be heating up on the campaign trail, but also in legislative committee rooms and on chamber floors as states wrestle with their role in shaping national politics.
2007 Introductions (as of Jan. 18, 2007)
- Wyoming, HB190
- Virginia, SJ325
- Montana, SB290
- Missouri, HB289
- Connecticut, HB6000
- California, SB37
- Arizona, HB2297