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State on right track by joining national popular vote compact

// Published April 17, 2009 in Longview Daily News

Longview Daily News editorial in favor of the National Popular Vote Plan.

Washington will become the fifth state to enact a National Popular Vote Bill aimed at ensuring the candidate receiving the most votes nationwide wins the presidency. The state House passed the Senate-approved legislation Wednesday night, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has indicated she supports the measure.

The legislation approved this week in Olympia and earlier in Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii won’t take effect until enough states have joined the compact to deliver at least 270 electoral votes and the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote. Washington’s 11 electoral votes will bring the total so far to 53 votes. Oregon, which would deliver seven more votes, may not be far behind Washington. The Oregon house approved a National Popular Vote Bill last month. It’s now pending in the Senate.

The latest polls show strong public support for this effort to skirt the Electoral College in Washington, Oregon and nationally. A December 2008 National Popular Vote Poll found that 77 percent of those polled in Washington and 76 percent of Oregonians supported a national popular vote for president. Support nationally topped 70 percent. It was bipartisan, ranging from the about 80 percent among Democrats and more than 60 percent among Republicans.

Clearly, a large majority of citizens have come to recognize that the Electoral College is a flawed method of electing presidents. In each state, electors equal to the state’s number of representatives, plus its two senators, are chosen either by voters of the legislature. In all but two states — Maine and Nebraska — the presidential candidate who wins the state’s popular vote is awarded all of that state’s electors. This winner-take-all rule marginalizes millions of voters. Votes for losing candidates in Washington and 47 other states simply do not count in the election’s outcome.

Moreover, some votes count for less than others. A vote cast here in Washington, for example, carries less weight than a vote cast in less populated states, such as North Dakota or Wyoming. This is why former President Bush could win the presidency in 2000 with 543,895 fewer votes nationally than former Vice President Al Gore. It’s why just 60,000 more votes in Ohio would have awarded the presidency to Sen. John Kerry even though Bush bested him in the national popular vote by more than 3.5 million votes.

The Electoral College has elected four presidents who received fewer votes than their opponents — John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush. The nation survived, but each of those elections run amuck the fundamental democratic tenet of majority rule. Another democratic principle — that of political equality — has been challenged in every presidential election, because the Electoral College fails to give equal value to all votes. All votes should be counted and count the same. Washington lawmakers have brought us a step closer to that ideal.