On July 27, the Massachusetts Senate approved the National Popular Vote plan for president by a 28-9 vote, three days after the final vote of the Massachusetts House passed it 116-34. The bill had already passed both the House and the Senate in 2008 but the legislative session was adjourned before the final “enacting” votes necessary for the legislature to send the bill to the governor.
This time, the bill will be sent to Governor Deval Patrick, who has indicated he will sign it into law. Massachusetts is thus poised to become the sixth state of the Union that has enacted the law, after Maryland (the first state to enact the bill after a lobbying effort led by FairVote Action), Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington. The number of electoral votes controlled by signatory states would increase from 61 to 73, with Massachusetts adding its 12 electoral votes to the total. The bill, however, will not go into effect before its signatory states control a majority of electoral votes (270 or more).
"What we are submitting is the idea that the president should be selected by
the majority of people in the United States of America." – Democratic state Sen. James Eldridge
Under this law, all the electoral votes controlled by the Interstate Compact will be awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Grounded in state laws passed years after the founders’ generation, all states except Maine and Nebraska currently allocate all of their electoral votes to the winner of their statewide contest. This method has allowed the loser of the nationwide popular vote to become president four times in American history and encourages candidates to focus their attention and resources to a handful of battleground states – a number of states that FairVote research indicates is steadily decreasing to the point that in 2008, more than 98% of all peak campaign spending and attention was devoted to just 15 states.
The bill has received overwhelming and bipartisan support from Massachusetts and national press. News reports have run on CNN, Fox, MSNBC and in the New York Times, while Stephanie Condon, from CBS News, notes that this plan will “compel candidates to stop ignoring states like California or Texas, which are predictably Democratic and Republican, respectively.” Tom DeLuca, from the Christian Science Monitor, also welcomes a direct election of the president. Finally, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis responded enthusiastically to the news and endorses National Popular Vote.
The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg dissects critiques of the National Popular Vote plan, in an excellent blog with a must-watch discussion that took place at the Cato Institute this month between Dr. John Koza (the founder of National Popular Vote) and Tara Ross, perhaps the leading adversary of the plan. The debate was also reviewed by the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait.
For more press coverage:
Atlantic Wire: “Who Needs the Electoral College? Not Massachusetts”
New York Magazine: “Electoral College One Step Closer to Death”
Vanity Fair: “Could America Graduate From The Electoral College?”
On National Popular Vote: