Massachusetts’ MetroWest Daily News strongly backs the National Popular Vote (NPV) plan in a recent editorial, joining with those states that have already passed the plan; Hawaii, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey and Washington. The paper focused in particular on the fact that the Electoral College allows candidates who have lost the popular vote to win the presidency by technicality:
“This “wrong winner” phenomenon has happened just four times in our nation's history, but it is an insult to logic no matter how rare. From student council president to governor, the winner is the candidate who wins the most votes.”
This perverse effect is a concern for both major parties, and clearly contradicts the basic notion that voters get to determine who is president.
The piece echoes points FairVote has made in our own research:
“The Electoral College system, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in that state, distorts every presidential campaign. Because of the Electoral College, the nation is divided between “battlefield states,” where polls indicate the outcome is in doubt, and “spectator states” that were written off by at least one of the candidates early on.”
FairVote’s report Who Picks the President showed that in the 2004 election, the candidates concentrated almost exclusively on 28% of the voters—only 12 states out of 50—and the focus in 2008 was similarly narrow (stay tuned for our report on the 2008 election).
But what is a presidential candidate to do? The Electoral College does not create any incentive for the candidates to maximize their vote totals in spectator states, or to campaign in states where they are sure to lose.
The Electoral College also discourages voters living outside the swing states to turn out to vote, because the outcome of the election in their state is known well before Election Day. So it skews both the election system and the election results!
The NPV bill had already been introduced in 2008 in Massachusetts, and despite passage in both houses, it failed to be sent to the governor before the legislative session’s end. But the NPV plan remains the best alternative to the current way we elect the president. We agree with the MetroWest Daily News: 2010 is the year to settle it!