Movement seeks to remove Electoral College, elect president by popular vote

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(NewsNation Now) — Every four years, the outcome of the presidential election seems to hinge on just a few battleground states like Florida or Pennsylvania. So what happens if you don’t live in those states?

“We’re now stuck in a situation where four out of five Americans don’t matter because they live in non-battleground states,” said Saul Anuzis, former state chairman of the Michigan GOP and a senior consultant to National Popular Vote.

The National Popular Vote is trying to change the way Americans elect the president. Their plan is to guarantee the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide, wins. And their plan is gaining traction.

“So our primary goal is to create a system where every voter in every state is a battleground state so that every voter’s opinion counts,” Anuzis said.

Currently, the Electoral College decides the winner of the presidential election. Roughly based on population, each state gets a certain number of electoral votes. And in almost every state, it’s “winner take all.”

For example, the candidate with the most votes in California, gets all 55 of the state’s electoral votes. In the end, the candidate with at least 270 electoral votes, wins.

The National Popular Vote’s group proposed plan states would agree to give all of its electoral votes — to the winner of the national popular vote. In other words, states would wait to see who wins the most votes nationwide and then award that candidate all of its electoral votes.

At this point, 15 state legislatures and the District of Columbia have signed on.

Together, they reach a combined 196 electoral votes. They only need states with another 74 electoral votes — to get to 270. At that point, these states would essentially have the electoral votes and the leverage to pick the winning candidate.

“So what really happens is, all of a sudden, you’re going to turn this into a 50 state strategy,” said Anuzis. “You have to campaign in all 50 states because we’re going to count the votes in all 50 states. Where for instance, in this last election, basically the candidates only campaigned in 12 states or less.”

Supporters of a national popular vote argue it would engage voters — who question whether their vote counts now. They point out that the election is often over by the time West coast voters get out of work.

“Well, by 8:15 in a normal presidential election, we’re calling it. We’re calling the game,” said Anuzis. “So then you have a decision, you know, do I go stand in line and cast what arguably might be a wasted vote, or do I go home and have dinner with my family?”

President Donald Trump got 6 million votes in California and had nothing to show for it. Biden won the state and got all 55 electoral votes. Under the proposed plan, Trump’s 6 million votes would count toward his nationwide total, but because Biden won the national popular vote, he would get California’s 55 electoral votes.

Alex Keyssar, a professor at Harvard and author of multiple books on the Electoral College, says the national vote compact falls short in a few areas and thinks it would likely face constitutional challenges.

“I think that any change should include the elimination of ‘winner take all,'” said Keyssar. “It should conform to the principle of one person, one vote. And the electoral system should be clear and transparent, and understood by all American voters.’”

Keyssar points out there are ‘other’ options — aside from the compact plan proposed — that could eliminate a lot of the issues with the electoral system.

“My opinion is definitely that the Electoral College should be changed,” Keyssar said. “I think that it does not conform to basic democratic values and poses a number of hazards for American institutions in American democracy.”

As always, NewsNation looks at both sides of the issues. On the other side of the debate is Ian Drake. He said the Electoral College is working just fine. He wrote an op-ed piece for NJ.com this week.

“If we had a national popular vote system, then candidates would simply go where their voter bases are located,” he wrote. “For Republicans, this would be in the rural and suburban areas, while Democrats would campaign in cities. Not only would candidates gravitate to their geographic voter regions, but they would also likely become more extreme in their positions. Under the Electoral College system, the appeals to swing states require candidates to moderate their messages in order to appeal to the voters in swing states.”

Drake is a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University and joined NewsNation to discuss the plan.

Watch the full discussion in the player above.

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