New York Legislature backs National Popular Vote

New York’s Legislature has approved  the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact, joining nine other states and Washington, D.C. in moving to ensure that the presidential candidate receiving the most votes on Election Day will be sworn in on Inauguration Day.

If signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which seems likely, the compact legislation approved 57-4 by the New York Senate and 100-32 by the Assembly will give NPV the backing of states with 165 Electoral Votes, 62% of the 270 needed for it to take effect. The compact would deliver the electoral votes of all participating states to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationwide on Election Day, guaranteeing his or her election.

Under the current system, each state awards all its electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in that state. That focuses candidates’ attention on a few, closely divided states. especially those with medium-to-large numbers of electors, and makes it possible for a candidate who wins the national popular vote by rolling up large majorities in a few states to nevertheless lose the election.

In one out of every 14 presidential elections, the victor has been the second-place popular vote finisher— in 2000, 1888, 1876 and 1824 — and we’ve nearly missed that outcome many more times.

Common Cause is a longtime supporter of a national popular vote. We believe the President should be elected by all of the people, not just those in closely divided “battleground” states.  Because there is no incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in states they cannot win—or cannot lose—the election is currently waged in a tiny fraction of the country. In 2012, 98% of the money and campaign visits went to just 10 battleground states, with two-thirds going to just 4 states. Neither candidate appeared in or bought advertisements in New York, a reliably Democratic state, after their respective national conventions.

The National Popular Vote plan accomplishes a popular vote without a constitutional amendment. Article 1, Section 2 gives the states complete, plenary authority over how electors are selected.  Electors have been selected in many different ways over our history, including by state legislative appointment, through a variety of district elections, and by winner-take-all slates. The second provision allows states to enter into enforceable agreements—or “compacts.”

With passage in the deep red state of Oklahoma a real possibility—the bill passed the Senate there last month—National Popular Vote has a real shot at becoming the law of the land.

Interestingly, the debate in New York did not come down along party lines. The lead sponsor in the NY Senate was Republican Joseph Griffo; Assm. Nicole Malliotakis (R) noted during the debate that National Popular Vote was “One of the rare occasions when we see the Conservative Party and Working Families Party agree.”

“The National Popular Vote bill is about empowering the only true voice of the people to elect the president,” said Common Cause NY Executive Director Susan Lerner. “Common Cause/NY is proud to see the Legislature bring the country one step further in pursuit of a more equitable democracy by passing this important legislation.”

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About Pam Wilmot

Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts

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