Democrat Lisa McCormick says the United States should change the rules so that the presidential candidate with most votes win, noting that twice in recent years, the second-place candidate became president despite America’s fundamental belief in majority rule.
While smaller states that gain disproportionate power under the existing winner-take-all Electoral College system might resist any effort to amend the Constitution, McCormick says there is another way to accomplish the goal a having a majority winner.
“I think most Americans would agree that the presidential candidate with most votes should win,” said McCormick, who has proposed a number of other substantive changes that would make the republic more democratic. “The Constitution gives the states the ‘exclusive’ and ‘plenary’ power to choose the method of awarding their electoral votes, so we can adopt a plan known as the National Popular Vote compact.”
Under the National Popular Vote compact, McCormick says that an interstate compact will guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will ensure that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election,” said McCormick. “Americans support the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most votes from all 50 states but we have a system that does not follow that standard.”
Four of the last six United States presidential elections have been decided by margins that were too close for comfort, including two that produced second-place presidents.
In 2000, George W. Bush became president even though then-Vice President Al Gore won the national popular vote by 537,179 votes.
Bush won the presidency because he carried Florida, where each of the 537 votes that gave the margin to Bush was 1,000 times more important than the 537,179 votes cast for Gore in other states.
In 2016, Donald Trump became president even though Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2,868,518 votes.
Clinton’s popular vote majority was comparable to George W. Bush’s substantial margin of 3,012,171 in 2004.
Trump won because he unexpectedly carried Michigan by 10,704 votes, Wisconsin by 22,748 votes, and Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes. Each of these 77,744 voters — the margin that gave Trump electoral votes in three states — was 37 times more important than the 2,868,518 voters that gave Clinton a majority in other states.
In the last six presidential elections, there have also been two near-misses.
If 21,461 voters had changed their minds and not voted for Biden (5,229 in Arizona, 5,890 in Georgia, and 10,342 in Wisconsin), Trump would have won the 37 electoral votes from these three states, and there would have been a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College.
Trump would have been re-elected, because the U.S. House of Representatives picks Presidents on a one-state-one-vote basis, and the Republicans control a majority of the House delegations in the 2021 Congress.
Each of those 21,461 voters — who gave Biden electoral votes in three states — was 329 times more important than the more than 7,058,909 people who voted for Biden across the country.
Something similar happeded in the 2004 election. If 59,393 voters in Ohio in 2004 had changed their minds and not voted for incumbent President George W. Bush, John Kerry would have taken the Buckeye State’s 20 electoral votes from Bush and won the presidency in the Electoral College.
Bush won by a narrow margin of 35 electoral votes and took 50.7 percent of the popular vote.
Each of these 59,393 voters for Bush was 51 times more important than the 3,012,171 other people who voted for Bush, who received 62 million votes nationwide, compared to the Democrat’s 59 million votes.
Bush was the first and only Republican candidate since his father in the 1988 election to win a majority or plurality of the popular vote.
In 2008, Barack Obama won a decisive victory over McCain, winning both the Electoral College and the popular vote by sizable margins, including states that had not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 (North Carolina) and 1964 (Indiana and Virginia).
Obama in 2008 flipped nine states that had voted Republican in 2004: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, as well as Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.
He largely repeated that performance in the 2012 presidential election, finishing with almost 66 million votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s nearly 61 million ballots.
Obama did not hold onto Indiana, North Carolina, or Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, in 2012, but he won all 18 “blue wall” states and defeated Romney in other swing states the Republicans had won in 2000 and 2004, most notably Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.
The National Popular Vote has been enacted into law by 15 states and DC with 195 electoral votes. It needs an additional 75 electoral votes to go into effect.
On January 13, 2008, Governor Jon Corzine signed the National Popular Vote Bill into law, making New Jersey the second state to enact the plan after Maryland adopted it on April 10, 2007. Constitutional Law Professor Jamie Raskin, who was the main sponsor of the bill in the Maryland Senate, is now U.S. Representative.