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What's the Most Popular Vote?

Pete Springer/OPB

Grumbles about the Electoral College have been a quadrennial American pastime for centuries, but they reached their modern high in the aftermath of the 2000 battle over Florida’s hanging chads. In the years since, a number of bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress seeking to amend the Constitution to replace the current state-by-state, winner-take-all system with a national popular vote. They’ve never gone anywhere. Now a California professor and inventor has come up with a plan to create a popular vote without amending the constitution.

John Koza founded National Popular Vote in 2005 with the idea of passing bills in all 50 states that would grant each state’s electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The plan would take effect, he says, when states equaling a majority of the electors had approved the measure. While the bill is currently law in just four states — Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii — Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign Washington onto the list soon.

Oregon may not be far behind. Koza’s plan is gaining steam in the Oregon State Legislature, where the bill passed the state House in March, and is pending in the state Senate.

Koza, a millionaire who co-invented the scratch-off lottery ticket and whose company Scientific Games pushed for the ballot measure that brought the lottery to Oregon, believes his plan will promote greater political inclusion. “Most states are left out, including Oregon and Washington and Wyoming, because presidential candidates have no reason to campaign there,” he says.

Not everyone is pleased with the idea, however. State Rep. Gene Whisnant, a Republican from Sunriver, has called the bill an “end-run attempt” on the U.S. Constitution, which “would make small population states like Oregon obsolete and give national decision making power to America’s urban centers.” Meanwhile, law professor Norman Williams of Willamette University, no fan of the Electoral College, says the bill will lead to “serious Constitutional questions.”

What do you think? How should the presidential election be decided? Are you in favor of the current Electoral College system? Do you support a national popular vote? If so, what’s the best way to get there?


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