The National Popular Vote can become reality

December 23, 2018

Funny how tragedy will motivate voters. Did you know that the last two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, did not win the popular vote? Throughout the past several presidential election cycles, the disdain for the Electoral College, which actually elects the president, has continued to grow.

Electors have no special qualifications other than they cannot be a current senator or House member, nor can they hold “an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States.” They are usually chosen by their state party and are expected to vote for whomever wins the popular vote for their state, facing huge fines if they don’t (obviously not a secret ballot). So 538 party hacks elect the president. To abolish this procedure would require a national constitutional convention.

But there is an alternative. The National Popular Vote movement, enacted state by state, would guarantee the U.S. presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. By law, each state that signs on would give all its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, ensuring that the election of the president reflects the true political will of American voters without amending the U.S. Constitution.

This law would help remove a lot of voting inequalities. One example is the winner-take-all method of counting votes, making the most populous states the determiners of the election. This method renders more than 50 percent of U.S. states politically irrelevant, including New Mexico most election years.

Instead, the National Popular Vote would remove the risk of electing second-place winner presidents and frequent close calls. It would finally make voters across the national spectrum relevant again and eliminate “swing” states.

This movement is nonpartisan. It does not favor any particular political party. According to nationalpopularvotenm.org, at least four Republican presidents have expressed support for this measure — Nixon, Ford, H.W. Bush and Trump. It is also supported by the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club.

The good news is that we are more than halfway there. The bill is law in 11 states plus Washington, D.C. That’s 172 electoral votes. The threshold is 270 electoral votes, which is the number needed to determine the election.

On Feb. 20, 2017, the New Mexico Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 26-16 margin. On March 9, 2017, the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee tied 3-3, thereby defeating the bill in New Mexico for the 2017 session. In the last legislative session, state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, introduced the National Popular Vote bill (House Bill 167) in the New Mexico House, and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, introduced the bill (SB 158) in the Senate. Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, also has been a sponsor of the Senate bill and champion of this movement.

To make this dream a reality, all we have to do is contact our legislators to support this legislation and ensure it makes it onto the floor in both houses during the 2019 legislative session. Passing either bill would guarantee that all of New Mexico’s five electoral votes would go to the actual winner of the presidential election. It’s not much, but it brings us a little closer to the necessary threshold. When that goal has been achieved, perhaps we can move on to ranked-choice voting both statewide and nationwide for fairer elections.

Scott Shuker is a political writer and activist, educator and artist. He has lived in Northern New Mexico since 1995.

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