Making Presidential Campaigns National

by Saul Anuzis and Rhett Ruggerio — POLITICO

As Americans look forward to the next presidential election, the political reality of the race will be that the voters in at least 35 states will not matter. As in previous presidential elections, candidates will spend two thirds of their time and money in just six closely divided battleground states. Ninety-eight percent of their resources will be spent in only 15 states.

That is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they carefully crafted the Constitution, which gives exclusive and plenary control to the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes.

As members of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee, we see another way—one which would create a system where the states keep their plenary authority but where every American citizen’s vote matters: A national popular vote.

The National Popular Vote does not abolish the Electoral College. Instead, it uses the states’ existing authority to change how the Electoral College is chosen, namely from the current state-by-state count to the popular vote of the people across all 50 states.

This would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most total popular votes in all 50 states.

The shortcomings of the current system stem from the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state).

Because of the winner-take-all rule, a candidate can win the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in four of the nation’s 56 presidential elections. The 2004 election could have been the fifth: A shift of fewer than 60,000 votes in Ohio would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of 3,500,000 votes.

While the Constitution gives the states exclusive and plenary control, it does not establish or anticipate a winner-take-all system. It was not the Founders’ choice and was used by only three states in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district—a reminder that state action is the constitutionally appropriate approach to determine the way the president is elected.

Under the National Popular Vote, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states. The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a president (270 of 538). The bill would replace the current state-by-state system of awarding electoral votes with a system that represents the will of the people from across the country.

As of today, the National Popular Vote Bill has been passed by 29 legislative chambers in 19 states. A 2007 poll showed 72 percent support nationwide for a national popular vote for the president. This reform of our presidential election system would guarantee that every vote matters, that every state is relevant and that every town and community would have the same value to each and every candidate for president in every presidential election. It would make a vote in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Dover, Delaware as important to the outcome as votes in Sarasota, Florida and Dayton, Ohio.

National Popular Vote will insure that every state is a battleground and force national candidates to run truly national campaigns. We believe this will have the net result of strengthening state parties, as they will be critical in turning out voters in all 50 states.

Currently, the Senate chambers of our home states of Michigan and Delaware are considering a state-based plan for electing the president by national popular vote. The same bill passed the Michigan and Delaware Houses of Representatives with strong bipartisan support.

Yet just as importantly, from our perspective, the National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and would truly nationalize a candidate’s legitimacy and mandate.

Saul Anuzis is a former chairman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Rhett Ruggerio is a former National Committeeman from the Delaware Democratic Party.