i don't know whether this has been discussed here previously, but it's a really cool idea, i think. this site details a plan to bring the u.s. into a popular vote in a piecemeal kind of way.
basically, if i understand it right, every state who passes this law, agrees to work with every other state that does it. they all add up their popular votes and give their E.C. votes to the combined winner.
i think this is fucking brilliant. of course it still doesn't use weighted voting, which means a vote for mr. green is a vote for mr. red. and a vote for mr. perot is a vote for mr. blue. but it's a great start! plus it seems realistic. the most liberal states, like california, would likely start on at first, and then it would slowly spread and build momentum. and even if only 5 states did it, for example, that would still give people incentive to vote in non-contested states, because as a whole there might be some contestability to those states.
No state may enter into any treaty, compact, or agreement with another state without Congressional consent. The proposed agreement violates that requirement, and removes a cherished congressional power. Ain't gonna happen. Not too mention that paragraph 7 of Article three would never fly, period.
States so have all sorts of cooperations that operate below the Congressional radar though, don't they? Not to say that Congress would bar this anyhow, particularly if looked relatively neutral for each party. Indeed, the Electoral College voters can enter into any arrangement that they wish, I guess, although I imagine that the Courts would see through that.
It's weird that States can't form 'agreements' with other States without the approval of representatives from other states who aren't involved in the arrangement. I can see the point in banning treaties with foreign nations, because that is properly the job of the federal government, but I don't see why all interstate agreements should be disallowed without explilict Congressional consent (although I can see why some should be, and why they could be overruled by Congress on occasion even if they were, broadly, allowable).
Section 10 - Powers prohibited of the States
paragraph 3: "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."
Stanford professor stumps for electoral alternative
A Stanford University computer science professor has come up with an idea to circumvent the more than 200-year-old Electoral College system and institute a national popular vote to elect the president of the United States.
The proposal by John Koza, who also invented the scratch-off lottery ticket, is receiving serious consideration by lawmakers in several states. Legislators in California, New York, Colorado, Illinois and Missouri have sponsored bills to enact such a plan.
Koza's scheme calls for an interstate compact that would require states to throw all of their electoral votes behind the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of which candidate wins in each state. The plan doesn't require all 50 states to join, but a combination of states that represent a majority (at least 270) of the electoral votes. If the largest states join in the agreement, only 11 would be needed.
Supporters say the proposal would avoid such controversial results as the 2000 presidential election when Republican George W. Bush was declared the winner despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore, a Democrat. There were three other instances in the history of the United States -- 1824, 1876 and 1888 -- when the winner of the popular vote lost in the Electoral College vote.
Proponents say Koza's proposal is ingenious because it would avoid the immensely difficult task of trying to get rid of the Electoral College system by amending the U.S. Constitution.
Koza, who co-wrote a 620-page book detailing why it's time to change the system and how his plan would work, said his goal for this year was to let his ideas germinate with hopes of catching the attention of some state lawmakers. But the proposal caught on faster than expected.
In Sacramento, a bill by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, has cleared the state Assembly on a largely partisan vote and gained approval in a state Senate policy committee, a positive sign that it may pass the Senate as well. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the governor has not taken an official position on the bill.
"I think that the Electoral College no longer serves a useful purpose," Umberg said. "I think direct election of the president by the citizens of the U.S. is a better way to go."
Assemblyman Mike Villines, R-Clovis (Fresno County), however, argues that a national popular vote is a bad idea that would force presidential campaigns to focus only on large urban areas such as Los Angeles, New York and Miami.
And that explains why five Republican lawmakers in New York have sponsored a bill in that state, he said.
"I think it really hurts the (election) process and, to me, I think it disenfranchises a lot of voters," he said.
Still, in other states like Colorado and Illinois, Koza's idea have found bipartisan support.
"We were surprised that this would happen so quickly," Koza said.
Critics argue that there is nothing wrong with the current system of U.S. citizens voting for a slate of electors who in turn cast the actual ballot to elect the president.
"I don't see any reason to change the Electoral College system," said John Pitney Jr., professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College. "After the 2000 elections, there was a dispute of what happened in Florida, but people didn't seem too concerned afterward. Most Americans see the outcome as legitimate."
The Electoral College has been part of the U.S. presidential election process since the very beginning. It was conceived as a compromise between election by the Congress, which the Founding Fathers thought would give lawmakers too much control over the president, and direct election by U.S. citizens.
Each state has one elector for each of its representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. When voters go to the polls, they are in fact picking the electors who actually choose the candidate.
Currently, all but Maine and Nebraska have instituted the winner-take-all system, meaning 48 states -- including California -- award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who has won their state's popular vote. Maine and Nebraska award their electoral votes according to the results in each congressional district. Colorado attempted to go down a similar route in 2004, but voters rejected the idea.
Koza, a registered Democrat who served as an elector in 1992 and 2000, claims the current system also has resulted in presidential campaigns largely ignoring states that heavily favor a particular party or candidate. California, which has strongly supported Democratic candidates in recent presidential elections, has become a state that candidates only visit to conduct fundraisers, he said.
"The main thing wrong with the current system is that two-thirds of the states are left out from the whole system ... because a (presidential) candidate has no reason to campaign in those states where they are way ahead or way behind," said Koza, 63, who lives in Los Altos Hills. "It's not just whose baby gets kissed in which campaign, it means that, for example, California issues such as Pacific Rim issues, high tech, California's agriculture don't get addressed."
Koza said he believes a direct popular vote is the answer.
However, getting rid of the Electoral College by amending the U.S. Constitution would not be an easy task. It requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress as well as acceptance by three-fourths of the states.
So, rather than eliminating the Electoral College system, Koza is proposing to use two provisions in the Constitution to circumvent the system: interstate compacts and the states' power to decide how they award their electoral votes.
While many political scientists say this is a legally viable way to institute a national popular vote without amending the Constitution, finding enough states to jump on board will be difficult.
"In terms of the likelihood of this actually happening, I think it's pretty slim, considering many of the states have vastly different political leanings," said Nancy Martorano, an assistant political science professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio. "I just don't think states like Texas and California will ever enter into any sort of interstate compact."
Perhaps an easier fix would be to change the states' winner-take-all system to awarding electoral votes in proportion to the popular vote, Martorano said.
Despite his day job as a computer scientist, pushing for major initiatives is not new for Koza, who admits he is a longtime Electoral College junkie.
In 1984, he was the brains behind the California state lottery initiative, which voters approved that November. At the time, he was running a company in Atlanta that made lottery tickets for more than a dozen states and wanted to expand his business by introducing lottery initiatives in various states.
Koza said he sees his latest efforts as a longer marathon. He believes it would take at least a few years to get enough states on board.
"Realistically, we would probably need about half of the states," he said. "But we've gotten some good responses so far."
Hey! He invented the scratch-off lottery ticket...and elections are a lot like playing the lottery. And actually, the more I read about this, the more I think it is legal. The states aren't entering into any agreement with each other. They are just agreeing to put all their EC votes behind the winner of the national popular vote. Granted, plurality voting ("first past the post") is a fundamentally horrible voting system, but at least a popular vote would mean something.