Assembly Seeks Nat’l Popular Vote

Would Alter Presidential Contest Outcomes

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and legislative sponsor Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz announced the passage of legislation that would allow New York State to join an interstate agreement to award the state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the majority of the popular vote within all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Voting histories, demographic analysis and a wide range of statistical knowledge arm presidential candidates with a wealth of information to make calculated assumptions on a how a state will vote. This leads to candidates ultimately concentrating the majority of their political effort on a few “battleground” states where research has shown the political affiliations of voters to be evenly divided.

The resulting strategy is that the candidate largely ignores voters from states like New York that have historically supported one political party over another in order to devote more time to “swing states.”

“New York has over 13 million eligible voters, but has been ignored time and again in favor of states where political party lines are not as clearly drawn,” Silver said. “This has led to low voter turnout and a decreased sense of significance amongst voters. It is not fair for voters to feel as though their votes are insubstantial, and it is not right for a presidential candidate to take their votes for granted in favor of a concentrated number of people in a few contentious states. By entering into a National Popular Vote agreement with other states, New York can help strengthen the democratic process and ensure that every citizen’s vote is treated equally.”

The United States is the only democracy with an indirectly elected executive. Each state’s Electoral College membership is determined based on its total Congressional representation in both house. Such a process creates a “winner-takes-all” system and potentially leads to presidential elections such as those in 2000 and 2004, where winners were chosen based upon the outcomes of the election in one state because of its weight in the Electoral College.

A federal constitutional amendment (requiring two-thirds of Congress and 38 states) is not required in order to enact the National Popular Vote and to change the state laws that have led to the winner-take-all systems. Nationwide popular election of the president can be implemented if the states join together to pass identical state laws awarding all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The proposed state legislation (A.4422-A) would come into effect only when it has been enacted, in identical form, by enough states to elect a President, meaning those states possessing a majority (270) of the 538 electoral votes.

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