It has been almost 12 years since the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bush vs. Gore, stopping the counting of the votes in Florida and handing the presidency to a man who did not win the popular vote, only the fourth time in history that had happened (with John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison all also having been sworn in as president despite having lost the popular vote). On his television network CurrentTV last night, it was clear that his loss due to state manipulation was on his mind, as you can see here:
As Gore said:
“I really do now think it’s time to change that. It’s always tough to amend the Constitution and risky to do so, but there is a very interesting movement under way that takes it state by state, that may really have a chance of succeeding. I hope it does.”
His thought, to drop the electoral college and to switch to a direct popular election is not a new one. While proposed multiple times over this nation’s history, the process would need to amend the US Constitution, never an easy thing. He stated that the movement began in California, which is interesting considering the incredible power held by California in the electoral college system having 55 electoral votes as it is now, a fifth of the total needed to win the election.
“I supported the idea of the Electoral College because the logic is, it knits the country together, prevents regional conflicts, and it goes back through our history with some legitimate concerns. But since, I’ve given a lot of thought to it and I’ve seen how these states are just written off.”
Elections now have come down to a handful of swing states, typically the same ones each election year. Every election, the focus comes down to states like Ohio and Florida, large states with a margin of less than 5%. As a result, these states gain almost all of the focus, and the election comes down to issues important to these handful of states, the other states get left behind as a result. The winner then does not pursue popular topics for the nation, only those in the states which they need to win. As a result, those who fight for the more radical populations themselves embrace the fringe of our society.
While Gore is correct, that an Amendment to the US Constitution would be the most direct, it is not the only method. In 2007, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) was introduced into 42 state legislatures. In the compact, states adopting it would switch from the current winner-takes-all on the state level to awarding all of their votes to the popular vote winner nationwide. The new rules would only take effect once enough states to make up 270 electoral votes adopted the compact. So far 8 states, California, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, along with the District of Columbia, have adopted the new rules. This puts them at roughly the halfway mark for the compact going into effect. By this shift, from a winner-take-all within the state to popular nationwide vote, the issue of a constitutional amendment is avoided, with the results being the same. New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania are also weighing the compact in their current legislative session, and should they pass the measure they would be only 74 electoral votes away from the goal.
Of course, there are movements to end popular voting, with a strong and vocal movement in the Republican party to strip the voters’ rights to choose their senators, turning the choice over to the state legislators. This step backwards from a democratic republic to a confederacy is of course a power grab for those who wish to end the federal government entirely, based on their own warped understanding of history. There was a time when the state legislature also appointed the electoral college, and the people did not vote for the president at all. This movement seems insistent on moving the clock on the most basic of civil rights, the right to vote, back to pre-constitutional levels, where only an aristocracy had any say.
The movement to strip voting rights has gained speed as of late. It even was considered as part of the Republican national platform for this year’s election. With the movements by Republicans to strip voting rights away from minorities and the continuing war on women, it is clear that they have stopped being the party of the people and now focus only on one thing, power, and holding on to it.
With Gore’s support for the movement away from the winner-take-all system which has resulted in a handful of states becoming the entire campaign focus, it is possible that the momentum is starting to grow into a real movement. In the modern era, isn’t it about time we started to embrace the democracy that we claim to fight for?