State legislators say popular vote should award electoral votes

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Publishers Political Editor

As 10 selected electors of the Minnesota Electoral College were about to cast votes for president and vice president, a DFL state senator and a Republican state representative explained their plans to lead a bipartisan effort to join the National Popular Vote agreement.

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, agree that the popular vote should determine the electoral votes.

The 2013 legislative session will mark the third consecutive time that a bipartisan movement has been attempted to reform the Electoral College by utilizing popular vote.

District 45 Sen. Ann Rest (DFL) of New Hope and District 58B Rep. Pat Garofalo (R) of Farmington appeared at a press conference in the State Office Building on Monday to explain their intent to use previous bill language in making another National Popular Vote bill attempt. The bill managed to get as far as passage in the government Operations Committee on a bipartisan vote.

Sen. Rest is chief author of the national Popular Vote bill in the senate. Rep. Garofalo and District 46B Rep. Steve Simon (DFL) of St. Louis Park are co-authors on the House side.

Pat Rosenstiel of the National Popular Vote movement introduced the subject, saying the organization is a 501C-4 from California, advancing interest in the popular vote. Currently, a presidential and vice presidential candidate must gain 270 electoral votes to clinch election.

The National Popular Vote bill would award Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to the candidate for president who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states. The agreement takes effect when states totaling 270 or more electoral votes pass the National Popular Vote bill. Currently, the bill model has passed 31 legislative chambers and passed eight states amounting to 132 electoral votes. “We are almost half way there,” said Rosenstiel.

It is possible that 2016 could be an election using the National Popular Vote model, said Rosenstiel.

“The idea of using the popular vote is one whose time has come,” said Rest. “Every single vote is valued the same as every other vote.”

Legislators emphasized that the U.S. Constitution does not need to be changed to make the popular vote process possible.

Current Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty both said that in order to have this legislative voting change made, it required bipartisan support. In 2010. administrative election reform was achieved by changing the state primary election date and by making campaign reform.

Garofalo emphasized that this bill would declare the candidate with the most votes the winner and every vote would have equal value. “It’s good for the state and good for the nation,” Rep. Garofalo said. He added that this bill has broad support of DFL and Republican legislators.

The most important consequence of a state winner-take-all statute is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind.

It was pointed out by Rest and Garofalo that during the 2012 presidential election, candidates for president and vice president held 253 post-convention campaign events in just 12 states. The other 38 states had zero events. Advertising costing $939,370,708 was concentrated in the same 12 states.

State winner-take-all statutes have permitted candidates to win the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of our 57 elections, proponents said. A shift of about 214,733 votes in 2012 would have elected Mitt Romney despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of over 4.7 million votes.

The current system is broken, said Garofalo. He said it should be fixed and it will then preserve the Electoral College.

With the new legislation, every vote in every state will matter, Sen. Rest and Rep. Garofalo said. Recounts would also be less likely under the National Popular Vote, proponents said.

Authors of the legislation said they expect it to be introduced early in the 2013 session.

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