National Popular Vote Plan: Empowering Americans

by Katie P. Kelly // Published September 13, 2011


This August, California passed the National Popular Vote bill, but opposition is already raising its hand. 

California State senator Doug LaMalfa opposed his state’s entry into the National Popular Vote compact. In a commentary published by in Nevada County (CA), he states:   

“With this bill, Californians lose their absolute right to have their votes count in presidential elections, by circumventing the Electoral College and awarding California's electors to the winner of the national popular vote.”

The complete opposite is true. Individual Californians’ votes will be meaningful with the National Popular Vote plan, just as votes cast in every state will be. Under the status quo, California voters are ignored and irrelevant to the candidates in general elections. 

In the current system, for example, if you are Republican in a typically blue state, -- let’s say, California -- then your vote makes its way into all of the other Republican votes for the state. After your vote is counted at the state level, it is determined which candidate will receive all of the Electoral Votes. Since the Democratic votes typically exceed that of the Republican votes in California, your Republican vote ends up being a part of the minority for the state. 

For example, Barack Obama won California by 23%  in 2008, and a Republican hasn’t won the state for nearly a quarter century. This makes those partisan minorities irrelevant in that state; in this example, those 4.5+ million Republican votes cast for McCain in 2008 were never represented in the national election. Under the “Winner-takes-all” method, none of the 55 Electoral votes that California has to offer are awarded to the Republican candidate– even if 49% of the state votes Republican. 

LaMalfa is viewing the plan within the framework of the current system: a system that divides states and our way of thinking about Presidential elections into “Red and Blue.” The National Popular Vote plan for president  makes the color purple dominant and states become shades of red and blue as they become more representative of the diversity in each state.

As you zoom out to view the map of the country, the reds and blues blend, creating purple – and a much more accurate representation of the people of the United States.  It improves the power of an individual vote by making every vote- your vote, no matter what state you live in, equal to the rest of those in the nation. It makes every single vote count as “1” as we all vote as Americans, and not Pennsylvanians or Californians. 

Under the National Popular Vote plan, California’s Republican votes would count toward the total votes for the Republican candidate at the national level and Democratic votes would count toward the total votes for the Democratic candidate at the national level --, the same way every other individual vote in states across the nation would be counted. 

Here’s another way to think about it.

When you go to the polls on Election Day, do you say to yourself, “this is the candidate that I want to represent my state”? Or, do you say, “this is who I want to represent me, my values and my country”?

We all care about our states and our fellow residents, and some may vote with that interest in mind.  But most of us come to the polls as Americans when we vote for President. 

The National Popular Vote plan empowers the individual vote, just as is true of elections for all of our 50 governors, our more than 7,000 state legislators and our Members of Congress. They are all elected by a popular vote where every vote is equal. It’s time for states to exercise their constitutional power to ensure our most powerful office is elected by the basis of one-person, one-vote as well.