Bunnie Keen: National Popular Vote would make every vote count. Even in Utah.
FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak delivers his State of the State address from the Assembly Chambers of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Nevada will not join other US states that have pledged their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday, May 30, 2019, he had vetoed the measure. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes, File)
On May 21, the Nevada Legislature, dominated by Democrats, approved the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV). That is state legislation seeking to award the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide.
On May 30, the Democratic governor vetoed it. His rationale was a familiar one: The Electoral College protects the interests of smaller states. But he forgot one caveat: Only if your smaller state is an unpredictable one, like Nevada.
Utah and Nevada each have six electoral votes. The Silver State got 17 general election campaign events in 2016. How many did Utah get? One. And that only because of early speculation that the majority of Utahns might do something they hadn’t done since 1964: not vote Republican. And, contrary to popular perception, that’s exactly what happened: The majority of Utahns (54%) voted for anybody but the Republican.
However, the single candidate with the most votes in Utah (46%) was from the GOP, so all six of our electoral votes went with him.
That’s how the Electoral College under its current winner-take-all operating system works. So, next time you hear that a nationwide popular vote could disenfranchise smaller state voters, sacrificing their interests to bigger more densely populated states, think about Utah in 2016, where more than half of the voters were disenfranchised because winner-take-all kept their votes stuck behind state lines.
There may be those feeling that this was a price worth paying to keep a highly unfavorable democrat out of the White House. But to win a nationwide popular vote, major parties must choose candidates appealing to a broader swath of the nation, not just 10-12 unpredictable states. In that event, could we have ended up with different nominees?
But NPV is about the future, not the past and, with the recent addition of Oregon, states equaling 196 electoral votes have joined. When membership reaches the minimum 270 required to win the presidency, all agree to hold off awarding their electors on election night, until votes nationwide are so overwhelmingly in favor of one candidate, the remainder won’t be sufficient to change the outcome. In a squeaker, even Hawaii could make a difference. No more turning off the TV and going to bed after Florida is called.
Then, regardless of the party that wins in these participating states, they will appoint electors from the party that wins nationwide. For voters, it won’t matter if you live in a participating state or not, because electors in these states will be casting their ballots based on nationwide, not statewide totals, so wherever you vote for president, your vote will matter.
For the first time in American history, even if you vote with the minority in your state, you may end up voting with the majority in the country. This applies not only to liberals in conservative states but just as importantly, to conservatives in liberal states. Voter registration and turnout of all affiliations will increase nationwide, because that’s what happens when people know their votes could be the difference between winning and losing.
This takes place currently in states like Nevada … and Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New Hampshire, or any unpredictable battleground state, big or small, that, under the current Electoral College system of winner-take-all, are the only places candidates go, because winning or losing in those 10-12 fickle states means winning or losing the presidency.
NPV is simply winner-take-all expanded to a national level, where a vote is a vote is a vote, rural, urban or in-between, where the interests of every state will be protected, because winning as many votes as possible from every state everywhere, will be the path to victory.
Bunnie Keen grew up in Idaho, attended college in Utah and invites all fellow Utahns to go to nationalpopularvote.com and learn about how to make Utah and all other states equally relevant in presidential elections.