News Section: National Government
Reform Group Calls on Florida to Join Presidential Popular Vote Initiative
National Popular Vote is a non-partisan group that has helped to promote interstate compacts that pledge to award all electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote at the national level. So far, seven states and the District of Columbia have joined, and legislation has been introduced in the other 43 states. The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform is urging our state to follow suit and Florida Senator Tony Hill (D-Jacksonville) has already introduced a bill to make it so.
“It’s really pretty simple,” says Yury Konnikov, President of FLIER. “Under the National Popular Vote compact, Florida would join other states and the District of Columbia, in agreeing to award all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally. This ensures that all votes are equal and that all votes matter.”
Of course Florida has a special relationship with the electoral college thanks to our dubious role in the 2000 election, the last time an American President was seated without winning the popular vote. Even though George W. Bush benefited from the electoral college when being appointed President by the Supreme Court after losing the popular vote in 2000, he nearly lost his 2004 bid for reelection, despite winning the popular vote by around 3,000,000 votes that time. If as little as 60,000 of those votes would have shifted just in Ohio, he would have lost the election.
A quiet, but intense war has been underway over the last decade to decide how direct our democracy should be. Opponent groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council have been working hard to defeat referendum style voting, while striving for increased corporate influence by way of removing campaign contribution limits and creating obstacles that make it harder for people to vote at the polls. Such campaigning has clearly been successful, as 33 states have introduced new voter ID laws this year alone, despite no evidence that voter fraud has been a factor in election results.
In today's presidential races, most states aren't really contested because their electoral college outcome is almost a forgone conclusion. Therefore, a Republican has almost no chance of impacting a presidential election by casting their vote in D.C. or Massachusetts; same for a Democrat in Utah or Wyoming. Such states are going to go the other way, as are all of the electoral votes in the winner-take-all system. If the popular vote counted, votes in such states would be much more meaningful in terms of potential impact on the result.
It's no secret that certain demographics tend to vote in certain patterns. By manipulating the way votes are included and counted, control of the outcomes can be more easily influenced. So while the seemingly simple argument that whomever receives the most votes from American voters in a presidential election should become our president might seem elementary, there is too much at stake to expect such revolutionary changes to come easily.
Though Florida is often considered a swing state, it has voted more reliably Republican at all levels in recent years. With a sweeping GOP majority at the state level, shifting to such a policy will surely be an uphill fight that will require tremendous popular support to achieve.