It’s a timeless principle in American elections: Everyone’s vote should count, and every vote should be equal.
For presidential elections, that principle should stand – no matter where in the country you live. Yet that’s not how our current system works. That’s why Americans from across the political spectrum have been calling for our country to institute a national popular vote for president for a very long time.
Since 2007, states have been moving steadily, with a constitutionally solid state-by-state policy, to change our presidential election system so that we can have a national popular vote. This movement will ensure that every vote will be equal in every election. Minnesota is now part of that movement as the state legislature just approved the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
All you have to do is look at the state-by-state campaign spending to see that the votes from non-swing states are worth virtually nothing, while votes from battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania are worth a mint. Ultimately, swing-state voters wield out-sized influence with the president, and those states have unfair advantages when it comes to federal policies and federal funding. The policy interests of a few states – those that ultimately choose the president – determine the direction of the country.
With the national popular vote, we will be able to say goodbye to the red/blue map and hello to finding common ground across state lines. Republicans in Minnesota can join forces with political allies in the Dakotas, and it will be meaningful. Democrats in the Dakotas will cast a vote and know it won’t be worthless just because more of their neighbors support the Republican.
With Minnesota joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, we now have states with a total of 205 electoral votes in the Compact – that’s only 65 electoral votes short of the 270 electoral votes required for the compact to go into effect for presidential elections. Under the compact, states that combine for at least 270 electoral votes – a majority of all of the country’s electoral votes – simply agree to award those votes as a package to the candidate who wins the most individual votes throughout the country.
Once a few more states join the compact, with another 65 electoral votes, we will have achieved the goal of making all voters equal in every presidential election. This will be a welcome change.
Under the current system, we watch states turn “red” or “blue” on television on election night and cheer or cry based on the outcome in a handful of so-called “swing” states because the votes in those states are far more important than all the others. Most of the country’s voters end up being marginalized by the candidates and by the media. It’s simply unfair.
The national popular vote is a guarantee that every vote in every state will have equal power in every election. The plan guarantees that the candidate who gets the most popular votes will be elected president, every time. It’s fair. It’s easy. It’s straightforward.
We can elect the president under a one-person, one-vote system. We can expect candidates to court voters in all 50 states and run a national campaign. We can expect every voter to be equal to every other voter. We are already most of the way to the finish line, and Minnesota is bringing us ever closer.
Mary Hartnett is the executive director of Clean Elections Minnesota. You can learn more about Clean Elections Minnesota by visiting their website: cleanelectionsmn.org.