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Taking steps to make every vote count

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - Updated: 8:13 AM

State leaders have announced the passage of legislation that would allow New York to join an interstate agreement to award the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the majority of the popular vote within all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The agreement could change the way we pick a president by placing more states -- and more of your votes -- in play. And it would keep candidates from perhaps taking a state and its voters for granted.

The National Popular Vote agreement is triggered when 270 electoral votes are reached -- enough to give the states that signed the compact a majority of the electoral votes. So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have signed the measure, accounting for 136 electoral votes. The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo and Democratic Assembly-man Jeffrey Dinowitz would add New York's 29 electoral votes.

Voting histories, demographic analysis and a wide range of statistical knowledge arm presidential candidates with a wealth of information to make calculated assumptions on a how a state will vote. This leads to candidates ultimately concentrating the majority of their political effort on a few battleground states where research has shown the political affiliations of voters to be evenly divided. The resulting strategy is that the candidate largely ignores voters from states like New York that have historically supported one political party over another in order to devote more time to swing states.

The United States is the only democracy with an indirectly elected executive. Each state's Electoral College membership is determined based on its total Congressional representation in both houses. Such a process creates a "winner-takes-all" system and potentially leads to presidential elections such as those in 2000 and 2004, where winners were chosen based upon the outcomes of the election in one state because of its weight in the Electoral College.

A federal constitutional amendment -- requiring two-thirds of Congress and 38 states -- is not required to enact the National Popular Vote and to change the state laws that have led to the winner-take-all systems. Nationwide popular election of the president can be implemented if the states pass identical laws awarding all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

If signed, New York would be the second largest state, behind California -- which has 55 electoral votes -- to join the effort.

Groundbreaking stuff. Sure to face scrutiny. Stay tuned.

     

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