A small, but vocal, group opposing the National Popular Vote does not believe every vote for president should count equally. They talk about three myths:
1. Myth: A National Popular Vote will mean California decides who wins the presidency.
No single state or even group of states will decide who wins the election under a National Popular Vote. Voters in the top 5 populated states – California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania in that order – currently split their votes virtually 50/50 between the Republican and Democratic candidates. On top of that, even if every single voter in each of those five states voted for a single candidate, it still would not be enough for that candidate to win the presidency.
Any presidential candidate who focuses on getting as many votes as possible in California while ignoring other parts of the country will be a losing candidate. The population of Texas and Florida combined far exceed the population of California, yet nobody would argue candidates would only focus on Texas and Florida in order to win the election under a National Popular Vote. Under a National Popular Vote, presidential candidates must focus on all Americans regardless of where they live because that’s how they will win.
The misplaced concern about California dominating the national popular vote arises from an exaggerated view of how big California is, how heavily Democratic is, and how many votes are cast in California. One out of every eight voters lives in California, but four out of ten of them vote Republican.
It is true that California has about 37 million people and that it gave Hillary Clinton 62% of its vote in the 2016 election. However, California is counter-balanced by an equally populous Republican area in the south-central part of the country with 37 million people that gave Trump virtually the same percentage of its vote (61%). There is no more reason to worry about California monopolizing the attention of presidential candidates or controlling the nationwide outcome than to worry about the equivalent Republican area.
On top of that, let’s remember which states actually decide our presidential elections under the current system. They are a half-dozen “swing states” or “battleground states” where the election within that state is closely contested. Voters in those small number of swing states truly decide the winner, and the presidential candidates know this. That’s why you see them spending almost all of their time and money in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Florida. Voters in other states, including Colorado, are ignored.
We want to make sure every Coloradan’s voice is heard during presidential elections. In 2016, 1.2 million Coloradans voted for Donald Trump, but all of those popular votes turned into zero electoral votes from Colorado. The same number of people who voted for Hillary Clinton in neighboring states Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma similarly had their votes tossed aside. Unlike the current way we elect the President, the National Popular Vote will count every single vote from Colorado and across America.
If someone is truly concerned about one state or a small number of states deciding the election, that person should support exchanging the small number of swing states in the current system for the National Popular Vote. Every American voter, no matter where that voter lives, will be equally important under a National Popular Vote for the American president.
For more information rebutting the California canard, read “California Would Not Dominate a National Popular Vote” or watch the video “It’s Not About California” on our YouTube channel.
2. Myth: A National Popular Vote will diminish the voice of rural Americans
Under the current electoral college system, most rural states and Americans living in rural areas are ignored by presidential campaigns during the general election. That is because rural states, like most states across the country, are not closely divided “swing states.” Presidential candidates during the general election never visit or build campaigns in states like South Dakota, Wyoming, or Vermont. The only rural Americans the campaigns care about are those rural Americans who happen to live in swing states.
It is hard to think of a system that ignores rural Coloradans more than our current system.
Under a National Popular Vote, every American matters because every vote matters. Presidential candidates will have to address voters across the country because that is the only way the candidate can win. A National Popular Vote system will produce a Democratic candidate who puts forth a serious plan for economic prosperity in rural areas and a Republican candidate that speaks about urban issues because that’s what it would take to win enough votes in the entire country.
The voice of rural America is often underestimated. Rural America contains about the same number of people as our top 100 cities.
Just as a candidate focusing only on rural parts of our country would lose under a National Popular Vote, so would a candidate that focuses only on the top 100 cities. Presidential campaigns should focus on all parts of our country and they would under a National Popular Vote.
In Colorado, voters in the rural part of our state have overwhelmingly supported the Republican presidential candidate since 2008, but all of those votes have given the Republican presidential nominee zero Colorado electoral votes.
The true voice of Colorado is one where all Colorado voters are relevant. None should be tossed aside just because they didn’t vote with the majority. Every vote in Colorado and across the country — rural, suburban, and urban — would count under a National Popular Vote because every vote matters regardless of where the voter lives.
For more information watch the video “Impact on Rural Communities” on our YouTube channel.
3. Myth: The National Popular Vote “sidesteps” the Constitution
The National Popular Vote ensures the presidential candidate that wins the most popular votes nationwide wins the election and it does that by working within the provisions of the United States Constitution.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution says: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.”
The National Popular Vote preserves the Electoral College while at the same time making sure every vote for President throughout the country counts equally.
Our founders set up the Electoral College as the way to elect our President, but purposefully did not specify how those Electors would be selected or allocated. States have used many different methods to select and allocate their Electors during our history. Currently 48 states, including Colorado, have a “winner-take-all” system which means the candidate that wins the most popular votes within Colorado gets all of Colorado’s electors. Nothing in the United States Constitution requires this; in fact, the majority of states did not implement a winner-take-all system until our 11th Presidential election.
Proposition 113, the National Popular Vote, simply changes Colorado’s statewide winner-take-all system to a nationwide winner-take-all system. Whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes in all fifty states plus Washington, DC gets the electoral votes from Colorado and the other states in the agreement. The President and Vice-President are our only nationwide elected office holders and the National Popular Vote treats their selection like a true nationwide election. The most popular votes wins – just like every other election throughout our nation.
A constitutional amendment is not necessary or the best way for states to exercise their authority already granted to them in the Constitution. The National Popular Vote is the only viable way to reform our presidential election system short of going through the unrealistic and unnecessary amendment process.
For more information explaining the Constitutional basis for the National Popular Vote, read “Myths about the U.S. Constitution” in Every Vote Equal: a state-based plan for electing the President by National Popular Vote or watch the video on the National Popular Vote website.