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Bipartisan bunch pushes National Popular Vote

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under 2012 Presidential election, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, National campaigns, Democrats, Republicans Updated: December 17, 2012 - 11:39 AM

On the same day Minnesota's presidential electors will ceremonially cast their votes for President Barack Obama, a bipartisan bunch of Minnesota lawmakers proposed exchanging the power of the Electoral College and making the national popular vote supreme.

The new system, backed by a diverse group of legislators, would give weight to the number of actual votes presidential candidates get, rather than just number of Electoral College votes, in presidential elections. A diverse group of Minnesota backers say it would  mean every vote would have equal value during presidential campaigns, removing the candidates' incentive to focus primarily on the handful swing states.

"Everyone understands that places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, swing states, this is a really good process for them right now. Unfortunately, the rest of the country gets hosed," backer Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said Monday.

The idea of swapping the power of the electoral college for a popular vote system is not new. A Minnesota measure to join a national compact pass a single committee passed a Republican-controlled House committee last year but never got a full vote in either the House or the Senate.

But, with another presidential election in which Minnesota was all but ignored in the rear view, supporters hope the change will be embraced.

"It's an idea whose time is come," said backer Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. Rep. Steve Simon, incoming chair of the House elections committee and a St. Louis Park Democrat, is a support and outgoing House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, supported the 2011 measure.

Detractors fear the a popular vote system would mean that candidates would focus only on populous states and fear the specter of a national recount, which could paralyze the process.

This year's national Republican Party platform took a strong position against the idea.

"We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose “national popular vote” would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency," the GOP platform says. The national Democratic platform lacks a similar position.

The current proposal would not dump the electoral college system completely, which would require a constitutional amendment. Instead, if it wins approval, it would guarantee that presidential electors would give their votes to whomever wins the popular vote. 

For the change to take effect, states across the country, whose votes are worth 270 electoral college votes, would have to approve a compact giving power to the national popular vote. So far, nine states, with 132 electoral votes, have approved the plan.

"We're almost half way to where we need to be to change the system constitutionally," said Pat Rosenstiel, consultant to the National Popular Vote campaign.

At noon on Monday, Minnesota's presidential electors -- all Democrats -- will meet to cast their ballots for Obama at the State Capitol.

 

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