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Electoral College Dropouts

By Margaret Lyons in News on Jan 15, 2008 10:20PM

2008_1_15.electoralcollege.jpgLast week, both houses of the Illinois General Assembly passed a law that would enable Illinois to bypass the Electoral College in future presidential elections. The move came just before New Jersey Governor John S. Corzine signed similar legislation on Sunday that would eliminate New Jersey's participation in the Electoral College. The only other state to have passed a similar law is Maryland, which was the first state to take up the cause.

Beginning in 2006, a nonprofit called National Popular Vote, Inc., which was started by a Stanford computer scientist, launched a nationwide campaign to abolish the current Electoral College system. The movement to abandon the Electoral College has gotten support from different partisan groups for different reasons; Democrats rally around the 2000 election in which Gore was favored by half a million votes but lost in the electoral college (sort of), while Republicans are eying big states like New York and California, hoping to collect at least some votes that they have been denied in the winner-take-all system.

Another nifty aspect to this is that the process doesn't involve any sort of constitutional amendment. If it happens, change is going to be made entirely by the states. With 21 electoral votes, Illinois would be the largest state to sign on, but a bunch of other states are going to have to get on board if this thing is actually going to happen. The proposed NPV will only take effect if enough states to garner a majority of votes in the Electoral College (270 of 538) have passed the bill. According to a recent In These Times article, "NPV bills are expected to be introduced in all 50 states in 2008."

But back to Illinois...

Illinois is the quintessential example of the flaws in the current system. As a safe state for Democrats, both major party candidates ignore it. There is little motivation to campaign there since the winner in Illinois gets only 21 electoral votes and the loser gets nothing. As a result, Illinois voters play virtually no role in shaping the issues of the election.

Now, however, the bill will be sent to Governor Blagojevich's desk, which, given what has transpired in the past week, seems like it should be a total wildcard. Blago is expected to give the bill his autograph though, as he supported Electoral College reform when he was a congressman. --Mark Boyer

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