A growing number of Americans are deciding that the way we elect the president of the United States must change to ensure that the winner of the nationwide popular vote wins the presidency – which is not currently the case.
That’s the impetus behind a legislative effort filed by Central Florida Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres (BS 236) that would add Florida to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, essentially a compact between the states that would go into effect once states representing a majority of voters — 270 — approve it.
“The national popular vote means that every vote counts,” Torres told The Phoenix in an interview. “This means that every voter knows that their vote counts in who he or she wants to represent them for president.”
The legislation requires the state’s chief election official — currently Secretary of State Cord Byrd — to “designate” the presidential slate with the highest national popular vote total as the “national popular winner.”
Had the compact been in effect during Florida’s 2020 presidential election, Byrd would have had to award Florida’s electoral votes not to Donald Trump, who won the state by more than 3 percentage points, but to Joe Biden, since nationally, the Democrat collected the votes. most votes in the country.
Since the compact’s launch in 2006, 16 states and the District of Columbia have signed it. They represent 205 electoral votes, according to the National Popular Vote website.
This is a way to circumvent the Electoral College without eliminating it via a constitutional amendment. But movement organizers don’t talk much about the Electoral College, “because the Constitution gives states the power to change how they use their electors,” said Patrick Rosenstiel, senior consultant to National Popular Vote.
Once states signing the compact reach 270 electoral votes, the measure will automatically go into effect and will not need to be implemented by Congress, Rosenstiel said.
“States have the power to reward voters in whatever way they believe is in the best interest of their state,” he said, citing Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. “So this is a state action and no federal law is required unless Congress can control the timing.” You still have federal scheduling authority that sets the safe harbor date ensuring that the totals will be available to the compacting states, but that law exists and is in place.
The popular vote
Not everyone agrees that this would work.
“There’s a clause in the Constitution that says interstate agreements are generally subject to congressional approval,” said Andy Craig, director of election policy at the Rainey Center, a public policy organization. “Courts have interpreted this quite narrowly over the years, and there’s some debate about whether it’s actually a covenant. So that’s definitely one of the things that would be litigated if we ever crossed that threshold.
The pact has been approved in states majority controlled by the Democratic Party, which is not surprising considering that twice in the last five presidential elections it has been Democrats – Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 – who won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college. In total, this has happened five times in American history, according to the National Archives.
But Republicans have been supportive of the idea in recent years. It is according to a Pew Research Center survey released in September, which showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans – 65% – would support a change in the way American presidents are elected.
While 82% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents support the proposal, Republicans are more divided, with 52% supporting the existing Electoral College system and 47% supporting the idea of moving to a popular vote system. Pew notes that the Republican Party’s support for the popular vote is the highest on record in recent years — from 37% in 2021 to just 27% after the 2016 election. And Rosenstiel notes that in New York, the measure was overwhelmingly approved in GOP-controlled state Senate in 2014.
It will be the fifth time in as many years that Torres has filed the bill, he said, and acknowledges that the chances of its passage are not strong in Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature .
“We’re going to see what the temperature is in Tallahassee when we get there next year,” he said. “I say, give me a chance to present it in committee. At least they will be able to vote for or against. That would be great. But like everything else, they (Florida Republicans) have the vast majority. They control which bills will be heard and which will be passed.
Advocates also say that, if implemented, the bill would force presidential candidates to compete for votes nationwide, instead of the seven or eight “battleground states” that hold competitive presidential elections.
At the Pinellas County legislative delegation meeting last month, a supporter of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact noted that Florida is no longer considered a swing state, meaning it will likely receive fewer national attention in 2024.
“Other states are considered spectator states, and we will be among them,” said Sarah Peacock of Floridians for the National Popular Vote. “Under the winner-take-all model, 20% of the American population will get to choose our president while 80%, including Floridians, will sit back and watch. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an elegant solution to an unfair problem.
The House equivalent is sponsored by South Florida Democrat Mike Gottlieb.