(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A national movement to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states combined gained steam today with the financial support of a billionaire businessman who has committed resources to enacting the concept across the country, including Nevada. Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex, the nation’s second largest payroll and human resource company, is now the national spokesman for the National Popular Vote organization. Golisano’s support has allowed the group to put teams in all states that have yet to pass the bill.
In a telephone conference call with the media, Golisano said: “This effort is going to expand geometrically during the next 18 months. Our goal is to get this done by the end of 2012 which would make it effective for the 2016 election.”
Golisano said 75 percent of American voters believe the electoral process now used to pick the president is flawed and should be changed.
“My speculation is that if the other 25 percent totally understood it at the level we understand it, that number might go up to 90 or 95 percent,” he said. “The other most important fact is when we wake up on Wednesday morning, the presidential candidate that had the most wins should become the president of the United States, and this is what the national popular vote bill is all about.”
The proposal was debated in the Nevada Legislature in 2009.
Assembly Bill 413, which would have adopted the popular vote proposal, passed the Assembly on a party line 27-14 vote with Democrats in support. But it did not get a vote in the Senate by a legislative deadline. A bill has not been introduced yet in the 2011 session.
The proposal has been enacted in six states, including Hawaii and Washington, and the District of Columbia.
It would eliminate the current system in most states, including Nevada, where a presidential candidate wins all of a state’s electoral votes for winning the popular vote in that state. Electoral votes would still be counted, but states supporting the change would see their electoral votes go to the national popular vote winner.
The group says the winner-take-all rule has permitted a candidate to win the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of 56 elections. The group notes that a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohioin 2004 would have elected Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry despite George Bush’s 3.5 million vote lead nationwide.
The group says another shortcoming of the winner-take-all rule is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and ad money in the November general election campaign in just six closely divided “battleground” states. Nevada was one of those states.
The National Popular Vote proposal would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes – that is, enough electoral votes to elect a president, which is 270 of 538.
Supporters of the proposal in Nevada at a 2009 hearing cited fairness as the reason for their support.
But former Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, explained his rationale for opposing the change: “Let us say there is a candidate who is vehemently against Nevada. This candidate proposes burying all nuclear waste in Nevada. Ninety percent of the state votes against this candidate, but that candidate wins the popular vote by 1 percent nationwide. You are suggesting that we should enact this law that would essentially disenfranchise our voters and elect someone who would go against our wishes?”
Larry Sokol, representing the National Popular Vote at the hearing, replied: “Your votes did matter, your votes were heard, but they just happened to be in the minority.”
Janine Hansen, president of the Nevada Eagle Forum, opposed the measure as well, saying Nevada’s battleground status brought then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to Elko.
“If we just relied on Nevada’s popular vote, we would probably never see another presidential candidate,” she said.