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March 26, 2014 4:36 PM Abolishing the Electoral College By Small Steps

By Ed Kilgore

Do you hate the electoral college? Many people do, because of what happened in 2000, or because it leads presidential campaigns (and maybe even presidents) to ignore non-battleground states, or because, well, it’s an anti-democratic eighteenth-century relic.

Believe it or not, help could be on the way, but by small baby steps occurring far under the national media radar. As Ben Jacobs reports at the Daily Beast, the National Popular Vote compact is making slow but steady progress towards the day when states representing 270 electorate votes have agreed to cast all of them for the national popular vote winner.

On Tuesday, the New York legislature approved a bill that would allow the Empire State to join the National Popular Vote Compact. The legislation, which still needs to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, would mandate that once states totaling 270 electoral votes join the compact, that all the states give their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who won the national popular vote—-not the popular vote in their state. The result would be to effectively nullify the Electoral College without a constitutional amendment.
Once the bill is signed and goes into law in New York, it means that 10 states plus the District of Columbia, totaling 165 electoral votes will have approved the compact and the list is likely to grow as it has already been approved by one legislative chamber this year in Oklahoma and is making progress towards passage in Connecticut….
There are still many obstacles left for the National Popular Vote Compact to reach 270 votes——the legislation so far has only come into law in Democratic leaning states and is still more than 100 electoral votes away from going into effect. And, even if it achieves that goal, it still faces an array of legal, practical and constitutional obstacles to be implemented.
But New York’s passage shows the momentum for the legislative initiative, which has been slowly picking up support almost every year since Maryland was the first state to adopt it in 2007. If it continues at this rate, 2016 could be the last presidential election conducted on a state-by-state basis.

You’d have to figure the only hard-core opposition to this idea would be from small battleground states like New Hampshire (4 EVs), Iowa (6 EVs) and Nevada (6 EVs), who would no longer demand much presidential general election attention. But these states obviously have other ways to exert influence, as three of the four “privileged” jurisdictions (guaranteed an early start) in the presidential nominating process. Maybe the rest of us should insist they not get a second bite of the apple every four years.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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