WASHINGTON — A national campaign to change the presidential election system is targeting Oklahoma and most other states with bills that would recast the Electoral College to reflect the national popular vote, rather than the popular vote in each state.
“How can anybody be against every vote counts equally, and the candidate with the most votes wins?” entrepreneur Tom Golisano, the new national spokesman for the National Popular Vote campaign, said here Tuesday.
The National Popular Vote effort has been active for years and successful in getting six states and the District of Columbia on board with a proposal to change the presidential Electoral College system without an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The group's legislation would set up a compact among states to instruct presidential electors to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, rather than the state's popular vote.
Had the plan been in effect in 2008, Oklahoma's seven electors would have had to cast their votes for then-Sen. Barack Obama, since he won the nationwide popular vote, rather than Sen. John McCain, who won the state.
Oklahoma state Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, has introduced a bill to establish Oklahoma's membership in the agreement among the states to elect the president by national popular vote.
A similar bill died in the last Legislature. In fact, the Oklahoma House passed a resolution in 2009 supporting the current system.
Supporters say a national popular vote would change the dynamics of presidential campaigns, which divide the country up into battleground states and those that get little or no attention because the outcome isn't in doubt.
They also contend that the change would increase voter turnout and prevent what has happened four times in the nation's history, most recently in 2000: A candidate who won the popular vote lost the election.
Critics say the change would harm the geographic balance inherent in the current system. Moreover, they say a national popular vote system would simply change which states have influence in elections rather than increasing the influence of all states.
Golisano, who founded the company Paychex and ran unsuccessfully for governor in New York, said the National Popular Vote campaign will be active in 43 states, pushing its message on college campuses and through social networking.
The group's goal, he said, is success in states with a total of 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win the presidency — by 2012 to effect the change for the 2016 election.