NEW YORK TIMES: One Person, One Vote for President

June 21, 2010

Nearly 10 years after George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore and became president anyway, the New York State Legislature has a chance to withdraw from the archaic and unfair way this country picks its chief executives.

The State Senate has adopted, by a vote of 52 to 7, a measure requiring the state to assign all of its Electoral College delegates to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. In the Assembly, 79 of 150 members have signed on to the bill, but it remains stuck in committee. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, should bring it to the floor this week and press all members to vote for it.

The Electoral College was established by the nation’s founders in part to appease slave-owning states. It is based indirectly on population, and slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. Each state now gets as many electoral votes as it has representatives in Congress. New York, for example, has 31 electoral votes, and whoever wins the most votes in New York gets all 31.

The result can be what we all saw in 2000, where the votes of one state, Florida, decided the election despite the fact that Mr. Gore was the nation’s choice by more than a half-million votes. Since then, an organization called the National Popular Vote came up with the end run around the Electoral College that is now before the New York Legislature.

Since it takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, the National Popular Vote laws would go into effect only if states accounting for 270 or more electoral votes agree to the new system. So far, five states, with a total of 61 electoral votes, have done that. New York should become the sixth.

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