“The one-third of voters in our state that voted for Donald Trump, those votes didn’t count at all.”
The Electoral College vote happens on Monday, and some good-government groups and democracy reformers are taking the opportunity to renew their calls for a one-person, one-vote system.
Massachusetts is part of the National Popular Vote compact, which says if states representing 270 electoral votes – the number required to win – all join the agreement, they’ll award their electors to the presidential candidate with the most votes nationwide. Five of the nation’s 46 presidents have come second in the popular vote, including Donald Trump and George W. Bush.
Pam Wilmot, vice president for state operations at Common Cause Massachusetts, pointed out the winner-take-all method of awarding electors has led to less voter engagement and participation in Massachusetts as well as other states not considered battlegrounds.
“The process means that the vast majority of states, including our own state of Massachusetts, are ignored in the process; we essentially have no role,” Wilmot said.
She said focusing on a small number of votes in a small number of battlegrounds leads to more opportunity to try to manipulate the outcome. She thinks that’s part of why the Trump campaign has tried to overturn the results, despite the wide margin.
Proponents of the Electoral College say the system prevents chaos in close elections – it makes targeted recounts possible for only the states where the vote is close, or might affect the overall outcome, whereas a close national popular vote could prompt a full national recount.
Wilmot said safe Democratic states such as Massachusetts are impacted, but also Republican states – both small and large – because the outcome is the same if a candidate wins by one vote or by 1 million votes.
“The one-third of voters in our state that voted for Donald Trump, those votes didn’t count at all. If we had a national popular vote, those would be added to the totals of other voters in other states,” she said.
Two states do split their electoral votes by congressional district – Maine and Nebraska. But for others that lean heavily toward one party or the other, Wilmot said, democracy is better when everyone participates, and she thinks a national popular vote would help.