By Globe Staff
Should the winner of the presidential election be determined by the national popular vote and not by the Electoral College system?
A coalition of good government and civil rights activists thinks so, and they're gathering at the State House today to outline the National Popular Vote bill at a news conference before testifying for it at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Election Laws.
Under the proposed bill, all of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally.
It's more than just a gesture. Supporters are trying to get such bills enacted in states across the nation. Once states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (or 270 of 538) have enacted such laws, the winner of the popular vote would be assured a majority of the electoral votes, no matter how the votes fall in other states.
"It's the right thing to do. It will increase voter participation. It will increase small 'd' democracy by making every vote count and count equally across the country and ensure that the candidate with the most votes actually wins the election," said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.
Under the current system, all of a state's electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in that state. And it's possible for a candidate to win the presidency without winning the popular vote. That happened three times in the 19th century, and it happened in the bitter election of 2000, when Al Gore lost, despite garnering more votes than George Bush.
Proponents of the change say that the current system is confusing and causes candidates to focus on a handful of battleground states. Critics say the change could result in quirky situations in which a state like Massachusetts, typically a Democratic stronghold, would have to pledge its votes to the Republican candidate.
The states have the power under the US Constitution to allocate their electoral votes however they see fit.
The bill passed both the Massachusetts House and Senate at the end of the last legislative session, but did not receive the final votes needed to send it to Governor Deval Patrick's desk. The bill has already been enacted in Hawaii, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland, proponents said.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more