Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Signs Legislation to Reform Electoral College and Establish a National Popular Vote for President

Pam Wilmot, Common Cause Massachusetts, (617) 962-0034

Advocates call move critically important for the nation

BOSTON (August 4, 2010) — Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law today legislation that would establish a national popular for president vote once enough states have agreed to the plan.

“Massachusetts has moved the country one step closer to abandoning an outdated system that effectively disenfranchises two-thirds of the country and four times in our history has elected the second-place candidate,” said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “With a national popular vote, all votes in every state will be equally important.”

The new law makes Massachusetts the sixth state to join an interstate compact that would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide; the agreement takes effect once a sufficient number of states have passed identical laws. Other participating states include Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington.

With the Bay State’s 12 electoral votes, a total of 73 electors are now committed to the national popular vote program. That’s 27 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the proposal.

Once enough states have signed on, participating states will award their electors as a bloc to the candidate capturing the most votes nationwide. That guarantees that the candidate receiving the most votes will be declared the winner of the election.

“This reform is critically important,” said Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause. “We are not red states and blue states, we are the United States. This proposal would bring us together and establish the principal of ‘One person, one vote’ in the most important election in the world — for President of the United States.”

Under the current electoral college system, presidential campaigns are waged largely in a handful of closely divided “battleground” states, such as Ohio and Florida, Wilmot noted. Voters elsewhere, including regularly “blue” states such as Massachusetts and “red” state like Texas, are largely ignored.

“The current system is one reason why U.S. voter participation rates are among the lowest in the world,” Wilmot said. “It must be changed.”

In 5 of the last 12 presidential elections, the switch of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the candidate who did not receive a majority of the votes cast nationwide.

The national popular vote plan is a constitutional and practical way to provide for popular election of the President-a goal polls indicate is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans (over 70% in Gallup polls, 72% in a recent poll of 800 likely Massachusetts voters).