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Electoral College Killed Auto Industry Aid Bill - And Michigan House Approves NPV Bill to Kill Electoral College

When the U.S. Senate killed the auto industry rescue bill last week, some conservative commentators saw it as payback for Michigan voting the wrong way in the November election.  William D. Zeranski at the popular rightwing American Thinker site argued, "We know which way those 17 Electoral College votes will go.  So, how does helping bailout the Big Three help the GOP?" 

Local Michigan Republican leaders themselves began worrying that national party leaders would begin ignoring state concerns after McCain lost the Great Lakes states.   As Republican pollster Steve Lombardo said after the election, "It's a matter of worry...It may be that Republicans begin to write off Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota."

Of course, the writing off of all Michigan voters only makes sense politically because of the Electoral College.  Under that system, states rather than voters are represented in the Presidential vote and the country is divided into "swing states" - where Presidential candidates need to campaign - versus the rest of the states, which can be ignored as "safe" states for one party and written off as useless by the other.

Michigan House Approves National Popular Vote for President:   But there is an option to end that system.  In a vote that probably not coincidentally occured the same day as the U.S. Senate vote against the auto industry, the Michigan State House in an overwhelming bipartisan vote (65-36) approved HB 6010 to join the interstate compact to de facto abolish the Electoral College and assure that the winner of the National Popular Vote (NPV) becomes President.   Michigan House Republicans provided almost a third of those votes, recognizing that under the Electoral College system, their national party counterparts were essentially abandoning them. 

As Michigan state leaders argued, the point of a popular vote for President is not just for the abstract democratic principle of assuring that the popular winner become President;  it's to encourage candidates to fight for every vote in every state and never to have a reason to ignore their concerns.  Majority floor leader Steve Tobocman, the main sponsor of the bill, noted:

“The [National Popular Vote] also will discourage candidates from ignoring so-called ”˜fly-over states.’ John McCain bailed out of Michigan and Barack Obama pulled out of North Dakota for one reason: those electoral votes were out of reach.”  

NPV- Making Flyover States and Issues Matter:   In fact, despite talk of a "fifty-state campaign," the reality was that 98% of Presidential campaign events and spending went to just fifteen states-- and four states received over 50% of all campaign attention, according to  a new report by FairVote.  Thirty-four states were essentially written off by both campaigns.

The effects in the elections were obvious: the targetted 15 states had a turnout of 66.9%, while the remaining states had a much lower 60.7% turnout.  In fact, in fourteen of the "flyover" states, voter turnout declined compared to 2004.

But beyond the election, it's the marginalization of the issues that matter to those flyover states that is the most pernicious effect of the Electoral College system.    There should be a substantive political debate on any industry investments by the federal government, but we have a broken system when the auto industry bill could be dismissed by some national Republicans because Michigan is no longer a swing state.    

And the problem is not just that individual states get ignored.  Because African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics, for example, are concentrated in non-swing states, Presidential candidates have downplayed civil rights issues for a generation, leading the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Latino Congress and the Asian American Action Fund, to all endorse National Popular Vote as an alternative to our present system..

States Moving Rapidly Towards National Popular Vote:  A survey of 800 Michigan voters conducted on December 2-3, 2008 showed 73% overall support for a national popular vote for President, reflecting broader national support for National Popular Vote.  When the Michigan House voted for HB 6010, it became the twenty-second legislative chamber to vote for NPV, with Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey enacting it into law.  

No state should be a flyover state whose issues like the auto industry aid bill get dismissed on partisan grounds.  Instead, legislative leaders across the country are embracing the National Popular Vote compact in hopes of creating a Presidential electoral system where every vote matters -- and is fought for by Presidential candidates --  and the issues that matter in each state matter equally in the national debate.


Resources

MI HB 6010, Michigan National Popular Vote compact bill
Progressive States Network- National Popular Vote- A Voter Turnout and Civil Rights Issue
National Popular Vote - Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan For Electing The President By National Popular Vote
FairVote - Presidential Elections Inequality: The Electoral College in the 21st Century
FairVote - 2008's Shrinking Battleground and Its Stark Impact on Campaign Activity