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Debate focuses on electing presidents by popular vote

December 03, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Nine states, including Maryland, have joined the National Popular Vote movement to elect presidents by popular vote.

Bills to adopt the issue in both houses of the West Virginia Legislature have languished there for more than four years.

The movement was the subject of a debate Monday night between W.Va. Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, and Patrick Rosenstiel of Minnesota, senior consultant for the National Popular Vote campaign.

Apparently the subject was not on the minds of many area voters. Aside from a couple of officials and two reporters, only six citizens came to the debate Monday night in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

The National Popular Vote bill aims to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia while still maintaining the Electoral College.

“The bill preserves the Electoral College while ensuring that every vote in every state will matter,” Rosenstiel said.

Doyle, who opposes the idea, said the movement would create “an end run around the Electoral College and reduce it to a facade.”

He said he could support presidential elections by popular vote “if there was a constitutional convention to abolish the Electoral College.”

The movement was founded in 2005, Rosenstiel said. Proponents claim the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness.

To date, Rosenstiel said, nine jurisdictions — Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Hawaii and the District of Columbia — have joined the pact for a total of 132 Electoral College votes with 270 needed to elect a president.

Every state gets one electoral vote for each congressional district, plus two for each U.S. senator.

In the Tri-State area, Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, Maryland has 10 and West Virginia has five.

The foreword in “Every Vote Equal,” a 620-page book on the need for a national popular vote that the National Popular Vote movement is handing out, quotes John Anderson, who ran for president as an independent in 1980.

He wrote that apportioning electoral votes according to the number of members of Congress in each state “is anti-democratic because it makes electoral power in the presidential race dependent on the population of a state rather than on its number of voters.”

Rosenstiel said both presidential campaigns visited Ohio 73 times and Virginia 36 times. None visited West Virginia, which borders both of those states, because West Virginia was a “flyover state. Candidates don’t waste time and money on states that they have absolutely lost or won,” he said. “Votes in those states don’t count.”

Rosenstiel said his advocacy group is “working in all 50 states with various stages of progress. We don’t have a map to 270 votes.”

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