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New Jersey Joins Ranks of States Pushing for National Popular Vote

January 4, 2007

On Thursday, in a 21-12 vote, the New Jersey State Senate adopted legislation that would grant the state’s 15 Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, rather than the candidate who carries the state.  The bill, which was approved by the Assembly 43-32 last month, will now go to Governor Jon Corzine’s desk for approval. 

When signed, the measure will add New Jersey to a growing movement to create an interstate compact to supplant the Electoral College with a national popular vote system.  Legislative sponsors of the bill, argued that a national popular vote is necessary to ensure that small states and predominantly “blue”? or “red”? states receive as much attention during campaign seasons as traditional swing states such as Ohio and Florida.

“This is a major step forward in the battle to bring fairness and true democracy to our outdated electoral process,”? said Joel Barkin, executive director of Progressive States Network, a policy group that has been working to support a 50-state effort to implement the national popular vote compact.  “We congratulate the Senate on their bold move toward a one-person one-vote system, and we urge Governor Corzine to follow in its footsteps.”?

According to Barkin, the national popular vote movement is a sorely needed antidote to the current two-tiered system of “swing”? and “spectator”? states.  Citing figures showing that presidential candidates devoted 75 percent of their peak season spending to just five states in the last election cycle, he argued that “a national popular vote is the only way to make sure that a few hundred thousand voters don’t get to monopolize national politics.”?

First proposed in 2006, the interstate compact plan has quickly gained steam as a more expedient alternative to a constitutional amendment adopting a national popular vote.  Under the plan, each state would use their constitutionally granted discretion over the apportionment of their electoral votes to pledge their votes to the nation’s top vote getter.  The plan would go in to effect once enough states had signed on to give the national popular vote winner a 270 vote majority in the Electoral College. 

National popular vote legislation has already been passed in Maryland, and similar measures have been passed by legislative bodies in six other states, including Arkansas, Colorado, California, and North Carolina.  A National Popular vote bill has passed both houses in Illinois and is currently awaiting signature by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

According to a 2007 study by Harvard University, over 72 percent of Americans support replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote.