New York wants a recount.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that adds New York to the roster of states in the National Popular Vote compact.
The law allows New York to award its 29 electoral votes “in any manner it deems appropriate,” under Article II of the Constitution. Cuomo has pledged New York to give those votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. Currently, New York awards its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.
So far, nine other states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the National Popular Vote compact. Unfortunately for popular vote advocates, this sort of legislation does not actually take effect until enough states — representing a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes — pass similar laws. Ironically, popular-vote advocates have to win over the Electoral College before they can dismantle it.
As a refresher from your high school civics class, here’s how the Electoral College works: Instead of tallying up every vote during the presidential election and declaring a winner that way, the U.S. uses “electors,” or delegates who vote for the candidate who wins in their state. The number of electors in each state varies by the number of congressional districts each state has. In almost every state, electors pledge their votes to the candidate who wins their state’s popular vote.
Where does this become tricky? Popular-vote advocates say the Electoral College system gives disproportionate influence to small states and swing states over the outcome of an election, because small states that may only have one representative in Congress still automatically get three electors. And even if a candidate wins only 51 percent of the popular vote in a given state, he still rakes in all of that state’s Electoral College votes.
The distinction between the popular vote and the Electoral College was never more clear than in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote but still lost the presidency to George W. Bush. Gore earned 500,000 more votes than Bush, yet Bush was awarded 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.
“With the passage of this legislation, New York is taking a bold step to fundamentally increase the strength and fairness of our nation’s presidential elections,” Cuomo said in a press release. “By aligning the Electoral College with the voice of the nation’s voters, we are ensuring the equality of votes and encouraging candidates to appeal to voters in all states, instead of disproportionately focusing on early contests and swing states.”
Other big-hitting states that have signed on to the compact include California, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, and Massachusetts. With 165 electoral votes, the National Popular Vote campaign is a little more than halfway to its goal. But it’ll still need 105 more votes before it can declare victory.
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