Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calls the National Popular Vote Compact “the most important issue no one is talking about.”
It’s an agreement between states to moot the Electoral College by casting electoral votes for the candidate who wins the national popular vote. The compact would take effect once it’s ratified by states comprising 270 electoral votes. So far, nine states with 132 electoral votes have joined. They’re all reliable blue states that are usually ignored by candidates.
The Illinois General Assembly ratified the compact in 2008, and it was signed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It’s been seen as the Democratic Party’s revenge for the election of 2000, when Al Gore won the popular but lost in the Electoral College to George W. Bush. But the compact was supported by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who pointed out that presidential candidates only visit Illinois for money. (The last big campaign event here was a 2000 rally for Gore in downtown Chicago.)
“When you govern, you remember particularly where you campaigned,” Edgar told the National Press Club. “You remember who you met when you campaigned. Today, for president, most of the states, most of the people are really ignored by the candidates, because they only concentrate on a few states. My home state of Illinois, we’re pretty much ignored, unless they drop in to Lake Forest to have a fundraiser. We have over 12 million people who are disenfranchised. That happens throughout America. In fact, most of the American people are left out of this process.”
California and New York feel the same way. Both are “ATMs” for presidential candidates, as one California senator put it, but neither get campaign visits.
McConnell opposes the compact because, he says, a close election could lead to a nationwide recount that might not choose a president by January 20.
The Midwest is the battleground of American politics -- except for Illinois. Barack Obama actually used this to his advantage in 2008, by dispatching hometown volunteers to the swing states of Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa and Michigan. He won five out of six. Had the presidency been decided by popular vote, Obama would have kept his troops in Illinois, to squeeze as many votes as possible out of his home state.
We won’t always have a favorite son on the ticket, though. When we don’t, it will be nice to know that our votes matter.
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