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Progress on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

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Clean & Fair Elections Update
Progress on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
BY Christian Smith-Socaris
August 21, 2008
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In an effort to provide you with the most up to date information on what progressive states are doing regarding election reform, this email is one in a series of updates we release on a regular basis to highlight what is happening around the country. We hope this is helpful for you as you pursue and track reforms in your state and across the country. Please feel free to send any feedback or suggestions you may have to
Progressive States Network's Election Reform Update has been on hiatus while almost all of the legislatures are out of session.  However, I wanted to give you a quick update on the status of the National Popular Vote Compact.  Earlier this year the compact was signed into law in both Hawaii and Illinois, bringing the electoral vote total to 50, out of the 270 needed to put the compact in effect.  Just last week the compact was passed by both houses in California, while the Rhode Island, and Vermont legislatures did the same earlier in the year.  21 state legislative chambers have now passed the legislation.
While it is heartening that the compact hasn't been voted down in any chamber, the bill failed to get to a floor vote in the Maine House and the opposition was able to put off final action as the clock ran out on the Massachusetts legislative session.  Additionally the bill was vetoed by the Governors of Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont.  The Hawaii legislature, however, was able to muster an override.
The Massachusetts obstacle should be temporary as compact support is strong and opponents should have a hard time playing the same games next session.  I wrote an on the situation in Massachusetts that is pasted below and published here.  Also on the editorial front, the Los Angeles Times has once again given the compact its editorial endorsement with a cogent piece encouraging Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign the bill.
In the balance, progress on passing the compact has been impressive and there are a host of states that we are confident will enact the bill in the coming 2009 sessions.
Hope you are having a good summer, and good luck to all of those who are working hard on the ground to ensure a free and fair election in November!
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Christian Smith-Socaris
Election Reform Policy Specialist
PS:  While the election reform update has been on vacation, you can subscribe to PSN's Stateside Dispatch to remain abreast of political and policy developments regarding the whole range of progressive issues, including election reform.  A recent Dispatch covered threats to election integrity and how progressives are taking back elections for the people.
Popular Vote Is A Popular Choice For Bay State
By Christian Smith-Socaris
Special to the Worcester Business Journal

In this year’s presidential primary, 1.7 million Massachusetts voters cast a ballot. That’s over a million more than the number that voted in the 2004 primary. Such an increase in turnout is unprecedented in the state, and similar increases took place in states throughout the country. What made for such a jaw-dropping surge in democratic participation? The answer is simple: people in every state felt their voices mattered. Wouldn’t it be great if Massachusetts voters felt that way in November as well?
On The Sidelines
Sadly, they won’t because we live in a country with an electoral process that ignores Massachusetts and its voter turnout, and instead delegates the selection of the president to the voters who turn out in just one or two so-called “battleground” states. Massachusetts is just a “spectator” state, which is why you won’t see any presidential candidates campaigning here anytime soon.
Fortunately, there is a movement to change the outdated way we elect the president and replace it with a straightforward national popular vote in which every vote counts and can equally affect the outcome of the election. By leveraging the constitutionally-mandated control states have over the allocation of their votes in the Electoral College, forward thinking legislators are championing an interstate compact that would give each state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
If they succeed, we would finally have a system in which every vote mattered and no state could be ignored. Every presidential election would look like the recent primary. This would be good for Massachusetts and good for democracy.
With a national popular vote, attacks on the federal funding of teaching hospitals would become politically risky; energy policy would not be distorted to benefit farmers in Iowa; and Massachusetts taxpayers might stand a chance of getting a respectable percentage of their tax money back from Washington.
This year, Massachusetts lawmakers had the opportunity to assume a national leadership role by joining Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Illinois as the fifth state to pass the interstate compact. Sadly, that opportunity was not realized.
Most of the blame falls to Republican legislators who utilized procedural ploys to prevent the bill’s enactment even after it had passed both houses. Instead of representing the interests of their state, they decided to rubber stamp the dysfunctional status quo and to consign the state’s tradition of bold leadership to the history books. However, some blame must also be laid at the feet of lawmakers in the Democratic majority, who waited until the end of the legislative session to move the bill to a final vote, at which it became an easy target for its opponents.
Clearly, the extra million Bay Staters who came out to vote in February understand how badly we need a presidential election in which everyone can be an active part. Hopefully, as those voters are once more ignored during the general election, they will let their lawmakers know that the time has come to let the voices of Massachusetts voters be heard.
Christian Smith-Socaris is the senior election reform policy specialist with the Progressive States Network, a national organization that works to implement policies to advance the interests of working families in all 50 states.
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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