Tuesday March 30, 2010

The citizens of Vermont have been speaking out in favor of National Popular Vote.

In a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, 75 percent of Vermont respondents endorsed the concept of "one person, one vote" -- a revision to our election process that would ensure that the presidential candidate who receives the most votes from the American people wins the election.

In a recent column, my friend and former state senate colleague, George Coppenrath, spoke against national popular vote.

In my tenure as Senate Government Operations Chairman, I examined the issue in committee, took testimony from both supporters and opponents, and heard from Vermonters across the state on the issue.

After close examination of the facts, I became a supporter of "national popular vote," and was a lead sponsor of the issue during the 2007-08 legislative session, as S.270 passed both chambers of the Vermont House and Senate. Despite this broad support, it was vetoed by Gov. James Douglas.

This year, the Legislature is again considering this proposal, under S.34, which has passed the Senate and is under consideration in the Vermont House.

A national popular vote would change our electoral college system from a state-by-state awarding of electoral votes to a system that guarantees the candidate with the most votes in all states becomes the winner. American voters could take pride in knowing that every person who comes out to cast a ballot can make a difference.


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To suggest that national popular vote is an affront to the Constitution ignores the legitimate and historical role that states have played in amending voting laws in this country.

Vermont and its citizens are not well-served by the current system of the Electoral College. Election analysts have suggested that nearly two-thirds of the states are "taken for granted" by the presidential candidates: more often than not they don't visit our states, don't establish campaign offices, and don't poll our citizens for opinions on important issues.

The size of the voting population is not the only factor in determining whether a candidate pays attention to the state. They sometimes ignore states that they think are "a sure bet" vote, whether perceived as a "blue state" or a "red state." Presidential candidates spent the vast majority (estimated at 66 percent) of their money in just six states known as "battleground" states. Vermont, with three electoral votes, doesn't make that list.

The theory that Vermont will lose influence relies solely on population numbers, not on a full examination of many other political factors and realities.

Compare New Hampshire, our closest "battleground" state, also small and holding only four electoral votes.

With their critical, early primary, and a more politically-divided voting population, candidates don't take the chance of ignoring New Hampshire. Presidential candidates visited New Hampshire as many as 12 times leading up to the 2008 primary. Unfortunately, little political energy was expended by candidates to capture Vermont's three electoral votes.

The pending bill, S.34, will help achieve vital election reform. It may be simple, but most Vermonters agree -- the person with the most votes should win the election.

Jim Condos is a Democratic candidate for Vermont Secretary of State. He served four terms as a state senator from Chittenden County and was chairman of the Senate Government Operations and Senate Education committees. He also served 18 years on the South Burlington City Council. He resides in Montpelier.