Obama supporters, the final national numbers coming in show that your candidate won re-election by more than 4 million votes. That wouldn't matter, though, if just under 150,000 votes in the swing states went the other way.
Mitt Romney would have collected more electoral college votes and he'd be on the way to the White House — no matter how many popular votes Barack Obama received.
It's more evidence of our outdated electoral college system of electing the president, where we award presidential votes based on which candidate wins each individual state. In 2004, a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio would have made John Kerry president based on electoral votes, even though President George W. Bush won the popular election nationally by 3 million votes.
Then there was 2000, when President George Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral tally thanks to a 537-vote margin of victory in Florida.
The answer is to discard the slave-era practice of electoral voting in favor of choosing the president based on the number of popular votes the candidate receives, something we've never done, by the way. A longtime favorite of Democrats — 2000 is still hard to forget — the National Popular Vote campaign is slowly gathering steam as a bipartisan cause because Republicans and Democrats realize it's more fair.
"Four out of five Americans were ignored during the most recent campaign cycle, including Connecticut,'' said Saul Anuzis, a former state Republican chairman from Michigan who is now lobbying for the National Popular Vote initiative, which is trying to persuade states to pass laws requiring that their electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide.
"Every vote would matter in every state. It would guarantee that the candidate who gets the most votes wins,'' said Anuzis, who swung through Connecticut before the election to meet with Republicans and Democrats.
"We've never had a popular vote," said Anuzis, who noted that the electoral voting system dates to the original 13 colonies. Now, he said there is bipartisan support for making a change. "People view this as a fairness issue. It's an issue of making sure everybody gets to participate."
Who wasn't nauseous from this presidential campaign, which was devoted almost entirely to the citizens in Ohio, Florida and Virginia? Since the end of the Democratic National Convention, for example, the presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates visited Ohio a total of 73 times for campaign events, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy.
It gets worse: The 10 states that Obama and Romney visited after the nominations accounted for 98 percent of the nearly $1 billion spent on campaign advertising this year, according to the National Popular Vote campaign. Connecticut's role in this charade was to function as a bottomless ATM: The candidates stopped by only long enough to milk wealthy Republican and Democratic donors to pay for all those negative ads in the swing states.
"The electoral college certainly feels irrelevant,'' said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. She said while she would prefer not to bypass Congress, she generally supports the National Popular Vote strategy of linking electoral votes to the national preference. "Ever since 2000, people are losing faith in the system."
The National Popular Vote campaign avoids having Congress take up the question by having states adopt legislation requiring that electoral votes be tied to the national vote. Once enough states approve the legislation, they would form a compact, promising that their electoral votes would go to the winner of the national vote.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved popular-vote bills. Supporters in Connecticut, where the plan has thus far failed to pass the General Assembly, plan to try again this legislative session.
"This year gave us another example of a situation where we could very easily have had one person with the popular vote and a different person becoming the president of the United States,'' said state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a past supporter who plans to again introduce the legislation this coming session.
The electoral college system "is fundamentally undemocratic … it creates crazy distortions." During the campaign, Fleischmann said, "The whole of the Northeast was ignored. All of New York, Texas and California were ignored. There are single counties in Ohio that got more attention from the presidential candidates than the entire nation."
Decades ago, when candidates worried about more than a few counties in Ohio and Florida, even tiny Connecticut mattered. In 1960, John F. Kennedy, unbelievably, finished his presidential campaign with an election eve speech on the steps of the Hartford Times building.
There could be truly national elections again, but first we must change how we vote.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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