Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Tuesday that adds New York to the list of states that have joined National Popular Vote compact. Under this interstate agreement, member states will award their electoral votes for president to the candidate that receives a majority of the national popular vote.
“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,” Governor Cuomo said. “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. I am particularly heartened to sign this legislation as it embodies both in process and substance the Empire State’s tradition as a national progressive leader. Today, in signing this legislation, I am pleased to add New York to the growing list of states who have joined together to make this reform a reality.”
This legislation utilizes New York State’s right under the U.S. Constitutional to award its electoral votes in any manner it deems appropriate (Article II, Section 1). With Governor Cuomo’s signature, New York pledges to award its 29 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in ALL 50 States plus the District of Columbia, but only to take effect once enough other states have passed identical legislation so that the compact possesses a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes. New York provides a significant step towards this marker, as the compact now contains 165 of the necessary 270 electoral votes (61 percent).
A federal constitutional amendment is not required to affect this change, as Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution provides states the plenary power to award electoral votes in any manner they choose: “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…” Currently, like 47 other states, New York uses the winner-take-all method in which the winner of the popular vote in New York State receives all of its electors. This method was used by only 3 states in 1789.
The National Popular Vote legislation adheres to the basic principles of fairness in elections. Under the current winner-take-all system, Presidential candidates are able to ignore reliably Republican and Democrat states, like New York, and focus all of their attention and resources on a select group of battleground states. Therefore, candidates have no reason to focus on the many issues that matter to millions of New Yorkers across the state. The current system artificially divides the country into red, blue, and swing states. New York is a victim of this system – despite ranking 4th in the country with over 13 million eligible voters, New York ranked dead last in Presidential campaign spending.
By signing this legislation, Governor Cuomo seeks to guarantee that every vote in every state will matter in every presidential election. New York continues to be a national leader for institutional change, as the National Popular Vote compact is significantly closer to becoming effective and ensuring an even greater democracy.
The bill has now been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes – California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.