Both houses of the New York legislature voted Tuesday night to join a multi-state compact that would ensure that the person who receives the most votes in presidential elections will actually become President of the United States. Because of America’s anachronistic Electoral College, the loser of the popular vote became president four times in American history, most recently when Texas Gov. George W. Bush took the White House from Vice President Al Gore — albeit with a big assist from the Supreme Court.
The bill that is now awaiting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) signature joins New York into an agreement that would award the state’s electoral voter to whoever wins the popular vote of the nation as a whole, regardless of who wins the popular vote in New York. The trick behind this compact, however, is that it does not take effect until a bloc of states totaling 270 electoral votes agrees to sign on. Thus, when the compact does take effect, it will effectively neutralize the risk that the losing candidate will nonetheless get to be president.
If Cuomo signs the bill, New York’s electoral votes will bring the compact’s total up to 160, or just under 60 percent of the compact’s target.
Part of the theory behind the compact is that presidential candidates have no incentive to campaign in — or to offer policy proposals targeted towards — all but a handful of “swing” states. As a solid blue state, New York is largely ignored in presidential elections because it is all but certain to favor the Democratic candidate. Similarly, states like South Carolina or Utah also go ignored because they are overwhelmingly likely to back the Republican. To date, however, the compact has proved more popular in blue states than in red states — although the Oklahoma senate recently became the first legislature in a Republican-leaning state to back the compact.