The leader of an effort to bypass the current Electoral College system was in Iowa this week, urging state legislators to embrace a move to elect U.S. presidents based on which candidate gets the most votes. Tom Golisano, a spokesman for the “National Popular Vote” group, says few Americans even understand the Electoral College.
“We have a traditional in this country that the candidate with the most votes wins and that is true for every political office in the country except for one and that is the presidency of the United States,” Golisano says. “It’s not quite understandable to me why that should be. If any office should be based on all the voters in the country, it should be that one.”
According to Golisano, six states and the District of Columbia have embrace the idea of deciding presidential elections based on the popular vote.
“Four times in the history of the United States presidents have been put into the White House who did not receive the majority of the votes,” he says. “That’s a very difficult thing for people to understand. The candidate, generally speaking, with the most votes should win.”
Republican George Bush got fewer votes than Democrat Al Gore did in the 2000 election, but Bush won the presidency because he won the right combination of states and therefore won the Electoral College. Golisano says the current system forces candidates to focus on a small group of “battleground” states and ignore the rest of the country.
“Now if you’re a battleground state resident, you might think that has some real advantages,” he says. “But if you’re a fly-over state resident, you’re basically left out of the election.” Iowa has been one of those toss-up or “battleground” state in each of the past three general elections.
Supporters of the Electoral College say it forces candidates to build a coalition of support in states around the country rather than just allowing a candidate to focus on one region or focus on urban areas that far eclipse the votes of rural parts of the country.
Golisano, founder of the nation’s second-largest payroll processing company, ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York three times as an independent. Last month he sold his stake in the Sabres, the National Hockey League team based in Buffalo.