Adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ votes matter

The weeks before the Presidential primaries on Super Tuesday back in March were heady times in Oklahoma. The leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Voter registrations surged by nearly 30,000 in the weeks before the primary registration deadline.  Small armies of volunteers knocked doors, organized meetings, and got out the vote.

On Super Tuesday, the nation watched in fascination as Oklahoma bucked national trends to “choose Cruz” and “feel the Bern”. For choosing our parties’ nominees, our votes mattered. Oklahoma mattered.

But with the primaries over,  Oklahomans can put the Presidential election back on their list of events to be treated as pure spectator sport, like the Superbowl and World Series.  Putting aside the possibility that our Governor is selected as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, one prediction seems solid: no Presidential candidate is likely to step foot in Oklahoma again before the November 8 election.

For those who live in a “swing state” like Ohio or Florida, the Presidential candidates will become so familiar by October that you might find them on your lawn raking your leaves. Here in Oklahoma, we’ll be lucky if the spouse of a vice-presidential candidate pops in to pick up checks at a fundraiser.

The reason, of course, is our archaic system for electing the president. The Electoral College’s winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes leads the parties to ignore non-competitive states like Oklahoma. Instead, campaign resources and candidates’ time are concentrated in a limited number of competitive states in the effort to pick up the 270 electoral college votes needed for victory.

As more states have become reliably “red” or “blue” in recent decades, the map of competitive states has narrowed. Since 2000, 40 states have voted for the same party in all four Presidential elections. In 2012, Presidential candidates conducted 253 campaign events, and all but two were held in just ten states in which the margin of victory was less than six points, according to an analysis by Again in 2016, as few as seven to twelve states are expected to be genuinely competitive (see map).

electoralmap2016The Electoral College is part of the explanation for declining voter participation in Oklahoma in recent decades. Since at least 1996, the presidential outcome in Oklahoma has never been remotely in doubt. This has meant that once the primary night celebrations end, Oklahoma is virtually ignored by both national parties when it comes to engaging citizens through voter registration drives, campaign events, and get-out-the-vote efforts.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In recent years, a bipartisan effort has emerged to change the method for electing the President. Under a proposal known as the National Popular Vote (NPV), the candidate for whom the most popular votes are cast across the United States would be elected President. (While the Electoral College would be formally retained under NPV, each state’s electors would be obliged to cast their votes for the Presidential candidate winning the most votes nationally). National Popular Vote legislation has been enacted by 10 states and the District of Columbia, which together possess 165 electoral votes in the current Electoral College. The proposal will take effect if it is adopted by states representing a majority, 270 electoral college votes.

[pullquote]“When Oklahomans’ votes matter for the outcome, it will be much more efficient for candidates to invest here compared to the very costly media markets in urban New York and California.”[/pullquote]

Adopting the National Popular Vote would ensure that the votes of citizens in every state would be of equal value, and candidates would need to run genuinely national elections. “If every citizen’s vote in all 50 states was sought after by candidates, more eligible voters by a large factor – in the millions – would participate in presidential years,” the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network has argued.  In addition to boosting electoral participation, eliminating the Electoral College would also put an end to situations where a candidate receiving fewer votes can be elected President, as has happened four times in our nation’s history. It also averts problems of unbound electors and prevents the possibility of an election being decided in the House of Representatives.

Some supporters of the Electoral College argue that it defends the interests of small states, which are favored with more electoral votes per person. Yet just like large and mid-sized states, most small states are routinely ignored in current campaigns. Several small states — Rhode Island, Vermont and Hawaii — are among the 11 that have already endorsed the National Popular Vote.

In fact, smaller states and communities are likely to be among the most enticing targets for Presidential candidates if the National Popular Vote becomes reality, because voters can be reached at less cost. When Oklahomans’ votes matter for the outcome, it will be much more efficient for candidates to invest here compared to the very costly media markets in urban New York and California.

In 2014, legislation to adopt the National Popular Vote was approved by the Oklahoma State Senate by a vote of 28-18. Supporters pointed to opinion polling showing that nearly 80 percent of Oklahomans prefer that the President should be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, not the current electoral college system. However, the proposal met with fierce opposition from some activists, and National Popular Vote bill was never heard by a House committee.

Perhaps the excitement of the 2016 primary campaign will rekindle interest in moving to a method where every vote matters for electing our President. And just maybe, come 2020 or 2024, a Presidential candidate will save you from having to clean up your yard.

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Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

5 thoughts on “Adopting the National Popular Vote would make Oklahomans’ votes matter

  1. While I agree with the principle of one-person, one-vote, and generally support National Popular Vote (the League of Women Voters has adopted a position in favor of it), this is a year in which I am grateful for the Electoral College. See

    Perhaps another way to think about why our votes “don’t count” is the effect of redistricting and the creation of safe districts for one party or another. I think this has had a chilling effect on voter turnout all the way down to state, county and municipal races (unless they go nonpartisan, as Tulsa has). Because, sure enough, if you live in a safe district and you don’t vote in the “safe” party, your vote probably doesn’t count. We need competitive races at all levels.

    I am 100% in favor of forming a citizens’ commission on redistricting. Right away. So it will be in place, ready to work after the 2020 census.

  2. Not until we give NY and CA a couple more US Senators apiece. Rural states already have disproportionate power.

  3. Stop with the bullcrap. Our founding fathers designed the EC so that WE DO MATTER!!! Without the EC we would mever see a politician because why? When you can campaign in 5 states and win the election. This is exactly what oir founding fathers did NOT want. The EC is equal representation per population of each state. Without it equal representation why even have a vote in Oklahoma? For example, with the census 2020 coming up and since the Democrats have stacked the deck with illegals in blue states by giving them sanctuary, dont worry your ugly Democrat head about crapping all over Oklahoma citizens. We will be thrown out with the trash. I dont know when the last time you went to California but it is a crap hole. Dirt everywhere, brown air, people living on the side of the interstate, the ocean is too dirty to swim in and the drinking water is recycled TOILET WATER!!! We will have all of that in Oklahoma after 2020. Without the EC there is no reason to have any state borders because we will all be gocerned by California. The United states of California. Smh. I left California 30 years ago for a reason. Oklahoma is a beautiful state, dont turn it into the toilet that California is!!
    I can go on and on
    You are a piece of crap for lying to people the way you do. You should be ashamed!

    Study some civics people!! Dont be idiots!! Know whats going on.

  4. The electoral college was designed to give each state an equal voice regardless of the population. If we were to do away with it, states like California, New York and Illinois would elect every future president. Thus, converting from the will of the people to the will of a few states. Therefore, removing the electoral college would do exactly the opposite of what you all are saying it will do. The sad thing about it is I’m sure you all know that, and that means you’re deliberately misleading Oklahomans with false information and misdirection.

  5. Give me a break! You think converting to popular vote will bring more politicians to OK than we have now. If we convert to popular vote California, New York, Illiinois, Pennsylvania, and a few others would rule the roost. And guess what… politicians would be concerned about OK even less, not more. Popular vote initiatives are almost exclusively supported by the left because it would ensure that the country votes liberal, left, progressive, or whatever you want to call, it forever! They know this. That is why you see ‘fierce opposition” as you call it. Those of us on the right are those opposing this. The founding fathers developed the electoral college exactly to even things out. They knew popular vote would favor the large, highly populated states. You may be highly touted by some but its obvious which way you lean. You are deliberately trying to mislead the public to favor leftist ideas. Its so typical of a liberal. If they can’t win playing by the rules they want to change the rules. Just like stacking the supreme court. Liberals are frustrated because the bench is shifting right. If RBG retires or passes away Trump will appoint another conservative and this drives them nuts. Liberals don’t want a fair fight. They want things to be run their way, period. Of course, they know what’s best for all or us. We’re just a bunch of simpletons in their eyes.

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