Governor signs bill to ensure popular vote

By Nguyen Huy Vu

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois is officially ready to bypass the Electoral College in choosing the country’s president, but dozens more states would have to join the effort before it could take effect.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday signed into law a measure designed to ensure the presidency goes to the winner of the popular vote, joining Maryland and New Jersey in promising to award electoral votes to the candidate with the most support nationwide.

“By signing this law, we in Illinois are making it clear that we believe every voter has an equal voice in electing our nation’s leaders,” Blagojevich said in a statement. “I’m proud Illinois is leading the way by joining this landmark compact that will help shape our democracy in to (the) future.”

Critics argue the move could create more election confusion and controversy.

Blagojevich’s support for the idea isn’t a surprise. As a congressman in 2000, he co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.

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    The new law is part of a national push by the California-based advocacy group National Popular Vote Inc. to get around the Electoral College’s odd political math.

    The proposal also is aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2000 election, when Al Gore got the most votes nationwide but George W. Bush put together enough victories in key states to win a majority in the Electoral College and capture the White House.

    “This kind of legislation makes sense really for any state, but particularly for the two-thirds of the states that are left out of the presidential campaign,” said John R. Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote Inc.

    The Electoral College is set up by the Constitution to make the final decision on who becomes president. States have a certain number of votes in the college – Illinois has 21 – based on the size of their congressional delegations. A state’s electoral votes often are awarded to whoever wins the popular vote in that state.

    Under the National Popular Vote plan, states agree to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. That way, the popular vote winner would be guaranteed to win in the Electoral College.

    The agreement kicks in once it’s been approved by enough states to generate 270 votes, or a majority in the Electoral College.

    In the case of a tie in the popular vote, the current system would be used.

    The downside, critics argue, is that a close presidential election would require recounts not just in one or two key states, but throughout the entire country.

    And it could further reduce small states’ influence as politicians focused on voter-rich places like California, New York and Texas. Advocates note smaller states such as Hawaii and Vermont are pushing ahead with the idea anyway.

    Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Clare, said he voted against the measure because there isn’t a need to move away from a successful system created before George Washington was elected the country’s first president.

    “I’m very hesitant to change anything that seems to be working,” Burzynski said.