New York State may once again become in play in presidential elections after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would join New York into a compact with other states to select the president by popular vote instead of the Electoral College, a bill that quietly passed the state Senate and Assembly last month. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
With overwhelming bipartisan support in the state Senate and Assembly last month, New York State voted to join the growing national popular vote movement.
"Right now, for every election that we have in this entire country, the person with the most votes wins, except for president, the most important position," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx.
Presidential elections are decided by the electoral college. Since 1988, New York State has always awarded its 29 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee. As a result, neither candidate has spent a lot of time campaigning here. Elections get decided in a handful of battleground states, but the popular vote compact is designed to changes that.
"It wouldn't be just Ohio. It wouldn't be just Florida and Pennsylvania. It would be the whole country," said Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker. "And even more important, you could do grassroots politics in the whole country."
Here's how it works. States agree to award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Currently, 10 states and Washington D.C. have opted to join the compact, comprising a total of 165 electoral votes. Once the 270 electoral vote threshold is reached, the presidential selection process would be fundamentally changed.
"Enough states so that they comprise 270 electoral votes. That's a majority of the electoral votes, of 538," Dinowitz said. "Once we have 270, the compact will become effective."
On four occasions, most recently in the year 2000, presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote. That wouldn't happen again if the compact is adopted.
"The Constitution basically says only one thing about electing a president. It says that the state legislature shall determine, state by state, how it's done," Hertzberg said.
What's particularly interesting about the national popular vote is that most of the states where it has passed could be considered blue states, but here in New York, it's really a non-partisan issue. It's supported by the Working Families Party of the left, the Conservative Party on the right, and by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed it into law Tuesday.