A bipartisan group of legislators thinks Minnesota should cast its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the most electoral votes nationally rather than who wins the most votes in Minnesota. Interesting concept.
Rep. Pat Garafalo mentions that the benefit of this model is that “it would guarantee that every vote is of equal value in our process.”
While that may be true, presidential campaigns don’t treat every voter equally. Under the current electoral college winner takes all by state (for the most part) system, candidates tend to ignore states where they’re confident that they’ll win or lose. The exception being visits for fundraising. This makes states like Ohio and Florida battleground states while candidates ignore Texas (easy R win), California (easy D win), and Minnesota (2012 would have been a lot closer election if Minnesota was in play).
Here is how extreme this has become as campaigns work to win the potentially winnable.
This year, the candidates for president and vice president made 253 post-convention campaign stops in just 12 states. The other 38 states got none.
Regardless of the voting model, campaigning comes down to a return on investment of limited resources.
A national popular presidential vote would force the candidates to quit ignoring states that aren’t battlegrounds, Garofalo said. Every vote in every state would matter.
If every vote from every state is counted equally, campaigns would change their strategies overnight. Instead of focusing on a dozen battleground states, campaigns might focus their attention on playing to their bases by getting out the vote in states that favor them. Dems would focus on major cities on the coasts while GOP candidates would focus on the Carolinas through Arizona.
Advertising tactics might vary. Dems tend to gain more votes in urban areas, so flooding local TV markets where they can increase turnout would benefit them. GOP candidates might rely more on radio to reach suburbanites during longer commutes and people in more rural areas. Direct mail targeting infrequent registered voters in states that aren’t currently battleground states would ramp up substantially.
Would Minnesota see move visits from candidates? Not necessarily. Minnesota has high voter turnout from a national perspective. Candidates would likely have more to gain by boosting turnout in states where they are favored. For example, if a Dem could get Californians to turn out at the same rate as Minnesotans, a candidate could pick up as many new votes in that one state as are cast in Minnesota.
It can be frustrating at times listening to presidential candidates debate these days. Neither will touch topics like global warming because they’re dependent on votes from states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado and can both ignore New York or California. If we switched to a national popular vote, we may see two candidates talking past each other as they become more polarized. Dems would start talking about global warming, transportation, gun control, and other urban issues in order to increase turnouts in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. The GOP might double down on their support for pollution industries and minimum wage powered companies while inserting even more religion into politics. The GOP would also move their voter suppression efforts to California and New York from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Would this be a better system? To me, it seems like it favors the Democratic Party since it’s likely easier to reach and GOTV large numbers of left-leaning urban-living voters compared to right-leaning suburban/rural-living voters. The country would likely become more divided as both parties choose to ignore moderates in the Midwest. I do like that candidates would campaign on issues relevant to voters outside Cuyahoga County, but the costs may outweigh the benefits.