Voters in swing states might believe the National Popular Vote Plan would be electorally disadvantageous to their state’s interest, yet history teaches us that swing states are anything but stagnant. While a state may be at the head of the electoral parade today, that status is often ephemeral.
Take for example New York State. It was once the most critical showdown state in the nation. In 1884, the Empire State decided the presidency with the state’s incumbent governor, Grover Cleveland, winning his home state by just 1,047 votes. Four years later, Cleveland was denied reelection. The deciding state was once again New York, which Cleveland lost by just 7,187 votes.
The Democratic Party nominated a New Yorker on every national ticket from 1920-44 -- save one. In 1944, the Democrats nominated President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former New York governor, while the Republicans countered with the incumbent New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Ironically, both presidential candidates hailed from Duchess County.
In more recent elections, presidential candidates do not give much consideration to voters in New York. They merely parachute into New York City, speak at fundraisers and use the proceeds to cultivate and consolidate support in showdown states such as Iowa, New Mexico and Ohio.
Similarly, the state of Texas was once a critically important battleground state in the presidential campaign. In 1968, Democrat Hubert Humphrey eked out a mere two-percentage point victory. In 1976, the state was a battleground in which Jimmy Carter edged out Gerald R. Ford by just three percentage points. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter made five campaign stops in the state just three days before the general election.
In 1992, all three major presidential candidates, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and H. Ross Perot, held rallies in Texas on election eve. George H.W. Bush won Texas by just one percentage point.
Since then, as demographic changes and electoral allegiances have shifted, the state has fallen into electoral insignificance. Candidates now declare the Lone Star State in the Republican column before the election even begins.
Correspondingly, Delaware was once the quintessential bellwether state, electing the winner of every presidential election from 1952-96. Since then, there has been a gravitational pull to the Democratic side of the ledger, and the First State is no longer hotly contested.
The current winner-take-all system of voting is like an electoral roulette wheel. It stops on a state for consecutive election cycles and then moves on to other states. While today the needs of the Cuban-American community in South Florida, the steel manufacturer in Pennsylvania and the grain farmer in Indiana may muster an abundance of attention from presidential candidates, they must remember that they will not have this status in perpetuity. They could soon join the ranks of the Long Island fisherman, the Texas rancher and the chicken farmer in Sussex County, Del., as constituencies ignored by presidential nominees.
The National Popular Vote Plan will level the electoral playing field. Each vote will have the same relevance in every election cycle. Candidates will not have the luxury of allocating their attention and tailoring their resources to just 15 battleground states. Every vote will be numerically equal and will actually matter in every election.
Geopolitical location will be irrelevant to the candidates’ tactical calculation. The only calculation presidential campaigns will make is how to appeal to the broadest cross-sections of constituencies. Best of all, no voters will be relegated to the electoral sidelines.
Rich Rubino is a political enthusiast and the managing editor of the political blog www.Politi-Geek.com. He currently works as the social media coordinator for Support Popular Vote, a group working to change the way electoral votes are allocated within the Electoral College.