Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Direct Popular Vote Panel Comes to Santa Fe

The University of New Mexico's Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy is hosting a panel discussion panel tomorrow (Wednesday) about the movement to establish a direct popular vote for president.

I did a  Roundhouse Roundup column a few months ago about the organization behind this movement. The group, called National Popular Vote, is promoting for a compact among states that agree to cast their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationally.

Nine states, plus Washington, D.C., have signed on, representing a total of 132 electoral votes. (California, with 55 electoral votes signed on, since I wrote that column.)

The compact wouldn't take effect until there were enough states signed on to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

New Mexico, like most other states, uses the winner-take-all system to determine who gets our five electoral votes. So if a candidate wins the state by one vote or a half million votes -- he or she gets all five of our  electoral votes.

During the regular legislative session in March, the state House passed a memorial asking the secretary of state and the attorney general to "study and compare the current electoral college system and the national popular vote system" and to report their findings to the Legislative Council by November.

Gov. Susana Martinez has come out against the idea. Her spokesman told the Associated Press in April that "The current system helps ensure battleground states with independent-minded voters, like New Mexico, play a significant role in electing U.S. presidents. Currently, presidential candidates visit the state frequently and must listen and respond to the unique concerns of the state, from our national labs to our pueblos, and the governor believes that serves New Mexico well."

Proponents of the plan however argue that swing states don't really get much out of our "battleground" status except a few candidate visits and a lot of lip service.

The three-hour forum begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Joseph Montoya Building, 1100 St. Francis Drive in the Bid Room. It's free and the public is invited.

This is the second of three public meetings on the issue sponsored by the Center. After the final meeting in November, the Center will prepare a summary of its findings to present to the Secretary of State to help with that office's mandated study on directly electing the president.