ALBANY – New York state is changing the way it distributes its electoral votes in the national presidential election.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation pledging to award New York’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the majority of the national popular vote. Since the founding of the constitution, New York – and nearly every other state in the country – has awarded all its electoral votes to the candidate that won the most votes in the statewide election.
The change is part of the National Popular Vote coalition, an interstate agreement with California, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington to award electoral votes to the candidate who garners the most votes across each of the 50 states.
Proponents of reforming how electoral votes are awarded say presidential hopefuls often do not campaign in states where the outcome is already assumed — such as in New York where it is likely the state will vote for the Democratic candidate. Instead, presidential hopefuls focus on “swing states” where the outcome is up for grabs, such as Ohio and Iowa. Battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia hosted two-thirds of the 253 presidential events. Florida, which like New York controls 29 electoral votes, hosted 40 events alone in the 2012 election. New York hosted none.
However, opponents of the Popular Vote initiative say the change will make campaigning in smaller states and rural areas irrelevant, with candidates only focusing on large population bases where the most voters are located. They also say the change would move the country away from a republic and to a more democratic system of government – something the founding fathers were against, claiming that the electoral college system was a check against mob rule.
To go into effect, enough states necessary to elect a president — 270 electoral votes of the possible 538 — must pass and enact identical legislation. With New York’s 29 electoral votes, the interstate compact now has 165 electoral votes, 61 percent of the needed electorates.