As a former governor of New Mexico, as a candidate, and as a citizen, doing what is right and fair has always been paramount to me.
My vision for America prioritizes freedom of choices and adherence to our Constitution. I believe in good governance and an election process that gives all Americans confidence that they have viable choices. It is critical that all voters feel their voices will be heard. To sustain these principles, presidential elections need a critical reform. We need to overcome the winner-take-all method that narrows the presidential election to just a handful of battleground states and excludes many voters.
In 2016, the will of 4.5 million Americans who voted for the Libertarian Party was extinguished by winner-take-all, which Colorado and 47 other states use. This betrays the intent of our Electoral College. There are many others who would have added their voices to those 4.5 million votes had they not felt their choice was pre-destined for irrelevance.
This has been the case for third parties for many years and is the case for voters in most states. Presidential elections are routinely decided in less than 12 battleground states. This is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned. It has rendered the Electoral College an instrument of the establishment rather than a vessel for the individual states and the totality of its voters.
It is staggering to consider that in the 2012 presidential election, 56,256,178 of the 128,954,498 votes cast were redirected to a candidate those voters opposed. In Alabama, Gov. Mitt Romney received the most votes: 1,255,925 out of 2,074,338 votes, but 818,413 votes were split between President Barack Obama, our Libertarian Party ticket and other parties. Those 818,413 votes were re-cast by winner-take-all as votes for Romney.
In the time the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact bill was debated in New Mexico I arrived at two critical conclusions. First, there is a broad misunderstanding of the compact’s objectives. Second, the practical effect it will have on our presidential elections.
Now that it is just 74 electoral votes away from going into effect, it is a critical time to give it a closer look. The compact does two fundamental things: It preserves and restores the original intent of the Electoral College and inoculates all voters from the harmful effects of the winner-take-all method used in some but not all states.
By restoring the integrity of our presidential election process, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact makes all voters in all states relevant — securing a projection of their political will in the Electoral College. It will encourage much broader political participation and have a direct impact on the scale of support third parties can garner.
Restoring a real, tangible, and substantive range of choices in our election process is critical to our nation’s ability to deliver the type of good governance we deserve. It empowers voters because they will know that their vote will be counted fully through the entire presidential election process. It will amplify opportunity for third parties and summon other parties to pay greater attention to our voices.
Advocates of the congressional district method, currently used in two states, share a common goal and concern with respect to winner-take-all, but this would amplify an undesirable consequence by incentivizing hustings in even smaller political jurisdictions — namely, congressional districts — at the expense of broader outreach, increasing the focus of our national policy on tax-and-spend issues that benefit increasingly narrow constituencies.
There is also a vigorous debate about approval voting and ranked-choice voting. Neither of these proposals conflict with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The discussion on all these choices should continue and states should choose what they feel works best for their voters.
Coloradans cannot be heard when presidential candidates are only accountable to a handful of states. Every state should be a battleground state — every voter a warrior in those battles. We can preserve what our Founding Fathers envisioned and protect the intent of the Electoral College by making sure it reflects the will of all voters while protecting the sovereignty of each state.
I embrace ideas that will result in sound governance and change. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact overcomes the winner-take-all problem, broadens discourse, and gives all voters a presence in our presidential election.
Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for president. He serves on the advisory board of Libertarians for National Popular Vote.