This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For one brief shining moment in this last presidential election, Utah almost mattered. Our reliably red state, considered a Republican slam-dunk for over 50 years, hosted three pre-convention campaign events by national candidates, and one after. Whew! Did you get dizzy?
Why all the underwhelming attention this cycle? Because for the first time in recent memory (due to the unfavorability of both major party candidates) the outcome in Utah was thrown into doubt. Hence, we became a potential "battleground" state, with the emphasis on potential.
Such rarified bubbles of happenstance burst quickly, and even a favorite son couldn't keep us in the limelight for long. So we've returned to where we belong the presidential election dead zone. It's the place where politically "safe" states, small and large (such as Wyoming, Texas and Alabama, Vermont, Colorado and California) go to be ignored during presidential elections.
Political power in the modern era comes from being a battleground state with a voting population that, no matter what size, is up for grabs under the Electoral College's winner-take-all system where the candidate who wins the most popular votes in a state, wins all of that state's electoral votes, and the march to 270 is joined.
So the targets for candidates are battleground states, and in this election, 68 percent of major campaign events were in just six states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan). Add another six (Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Arizona) and it turns out that only 12 states saw 94 percent of all major campaign events and decided the election for everyone else. What happened to the other 38 states? Oh yeah, the dead zone.
A lot of people are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore because for the second time in 16 years, the candidate who won the most popular votes lost the election. A bipartisan bill called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is gaining momentum across the country. It guarantees that the electoral votes of participating states will go to the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide. It has already been enacted in 10 states and the District of Columbia, making a combined total of 165 electoral votes. When enough states with an additional 105 electoral votes pass it into law, the magic number of 270 will be reached, and the national popular vote winner will be guaranteed the presidency.
The modern Electoral College is not what the founders envisioned and does exactly the opposite of what its advocates claim, not protecting, but ignoring the interests of three-quarters of the American electorate by rendering it politically irrelevant. A national popular vote would turn the entire country into a battleground state, making a vote in Utah equal to a vote in Florida.
The battleground state of Ohio in 2012 is a perfect example of how a nationwide popular vote would work. The state's four biggest metro areas (54 percent of the population) received 52 percent of the presidential campaign events; the seven medium-sized metro areas (24 percent of the population) received 23 percent. Rural areas (22 percent of the population) received 25 percent. Attention given by national candidates was almost exactly proportional to regional population, because politicians go everywhere when every vote is equal, and the winner is the candidate who receives the most votes.
The winner-take-all system and the Electoral College are not one in the same, and unlike the Electoral College, winner-take-all laws are not part of the Constitution. They were adopted state by state in a process that took almost 100 years, so they don't require a constitutional amendment to be nullified.
In 2016, winner-take-all laws threw away the votes of more than 60 million American voters on the losing side in each state Republicans in blue states, Democrats in red states and independents everywhere. But they can be overturned, just as they were put into place, state by state.
It's time the Utah Legislature got rid of winner-take-all. Go to nationalpopularvote.com to learn more. Tell people you know, here and in other states, that making "one person, one vote" is a reality within reach before the next presidential election.
Eileen (Bunnie) Keen, during her 44 years in the Salt Lake area, has been a ballet teacher, an English teacher and a piano technician, but never an activist, until now.