Al Gore does't like the Electoral College. Or more precisely, he doesn't like the way most states award their electoral votes. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with what happened in the 2000 presidential race, when he won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush.
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Gore told Current TV he feels that voters outside of about a dozen large, winner-take-all "battleground states" are cheated by the Electoral College system because the candidates ignore them every four years.
"I've seen how these states are written off and ignored, and people are effectively disenfranchised in the presidential race. And I really do now think it is time to change that," Gore said this month.
Why, he wonders, don't we elect presidents the way we choose members of Congress or governors - which is to say, by popular vote?
Gore did not say he wants to actually abolish or alter the Electoral College, which would take an act of Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution. There are other ways to change the way we elect presidents that do not involve fiddling with constitutional issues.
First, a brief explanation: All but two states, Nebraska and Maine, award electoral votes by a winner-take-all method based on the popular vote. In other words, even though Gore won slightly more than half of the popular vote in Pennsylvania in 2000, he still got all 21 of its electoral votes.
While the U.S. Constitution establishes the Electoral College, it does not require states to award their delegates in such a way. In fact, the Constitution leaves that matter up to the states. Nebraska and Maine, for example, award their electoral votes by the presidential results in each of their congressional districts.
The method of electoral-vote distribution Gore appears to support, however, is the one embraced by the National Popular Vote initiative. States that enter the compact agree to award their electoral votes to the candidate†who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C..
Eights states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation requiring their electoral votes be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote. The proposal can go into effect only if states accounting for 270 or more electoral votes agree to the system.
The states that have agreed hold 132 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidential race. They are: California, with 55 electoral votes; Illinois, with 20 electoral votes; New Jersey, with 14 electoral votes; Washington, with 12 electoral votes; Massachusetts, with 11 electoral votes; Maryland, with 10 electoral votes; Hawaii, with 4 electoral votes; Vermont, with 3 electoral votes; and Washington, D.C., with 3 electoral votes.
For what it's worth, the Republican Party opposes any attempt to alter, reform or abolish the Electoral College. Its 2012 platform, adopted at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., states:
"We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College. We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose 'national popular vote' would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency."
[Photo: Former Vice President and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore/Getty Images]