Senator Elizabeth Warren has released her detailed plan aimed at making voting easier and elections more secure. Her plan includes modern voting machines with paper ballot trails, mandatory automatic and same-day registration, early voting, vote-by-mail, and making Election Day a federal holiday. All of these ideas would make it easier to vote, but a bigger problem would remain: most people’s votes for president still would not count.
Right now, the candidates make no effort to win the votes of most Americans. In all but two states, all votes for the runner-up candidate and all excess votes for the winning candidate are systematically disregarded.
Warren’s plan calls for a bonus in federal funding for states that achieve high voter turnout rates. But she doesn’t mention the reason that voter turnout in many states is so low: people rightly understand that their votes for president do not matter. It should come as no surprise that voter turnout is generally much higher in states that were contested in recent elections than in safe states. If the votes in every state mattered as much as they do in swing states, we could expect turnout to increase by tens of millions of votes.
Warren also notes that our current elections pose a national security vulnerability. However, she doesn’t mention the fact that part of the reason we are so vulnerable to foreign interference is that our elections are decided by just a few states. This quirk of our electoral system makes it easier and cheaper to target the places that matter. Under a national election, it would be much harder to skew the results because every vote everywhere would count, not just the votes in a handful of swing states.
Fortunately, making a national popular vote a reality is not up to presidential candidates. It is up to the states to decide how to allocate their electoral votes. If enough states agree to pledge their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, turnout will drastically increase, elections will be more secure, and, most importantly, the vote that every person casts will be counted in the final tally.