Florida Democrat Files Bill to Give Electoral Votes to National Popular Vote Winner

Hillary Clinton won 2016's popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Yet Donald Trump was sworn in as the new U.S. president last Friday thanks to an Electoral College system that disproportionately props up voters in small states and devalues votes in large ones.

Trump's incongruous election represents only the fifth time in U.S. history that more Americans voted for the nation's losing candidate. And Trump's election marked, far and away, the largest gulf between the national popular vote and the Electoral College results in American history.

It seems clear that something has to change. This past Friday, Democratic state Rep. Joe Geller, who represents southern Broward County, filed a bill that would fix the problem in Florida: His bill would give all of Florida's Electoral College votes to whomever wins the national popular vote.

There's one big caveat. His plan would go into effect only after states that make up a majority of the Electoral College sign similar laws into effect, so Florida wouldn't be an outlier ignoring its own statewide winner.

"Today, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as our next president," Geller said in a news release Friday. "For the second time since 2000, the winner of the Popular Vote (or as it is called everywhere else in the world, the Vote), will not be sworn in as President. I think that is a problem." He then called the current election system "outdated" and "antiquated."

His idea is certainly controversial. Republicans and voters in smaller states have clung to the advantages the Electoral College has given them over the years, and many members of both parties have said the voting system needs to be amended rather than abolished.

Geller's bill would let Florida join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a group of ten states (and the District of Columbia) that have signed similar legislation into law. (Five other states have legislation pending in their legislatures.) Maryland was the first state to join the compact in 2007, and New York was the most recent, in 2014.

At the moment, those states make up 165 electoral votes — Florida's 29 votes would bring the total to 194. Other states responsible for 76 total votes would then need to sign the compact before the law would take effect.

But it will likely be a while before other states sign on. Similar bills have been pitched in 28 states — and 18 of them rejected the idea.

As it stands, the Electoral College simply doesn't work the way it should. The point totals given to each state don't match a state's given population. Individual votes in large states such as California, New York, Texas, and Florida matter far less than single votes in small ones, including Vermont and North Dakota, based on the resulting Electoral College votes.

"The current Electoral College system weakens the effect of each citizen’s voting power in Florida," Geller said Friday. "Florida has 447,202 potential votes for each of its 29 electoral votes, while the state of Wyoming has 70,155 potential votes for each of its 3 electoral votes. As you can see, a vote in Wyoming has more weight and influence than one in Florida."

Simply amending the point system to equalize the vote tally would be a welcome change to the process, but it isn't likely, because the Republican Congress and President Trump would have to sign off on the changes. And that broken system is the one major reason Trump is now the leader of the free world.

The current national popular vote swings Democratic, which means the GOP-led Legislature likely won't take a swing at reforming the election system soon. The same goes for Florida's Republican-dominated House and Senate. Geller's pitch is admirable but likely to die a slow death in committee, especially because Florida is the nation's most important swing state.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.