Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “It is one of the happy accidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” The Maryland General Assembly has taken advantage of this “happy accident” to pass a National Popular Vote bill and is expected to pass a Living Wage bill today as well.
Maryland State Senator and Nation contributor Jamie Raskin told me, “We passed the National Popular Vote bill in the General Assembly by mobilizing the essential democratic principles: the person with the most votes for president should win the office and every citizen’s vote should count equally regardless of geography or time zone…. And with the Living Wage bill we have said that the state government should not be a neutral umpire in the economy but an active instrument for lifting people out of grinding poverty into at least the modestly secure working class. The gap between the minimum wage and the actual living wage is an index of shame, which we are about to close in Maryland.”
The National Popular Vote bill calls for awarding Maryland’s 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state vote. It only takes effect when states representing a majority of votes in the Electoral College agree to join a binding National Popular Vote compact. The movement is being led by the National Popular Vote campaign and it has over 300 sponsoring legislators in 47 states. Other organizations involved in the effort include: FairVote, Progressive States Network, Asian American Action Fund, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Latino Congreso, Common Cause, and such former Members of Congress as Republicans Tom Campbell and Jake Garn, independent John Anderson, and Democrat Birch Bayh.
According to Rob Richie and Ryan O’Donnell of FairVote, “Under the Constitution, states have exclusive power – indeed have responsibility – to award their electors to reflect the interests of their people.” Like Maryland, Hawaii also passed its National Popular Vote bill and so have single chambers in Arkansas and Colorado. Last year, California passed its own version but it was vetoed by The Terminator. Richie reports that establishing a national popular vote is supported by 70 percent of the public according to polls. “This should be no surprise,” Richie and O’Donnell write. “The current system makes most Americans irrelevant in electing their most powerful elected office.”