MYTH: Candidates would "fly over" most of the country under a national popular vote.
This criticism applies to the current system of electing the President—not a national popular vote.
Under the current system, two-thirds of the states are indeed "fly-over" country. In 2004, the presidential candidates concentrated two-thirds of their campaign visits and money in just five states, 80% in just nine states, and 99% of their money in just 16 states. As early as the spring of 2008, the major political parties acknowledged that there would be only 14 battleground states in 2008. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just states, and 98% in just 15 states.
Where did the candidates go in the states they did visit? Did they just stick to the cities, or did they go talk to people in small communities? Did they decide that they could get by with only one type of person, or did they have to try to appeal to the entire population of that state?
I am pretty confident that a presidential campaign that has to contend with rural and small-town voters in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado will have to take into consideration some people like me, even though my state's not going to be a 'swing state' any time soon. Those states are plenty different and there's plenty of difference within them, as well.
I can't say the same about a campaign that focuses on the top fifty metropolitan statistical areas, which is exactly what would happen with your scheme.
I want to believe you, but it's hard to when it refutes the exact claim you're making:
MYTH: Only the big cities, such as Los Angeles, would matter under a national popular vote.
The populations of the 50 largest cities together constitute only 19% of the nation's population. Arlington, Texas is the nation's 50th largest city (with an estimated population of 363,000 in 2005).
In 2010, the fifty largest metropolitan statistical areas had a population of 166,033,000 -- 53.8% of the United States' 308,745,000 people.
In the 2012 election, Los Angeles County alone had more voters than any of thirty-two of America's fifty states.
Also in the 2012 election, just 150 of America's 3,033 counties - less than five percent of the total, and all attached to a metropolitan area - made up 50% of the vote.
Given a limited amount of time to get in front of the voters, where do you think the candidates are going to go? Do this thing, and the days of candidates getting outside an urban area are pretty much over.
> Given a limited amount of time to get in front of the voters, where do you think the candidates are going to go? Do this thing, and the days of candidates getting outside an urban area are pretty much over.
I don't really care where they go; re-enfranchising the majority of the country will mean that personal visits by candidates to a handful of geographic areas will be much less important than, for example, their policies. I'm sorry if that sounds like a bad thing to you, I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that.
It's no use appealing to the area with the highest population density if their minds are already made up.
It's no use appealing to the area with the highest population density if their mind is already made up.
Top 10 US cities by population ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by... ):
The 10 largest MSAs contain over 80 million people. That's already over a quarter of the country -- more than the 50 largest cities put together. Taking it out to the top 20 MSAs brings that up to almost 117 million. The top 50 MSAs cover more than half the country's population.
Edit: restricting it down to "urban areas" instead of MSAs brings the numbers down a bit, but the top 10 and 20 still make up a huge amount of it ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_urban_are... 2010 instead of 2011 numbers here ):
Top 10: 73.4M
Top 20: 101.8M
Top 50: 143.1M
It's hard for me to imagine the average resident of, say, Jasper, GA (population ~2,000, median income ~$30,000) caring one way or another that you had a rally in Atlanta— but their votes still count.
The more general point being that the dynamics of campaigning would be fundamentally different, such that none of the lines that are currently drawn will matter (and of course that's good thing).
Imagine a replay of 2012 without the electoral college. Obama would still hit the urbans and some of the progressive rich enclaves. Romney would hit all the suburban, Wall St. and yacht clubs.
No one would bother with the rurals except for some photo ops. Same as before.
Stalwarts like Utah and NYC may be relatively ignored. Big deal.
Your complaint is that the minuscule rural population are ignored by the more prosperous, more populated, more important urban areas.
That sounds about right to me. One person, one vote.
If people in rural areas want to be more relevant, they should either start creating some jobs, stop being freeloaders, and work harder to prevent their people from following the jobs. Which is not going to happen so long as we have a petrol based economy.
Once human labor is required to replace petrol, you'll have more people returning to rural areas, to work the land.
So if you care about the vitality of rural areas, you'll work to expedite the post oil energy future.
This is why we have a federal government - to prevent our government from being run by people who think like this. Presidents have to govern everybody, not just the people they like.
If your intended point was to prevent the tyranny of the majority, then your focus on the electoral college is sadly misplaced.
Edit: Here's the kicker. I ran for statewide office. Last minute ballot filler. (I was pissed the incumbent was unopposed.) In the limited time with limited resources, I tried to visit every legislative district and every county. I was greeted and vetted like a rock star. It was fun as hell. My family were farmers and I love the country. It was like coming home.
You know what? I was the only state wide candidate who did this. Because I had no chance of winning, nothing to lose, and could do and say whatever I wanted. If I had any prospects, I wouldn't have had the luxury of touring my state.
So whatever your grievances, I don't care. I want to end world hunger and ice cream for every kid on Tuesdays. Big deal.
If you want your vote to matter, you should probably do something to empower yourself. Or just wait for the return of farming, when every one will be courting your communities again, like they did back in my grandfather's day.
Or you could continue to belly ache about how all the big bad politicians ignore you.
Either way: Please, continue.
Further evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium-sized, and large towns of every small, medium-sized, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every potential customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off a particular state merely because a competitor has an 8% lead in sales. Furthermore, a national advertiser with an 8% edge in a particular state does not stop trying to make additional sales in the state.
National advertisers are more expensive, and don't help local races as much or at all. Spend less money, hit more people in states with more people in them.
That fundamentally changes if I can counter your Times Square billboard with a direct mail campaign in Minnesota.
And you can have Nebraska. The whole state, I wouldn't run a single ad there for a national campaign, in either scenario. Why would I? The ad money I might have to spend in Nebraska to get a thousand eyeballs might get me closer to ten thousand eyeballs in California or New York. Not to mention the ten thousand eyeballs I get in New York are also eyeballs I want to see my general platform and the fact that my party exists, because as you may well know, most people vote a straight ticket.
I see a lot of compelling reasons to believe that local media would remain a primary means of communication between candidates and prospective voters, even if we switched to a popular vote.
What market force are you imagining makes ad space cheaper in wealthier states?