WILLMAR -- Former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is contributing to a statewide effort to make presidential candidates pay closer attention to smaller states during the election season.
Emmer has joined the National Popular Vote campaign in Minnesota which is trying to pass legislation in St. Paul to create an agreement among the states to elect the president by national popular vote rather than by the Electoral College.
With his experience running for governor, Emmer said the presidential candidates should have to do exactly what a gubernatorial candidate does within a state.
"I had to run to the entire state. I had to hit agricultural folks the same way that I had to hit the folks on the Iron Range and it had to be consistent," Emmer said. "It will transform national politics. ... You will see candidates run to the entire country."
The U.S. Constitution specifies that the president and vice president are chosen by electors in the Electoral College. Each state has electors equal to the number of members in the U.S. House and Senate. There are 538 electoral votes currently, including three from the District of Columbia.
The electors pledge their vote to a specific candidate -- the winner of the popular vote in the state. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis -- the winner of the popular vote in the state receives all the state's electoral votes.
Maine and Nebraska use a district system, according to the National Archives and Records Administration, that could result in the state's electoral votes being split among candidates based on popular vote. However, since the adoption of that system, all of the electoral votes for the two states have gone to a single candidate.
Emmer was first introduced to the concept of eliminating the Electoral College by Pat Rosenstiel, a registered lobbyist for the National Popular Vote campaign. Rosenstiel said this idea to change the current winner-take-all system will give the 66 percent of the country that is excluded during presidential elections the opportunity to truly feel their vote was heard.
"Right now electoral votes are symbolic based on the popular vote of the state," Rosenstiel said. "This is a way to make every vote: Republican, Democrat, moderate and independent relevant and sought after by the presidential candidate of the United States."
In order to change the current policy, Rosenstiel said the bill needs to be enacted by states totaling 270 electoral votes, a majority of the 538 total electoral votes. It already has 77 electoral votes, or 29 percent necessary to activate the law, as Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington State, Washington, D.C., Maine and Vermont have enacted the popular vote bill.
The bill has to have the same language in every state in order for it to be considered a compact among the other states.
Minnesota state lawmakers have seen the bill in the House of Representatives as HF0495. The bill was referred out of the House Government Operations and Elections committee April 28 and had its second reading on the floor of the House.
The identical Senate bill, SF1241, was referred to the Senate Local Government and Elections committee April 18.