Former Michigan GOP, Dem party chairs debut national popular vote ballot measure

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Election sign in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Election sign in Detroit.

The former heads of both major Michigan political parties are joining forces to help Michigan become the next state to ratify a National Popular Vote (NPV) amendment. Former Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis and former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer say it would make elections more fair and democratic by doing away with the current “winner-take-all” system for awarding electoral votes.

Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C., have all signed onto the NPV effort that was first formed in 2008. If states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt NPV legislation, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would be triggered — meaning that the presidency would go to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In a virtual press conference Monday, Anuzis and Brewer said the reform is “long overdue” and could potentially gain broad grassroots support in Michigan.

“Under the current system, five of our 46 presidents have come into office without winning the national popular vote,” Brewer said. “Our current system also means that much smaller states like Wyoming have more than three times as much voting power as we do here in Michigan, and that’s wrong.”

Most recently, Republican former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush won the Electoral College, but not the popular vote, in 2016 and 2000, respectively.

Brewer and Anuzis said that by contributing Michigan’s 15 electoral votes toward the trigger goal of 270, Michiganders could ensure the state stays relevant in every election and strengthen every individual voter’s voting power. Michigan had 16 electoral votes in 2020, but is set to lose one going into the 2024 election amid stagnant population growth.

Brewer, a metro Detroit attorney who was in MDP leadership from 1995 until 2013, said the “Yes on National Popular Vote” ballot committee was officially formed Monday and will be filing a copy of the petition with the Board of State Canvassers on Tuesday.

From then on, the board has 30 days to either approve or reject the ballot language.

If approved, the committee will be given a 180-day window to collect at least 340,047 signatures before the petition deadline in early June.

“What happens today is, one in five Americans live in states that are decidedly either Republican or Democrat — which means they are completely ignored by both presidential candidates from both leading parties, because we already know how those states are going to vote,” said Anuzis, who chaired the Michigan GOP from 2005 to 2009.

If a national popular vote interstate compact was triggered, voters in all states would be more relevant, Anuzis said.

“This will create every state as a battleground state, every voter will be a battleground voter. Republicans and Democrats will have to appeal to and talk to every voter in America, including every voter in Michigan.”

Bills to ratify the new system have been introduced in all 50 states.

But Brewer and Anuzis are confident that most Michiganders from both sides of the aisle will support their campaign. Anuzis said he thinks they have a “50-50” chance or better of ratifying the initiative by the next presidential election in 2024.

“The current broken presidential election system causes division, mistrust. It leads to needless recounts and endless litigation and bad feelings all around,” Brewer said. “And the candidate with the most votes doesn’t always win the election.”

The former state party chairs said that since they are just launching the campaign, they do not yet have a list of supporters or donors but will share those publicly as they accumulate.

Originally published September 27, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.

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