The man who helped invent scratch-off lottery tickets is now looking for a bigger prize: reviewing how the United States elects presidents.
On Tuesday, Nevada became the last state to pass a bill that would grant electoral votes to anyone who wins the popular vote across the country, not just in Nevada. The movement is an original idea of John Koza, co-founder of National Popular Vote, an organization that strives to suppress the influence of the electoral college.
If the governor of Nevada signs the bill, the state will become the fifteenth – plus the District of Columbia – to join a pact between states promising to move to the new system. These states, including Nevada, have a total of 195 electoral votes. The pact would come into force once enough states had joined to guarantee the national winner 270 electoral votes, thereby guaranteeing the election.
Law enforcement could, however, prove very difficult without congressional approval, according to experts in constitutional law. And the pact would be extremely vulnerable to legal challenges, they say.
But even if it may seem complicated, momentum is growing. Until 2019, Colorado, New Mexico and Delaware passed laws joining the pact. Maine and Oregon could take similar steps this year.
Koza said he and his colleagues have been lobbying state legislators since 2006 to pass such bills. Passionate about the Electoral College since the 1960s, he watched with frustration in 2004 the presidential election between President George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, opposed to a few states.
It was not good, and it happened again, year after year, he said, "All votes should count. But entire campaigns take place in several states, which in turn distorts government policy. "
In a presidential election, the Constitution grants states a number of electors, equivalent to their combined representation in the House and Senate, and electors choose the president. In general, the candidate who wins the most popular votes in each state obtains all the voters of that state, even if some states apply different rules. The candidate who obtains the majority of the electoral votes becomes president.
But, as in the 2016 election, it is not always the candidate who won the general popular vote. In 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had garnered about three million more votes than President Trump, but the states she won gave him fewer votes than Mr. Trump .
In total, five presidents of American history were elected without the popular vote, including two of the last three: Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush.
Many Democrats believe that the current system unfairly favors less populous, often strongly Republican, rural states.
Of course, not everyone likes the idea of moving away from the current system of electoral colleges.
In Colorado, where Democrats controlled both the legislature and the governor's seat, a measure like that of Nevada was passed and promulgated by Governor Jared Polis in March. But this caused an uproar among state conservatives. No Republican has supported him.
In the state room, a lawmaker suggested renaming the measure "We really, really, really, hate Donald Trump Act of 2019."
Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican senator from Colorado who opposed the bill, said he was convinced that the change would weaken the electoral power of sparsely populated rural states like Wyoming and Utah. while strengthening states like California and New York.
In his opinion, the electoral college was created so that "the inhabitants of the rural areas are not overwhelmed by the masses".
"I think it's quite appropriate to keep the constituency," he said.
For his part, Koza said the efforts went well beyond Mr. Trump. "The visible problem with the electoral system right now is that the second-ranked candidate wins the White House," he said. "But the real problem is that very few states have retained the attention of the presidential campaigns."
He thinks that the movement will not reach critical mass before the 2024 elections, when Mr. Trump will probably not be on the ballot.
Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law specialist at the University of Texas at Austin, strongly criticizes the electoral college system, but does not believe that the interstate compact would solve all the problems inherent in the design of the American election.
The Constitution gives disproportionate representation to small states within the constituency, he said, but believes that the entire system must be replaced, not just bypassed. A popular majority should decide directly on the presidency, he said, through early elections or multi-level elections.
"I want to emphasize that I rarely engage in denigrating the founders," he said. "I do not think these arguments were stupid in 1787. But times are changing."
Although enough states sign the pact to make it effective, Levinson said he anticipates significant legal challenges if the proposal is not also approved by Congress.
"And it's true that the Republican candidate comes first, but does not get the majority of votes, and California says," Wait, we do not see why our constituents should vote for the candidate who did not get a majority, he said. "Could other states apply it or not?"
Mr Koza intends to continue to move forward despite everything. Most state legislatures adjourned their work at the end of June. As a result, for the rest of the year, his colleagues, including Barry Fadem, the other co-founder of the movement, will develop a strategy for the next events.
Mr Koza said his approach today was similar to what he had used to lobby to create state lotteries. in the 1970s and 1980s: Take your time and build relationships, vote by vote.
"It's a kind of seasonal business. I tell people it's like selling fruit, "Koza said.