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Originally published Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 4:08 PM

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Mass. gov. signs national popular vote bill

Massachusetts' Electoral College votes would go to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick.

Associated Press Writer

BOSTON —

Massachusetts' Electoral College votes would go to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The bill is part of a nationwide effort to ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes nationally would win the presidency, unlike the 2000 election in which Al Gore lost to George Bush.

The legislation would not go into effect, however, unless those participating states together hold a majority of the Electoral College votes.

With the governor's signature, Massachusetts becomes the sixth state to join the compact. Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii and Washington state have already approved the measure. The six states together control 27 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to trigger the law.

"This is about a stronger democracy, and it's an important step in that direction," Patrick said moments before signing the bill.

John Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote, the group pushing for the change, said the switch will do away with the existing winner-take-all arrangement where all of a state's electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the majority of votes in that state.

"Because of this winner-take-all rule, a second-place finisher can become president," Koza said.

A constitutional amendment is not needed to effect the change because each state has the right to choose the manner in which electors to the Electoral College are selected.

In Massachusetts, the initiative came under fire from Republicans and some Democrats at the Statehouse, who said activists upset over the 2000 election were behind the bill. That year, Democrat Gore carried the popular vote but lost the election to Republican Bush after a recount in Florida gave him the electoral vote.

"Governor Patrick today is scrapping a system established by the founding fathers that has been in place for over 200 years and has worked well for generation after generation," said Sen. Richard Tisei, the Republican running mate of GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker. "This is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the Constitution."

Koza said a shift of about 60,000 votes in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election could have thrown the presidential election to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, even though Bush had a lead in the national popular vote of more than three million ballots.

He said that under the existing system, candidates focus on a small number of so-called "swing" or "battleground" states and virtually ignore states, such as liberal-leaning Massachusetts and others that typically vote Republican or Democratic.

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"A vote in Massachusetts would suddenly become important," Koza said.

Pam Wilmot, director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Massachusetts, said that under the new system there would no longer be maps of red and blue states on election night.

"We will have a national count, a ticker, just as in any other election," Wilmot said. "People want to know 'does my candidate win, doesn't my candidate win?'"

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Online:

National Popular Vote: http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

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