Tom Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex, (as of yesterday, at least) owner of the Buffalo Sabres and several-time Independent Party candidate for governor of New York kicked off his newest crusade in Washington D.C. today: obliterating the Electoral College.
“Every vote should count equally in the United States of America and with the winner-take all rule that we have by electoral state, it’s not true,” Golisano said in a conference call with reporters earlier today. “When we wake up on Wednesday morning, the presidential candidate that has the most [votes] should be the president of the United States.”
Golisano and his allies at National Popular Vote are planning a major state-by-state lobbying and PR effort. The bill they have before state legislatures stipulates that it would only become law if states holding a majority of electoral votes pass it. Golisano said he is aiming for the bill to become law in 2012, in time for the 2016 elections.
He declined to say how much of his personal fortune he is willing to spend.
Golisano said that a vast majority of Americans favor a national popular vote–their polls put the figure in the high 70’s–and he noted that eliminating the electoral college would mean that non swing-states would no longer be ignored in presidential elections.
“I’ve always wondered myself, when I am watching the results on election night, what is this stuff about flyover states and battleground states and why aren’t the candidates approaching every state in a similar method instead of putting special emphasis on battleground states. I was always beleaguered by it,” Golisano said. “In a democracy the candidate with the most votes is supposed to win and we do that with every elective office in this country except the president.”
Backers of a national popular vote say they have over 2,000 supporters in state legislatures across the country. In New York, the State Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly, but it run into opposition in the Assembly.
“The good news is that in the Assembly a majority of the representatives have already signed on as sponsors of the bill. Now it hasn’t come out of conference yet but we expect that it will at some point…As far as Andrew Cuomo is concerned I have had no direct conversation with Andrew Cuomo but I have the feeling that he is going to be supportive of this,” Golisano said. Once any Assembly people that haven’t bought into it understand what we are trying to do, how logical it is and how important it is do, I think they are going to be positive towards it. It is above political gamesmanship and it has to do with democracy.”
Longtime Golisano aide (and former Pedro Espada staffer) Steve Pigeon has signed on to the effort.