Former Vice President Al Gore gave a strong endorsement on Thursday for deciding presidential elections according to the national popular vote.
In a discussion during Current TV's coverage of the Republican National Convention, Gore and his co-panelists argued that the current Electoral College system had a corrosive effect on the power of votes and presidential leadership. For voters, casting ballots in a state that is predictably red or blue feels pointless in determining presidential elections. For leaders, visiting a state that is already in the bag for Republicans or Democrats seems unnecessary.
"I really do now think that it's time to change that," Gore said. "It's always tough to amend the Constitution and risky to do so, but there is a very interesting movement under way that takes it state by state, that may really have a chance of succeeding. I hope it does."
Gore and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) proceeded to bring up a proposal, already passed in a number of state legislatures and under consideration in others, that would award the Electoral College votes of enacting states to the winner of the national popular vote. The plan, aptly called the National Popular Vote, leaves the Electoral College in tact and would only be put in place if states accounting for at least 270 Electoral College votes were to pass such legislation. Eight states and the District of Columbia have already approved the proposal, making up 132 electoral votes.
Before anyone writes off Gore's proposal as a case of sour grapes, however, the former vice president did say that he continued to support the Electoral College, even after it cost him the presidency in 2000, when he won the popular vote but lost the election after a highly contentious vote count gave Florida to former President George W. Bush.
"The logic is it knits the country together, prevents regional conflicts, and it goes back through our history to some legitimate concerns," Gore said. "But since, I've given a lot of thought to it and I've seen how these states are just written off and ignored. And people are effectively disenfranchised in the presidential race."
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Gore was supporting a system that would abandon the Electoral College and instead tie electoral college votes to congressional districts. In fact, he was endorsing the endorsing the National Popular Vote, explained above.