Today, billionaire businessman Tom Golisano announced his role as the national spokesperson for the National Popular Vote campaign. Golisano made his money founding Paychex, the second-largest payroll processor in the country.
The National Popular Vote campaign is an indirect attempt (without a Constitutional amendment) to end the US system of selecting the president through the Electoral College. The plan relies on the fact that the Constitution allows each state to decide what ever criteria it wants for assigning its electoral votes. The goal is to have states enter an interstate compact to give their electoral votes to whichever candidate for president wins the national popular vote. The compact would go into effect once states with a majority of the electoral votes sign on to the agreement. So far, six states plus Washington, DC, with a total of 74 electoral votes, have passed the law.
The result would be that the electoral college would still technically exist, but it would be effectively meaningless and whoever simply won the most votes would become president.
Eliminating the anti-democratic Electoral College and adopting a national popular vote is supported overwhelmingly by the American people in poll after poll. In addition, every election cycle, there are only a handful of swing states to receive all the presidential campaign attention, leaving a majority of states with a majority of the population all but ignored. Given that, you would expect this reform to easily gain widespread acceptance, but it still faces the problem of being a fairly obscure, second-tier issue that most people are only likely to think about every four years. It is not the kind of critical, pressing issue that lends itself to easily creating a broad grassroots campaign.
Having a very wealthy spokesman and, more importantly, financier for the necessary sustained multi-state campaign should increase the likelihood that the status quo bias is overcome. It is possible that by 2016 we might actually see presidential candidates campaign for the first time in decades in places like Texas, New York, Utah, Washington, and California instead of just Ohio, Iowa, and Florida.