• Close election draws scrutiny of Electoral College


    FOX UNDERCOVER - The down-to-the-wire election is again raising the possibility that the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide may still not get enough electoral votes to win the presidency, raising interest in reforming the Electoral College.

    Massachusetts is one of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, that has already signed onto the idea of having the national popular vote decide who the next president will be.

    Right now, it doesn't work that way. In most states, it is winner take all, where the candidate who wins the state is awarded all of that state's electoral votes.

    The magic number to reach: 270 electoral votes to become president.

    That's why the candidates largely ignore states like Massachusetts, where Obama is expected to win easily. And that's also why there's such a focus on the swing states like Ohio and New Hampshire, where the race is too close to call.

    Backers of the national popular vote are trying to get enough states to pass the legislation that Massachusetts approved in 2010. States that do so agree to award all of their electoral votes based on the winner of the national popular vote.

    Under that scenario, President Obama could win Massachusetts, but if Romney wins the national popular vote then Massachusetts would give all of its electoral votes to Romney.

    So far, there are enough states on board to account for 132 electoral votes, about halfway to the 270 they need.

    History shows the winner of the national popular vote doesn't always become president. It's happened four times, most recently in 2000, when Al Gore received more votes than George W. Bush, but lost the election.

    "The electoral college is really a crazy system," said Pam Wilmot of Common Cause Massachusetts. "When we export democracy, we don't export the Electoral College. The rest of the world just looks at us and scratches their head. Why do they do this crazy system where the person that comes in second actually wins the election? It makes no sense."

    "It doesn't make sense to the American voters either, it also doesn't make sense to have this accident of demographics, a battleground state, determining whether a candidate wins or not. So you get 27 electors by winning Florida by 500 votes. It doesn't make any sense," Wilmot said.

    There have been five other presidential elections in the last six decades where a relatively small shift in votes would have allowed the second-place finisher in the national popular vote to win the presidency, most recently in 2004, when Sen. John Kerry ran and lost.

    Had Kerry won Ohio, which he lost by about 59,000 votes, he would have become president even though George W. Bush won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

    With all eyes on Ohio again this year, some observers are speculating it is possible Romney wins the national popular vote, but loses the election based on the electoral votes.

    In the event of an unlikely, but possible tie in the Electoral College, where each candidate gets 269 electoral votes, the House of Representatives picks the president and the U.S. Senate chooses the vice president.

    In that case, we could end up with President Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden.

    Next Up: