Person

John Koza

Occupation:

Founder, Institute for Research on Presidential Elections

Born:

1944

Occupation:

Mathematician entrepreneur

Lives:

California

John Koza is a left-leaning California mathematician, businessman, and registered Democratic voter. Koza is the co-founder, chair, and a member of the board of directors of National Popular Vote, an organization attempting to replace the state-by-state Electoral College in Presidential elections with a plurality-at-large national vote.

Anti-Electoral College Advocacy

John Koza has opposed the Electoral College and supported efforts to replace the state-by-state voting system with a nationwide plurality vote. In 2006, he co-wrote the book, Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

Institute for Research on Presidential Elections

Koza founded the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections (IRPE) in 2006 to advocate for replacing the Electoral College system for Presidential elections with a nationwide popular vote. He is the CFO and treasurer of IRPE. [1]  IRPE is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational arm of National Popular Vote, which is the 501 (c)(4) sister organization used to lobby legislators. [2]

National Popular Vote lobbies to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a plurality-at-large popular vote, a relatively uncommon method of choosing a national government chief executive. [3] It was the brainchild of Koza, and he is responsible for the national movement. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would guarantee the presidency of the U.S. to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, whether or not that candidate receives more than 50 percent of the total ballots cast.

The Electoral College system is often criticized by Democrats and left-leaning groups, claiming it favors rural states with smaller populations, which often vote Republican. [4] The National Popular Vote and Koza advocate to change the current system. This shift in the Electoral College would change so that state’s electors would be forced to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the most national votes, even if the candidate loses in that state and does not secure a national outright majority. [5]

As of January 2020, 15 states and the District of Columbia joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact plan. The plan will only go into effect if the number reaches 270 Electoral College votes, which is the number needed to secure a majority and the White House. Thus far, only 196 votes, about 70 percent, have been reached. [6] Koza has visited 29 states on behalf of National Popular Vote. [7]

As of 2017, Koza has provided more than $14 million of his own money into IRPE and National Popular Vote since 2006; he had allocated $2 million per year moving forward. He has stated that it is difficult to attract Republican supporters when they learn that this incentive is backed by a liberal megadonor.

Koza selected a Republican-leaning partner, politically idiosyncratic payroll-company executive Tom Golisano,  who contributed $10 million of his own money; however, Golisano is no longer involved. [8]

Business Career

Koza is considered the “father of genetic programming.” [9] At the time of his graduation from the University of Michigan, he was only the second person in history to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. [10] He also received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Michigan.

He co-founded Scientific Games Inc., where he served as the chairman and CEO. [11] While at Scientific Games Inc., Koza co-invented the first for-profit scratch-off lottery tickets, which began in the state of Massachusetts. [12] He then became active in promoting the adoption of lotteries across various states through citizen-initiative and state legislative action. [13] He was later a professor at Stanford University, teaching about evolutionary computation and genetic programming while conducting his own research in the field. [14]

Other Activities

Politics

Koza has twice been a Democratic elector in 1992 and 2000[15] and is reportedly friends with former Vice President Al Gore and former President Bill Clinton. [16] Koza has contributed the legal maximum amount of money to Democratic candidates, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), then-Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Senate campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the 2016 presidential campaign of former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D), and the 2016 presidential campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He has also given tens of thousands to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic fundraising arms for House and Senate races. [17]

Philanthropies

In 2016, Koza pledged $10.7 million, in addition to his previous gift of $2 million, to the Michigan State University College of Engineering and the BEACON Center for the study of Evolution in Action. These combined gifts from Koza form the largest individual gift in the history of the college. [18]

References

  1. Institute for Research on Presidential Elections, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Part VII, 1a. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/472877830/12_2019_prefixes_47-48%2F472877830_201812_990_2019122316975950 ^
  2. Alberta, Tim. “Is the Electoral College Doomed?” Politico Magazine. September/October 2017. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/05/electoral-college-national-popular-vote-compact-215541 ^
  3. Watson, Michael. “How Weird Is the Electoral College, Anyway?” Capital Research Center. Capital Research Center, March 28, 2019. https://capitalresearch.org/article/how-weird-is-the-electoral-college-anyway/. ^
  4. Del Real, Jose and Turkewitz, Julie. “Should the Electoral College Be Eliminated? 15 States Are Trying to Make it Obsolete.” The New York Times. May 22, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/us/electoral-college.html ^
  5. Lyman, Rick. “Innovator Devises Way Around Electoral College.” The New York Times. September 22, 2006. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/us/politics/22electoral.html ^
  6. Amar, Vikram David. “How to – Carefully- Surmount the Electoral College.” The Atlantic. January 14, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/national-popular-vote/604861/ ^
  7. “Contributors – Dr. John R. Koza.” The Federalist Society. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://fedsoc.org/contributors/john-koza ^
  8. Alberta, Tim. “Is the Electoral College Doomed?” Politico Magazine. September/October 2017. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/05/electoral-college-national-popular-vote-compact-215541 ^
  9. Mroczek, Patricia and Henion, Andy. “Historic $12.7 Million Gift Headed to MSU College of Engineering, Beacon Center.” MSU Today. December 8, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/historic-127-million-gift-headed-to-msu-college-of-engineering-beacon-center/ ^
  10. Keats, Jonathan. “John Koza Has Built an Invention Machine.” Popular Science. April 19, 2006. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2006-04/john-koza-has-built-invention-machine/ ^
  11. “Media Inquiries.” National Popular Vote. Accessed March 20, 2020. http://archive.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/mediainquiries.php ^
  12. Kennedy, Pagan. “Who Made That Scratch-Off Lottery Ticket?” The New York Times Magazine. July 5, 2013. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/magazine/who-made-that-scratch-off-lottery-ticket.html ^
  13. “Media Inquiries.” National Popular Vote. Accessed March 20, 2020. http://archive.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/mediainquiries.php ^
  14. Mroczek, Patricia and Henion, Andy. “Historic $12.7 Million Gift Headed to MSU College of Engineering, Beacon Center.” MSU Today. December 8, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/historic-127-million-gift-headed-to-msu-college-of-engineering-beacon-center/ ^
  15. Yi, Matthew. “Sacramento/Stanford Professor Stumps for Electoral Alternative.” SFGate. July 24, 2006. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/SACRAMENTO-Stanford-professor-stumps-for-2515581.php ^
  16. Lyman, Rick. “Innovator Devises Way Around Electoral College.” The New York Times. September 22, 2006. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/us/politics/22electoral.html ^
  17. Lucas, Fred. “Who’s Bankrolling the National Popular Vote Movement.” The Daily Signal. March 25, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/03/25/exclusive-heres-whos-bankrolling-the-national-popular-vote-movement/ ^
  18. Mroczek, Patricia and Henion, Andy. “Historic $12.7 Million Gift Headed to MSU College of Engineering, Beacon Center.” MSU Today. December 8, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2020. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/historic-127-million-gift-headed-to-msu-college-of-engineering-beacon-center/ ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Democracy Alliance Conferences (Other Group)
    Participant, Spring 2015; Fall 2018
  2. Institute for Research on Presidential Elections (IRPE) (Non-profit)
    Founder and Chief Financial Officer
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