WASHINGTON, June 24, 2012 — Writing about the Electoral College is always a challenging task: You can’t assume that people understand the Electoral College or the reasons behind it. But prompted by National Popular Vote email, I decided to do just that.
It has been almost two years since I last wrote about the National Popular Vote initiative. That blog post triggered an avalanche of obviously automated responses from an anonymous source in support of the NPV project.
It also put me on their mailing list.
Despite the voluminous wording, the idea behind NPV is simple: The president should be elected by the popular vote, not by the Electoral College as stipulated in the Constitution. The Electoral College elects the president state-by-state, according to the total congressional representation each state has. States’ electoral votes are determined by adding together the number of representatives and the two senators of the state.
Colorado has nine electoral votes, neighbor Wyoming has three. California has 55, Texas 38 and New York 29. Within each state, the electors go to the candidate with the most votes.
The Electoral College is a uniquely American institution, the result of compromise between big, populous states and small states. It protects the small states from being overwhelmed by the large ones. Supporters of NPV claim that under the current system, all the campaign time and money are focused on a few key swing states. Under their plan they say that candidates would be forced to campaign more broadly. Nothing could be further from the truth. States like Colorado are targeted because we are closely divided between numbers of Republican and Democrat voters and our Electoral College votes are important. Eliminate the Electoral College votes and we’re fly-over country.
In 2009, a bill in the Colorado legislature—the Democrats then controlled both houses—to pass the National Popular Vote agenda was defeated. When I mention it to a friend of mine who understands the Constitution, she said, “Why would we throw away our votes?” That, of course, is exactly the point: how we in small states voted would not matter at all. That is the real story behind NPV.
You are doubtless familiar with the state-by-state Electoral College results map from 2008. Consider for a moment the county-by-county election map.
Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral vote, which is usually the case. How did he win? He won the electoral vote by winning the majority of the states, obviously, but he lost the majority of the counties. That doesn’t matter. He won the popular vote by winning the big states and especially the big cities.
Notice that the 135,000-vote margin of victory in Denver is dwarfed by the more than one million vote margin he received in Los Angeles. Think about this map in the context of a national popular vote. Who would waste time and money campaigning in Colorado when we have almost the same number of total registered voters in the entire state as the margin of victory in Los Angeles alone?
For over two centuries the Electoral College system has forced candidates to pay attention to regional concerns and to campaign more broadly. National Popular Vote would erase that take one more step in turning our Republic into a one-size–fits-all unitary state. The problem is, unless it’s a straight jacket, one size does not fit all.
So who is behind the NPV effort? While the organization claims to be bipartisan, a list of the organizations that support it is almost exclusively left-wing, including (according to them) Common Cause, FairVote, Sierra Club, NAACP, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, ACLU, the National Latino Congreso, Asian American Action Fund, DEMOS, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. DEMOS, by the way, is a George Soros organization.
Who supports NPV? Exclusively “blue” states have passed the measure, including California. Like most Progressive projects, there is only one direction: Forward! They write of “reforming” the Electoral College because, without a Constitutional amendment, it cannot be abolished. Their site notes that the NPV compact has passed both houses of the Colorado legislature. What they fail to mention, however, is that it did not pass both houses in the same session so each bill died. It is an interesting lesson in how to make failure look like success.
They say they are half way to the more than 270 electoral votes they would need to “activate” the compact. The compact says that state electors would be pledged to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the vote in the state. What they fail to acknowledge is that the compact itself is most likely unconstitutional. Interstate compacts must be approved by Congress (Art 1 Sec 10).
A year after I wrote my story and six months after the 2010 congressional elections, The Weekly Standard wrote about how the National Popular Vote organization is trying to look bipartisan and even—if you can believe it—Tea Party friendly. Beware of claims of bipartisanship! It usually means the issue is something the political class can agree on to its own benefit and to the detriment of the liberty of the people.
There you go, NPV. I have agreed to your request and provided my opinion.
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