States Voting to Ditch the Electoral College

by Ryan on May 24, 2009

in Election 2012,Politics

There are efforts underway to ostensibly toss out the Electoral College through a “stealth” method described by Peter Hannaford at the American Spectator.  The National Popular Vote initiative is promoting a pretty ridiculous idea — no matter how your state voted, the state’s Electors would vote for whoever won the national popular vote total, effectively disenfranchising every person who voted for the one who lost the popular vote.

Hannaford’s argument is that this initiative changes the Constitution without proposing an actual amendment.  That action could have serious legal consequences and in my opinion violate basic equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.  If one could amass enough states to pass this initiative to hit 270 EV, then that’s that. 

Eventually all Presidential elections would be 538-0 (perhaps that’s the only way Libs figure that they’ll ever see 500+ Electoral votes again), even if the winner won by less than 1% nationally.  Actually, there would be no more need for an Electoral Vote at all.  No more respecting the concept of democracy within a state.  No more need for state sovereignty either as this act would reinforce the trend of states simply being federally administered districts.  No more campaigning in fly-over country.  No more caring about the needs of states with regional issues; just win the nation’s 12 largest metropolitan areas and screw the rest of the nation. 

I see much more logic in splitting a state’s EV based on Congressional District than scrapping what little direct democracy the minority has in our current winner-take-all system.

At the end of the day, I’d love to see what happens if a Republican wins the popular vote in 2012, which is not out of the question.  Maryland, Washington, New Jersey, and Hawaii (states obviously going to vote to re-elect Der Leader) would already disenfranchise their states’ voters to select a Republican for President — someone the people in that state obviously didn’t even want!  Somehow I don’t think they thought that far ahead.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:53 pm

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.


mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:54 pm

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill is currently endorsed by 1,777 state legislators — 829 sponsors (in 48 states) and an additional 948 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware –75%, Maine — 71%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 73% , Massachusetts — 73%, New York — 79%, and Washington — 77%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 28 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.



mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, along district lines (as is currently the case in Maine and Nebraska), or national lines.


mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment says:
“no state [shall] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”

It has been argued by some that it is not permissible, under the Equal Protection clause, for some states to close their polls at 6 PM while others close at 9 PM ; for some states to conduct their election entirely by mail while other states conduct their (non-absentee) voting at the polls; and for some states to permit violent felons to vote while others prohibit it (absent a pardon). However, the U.S. Constitution does not require that the election laws of all 50 states are identical in virtually every respect. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment only restricts a given state in the manner it treats persons “within its jurisdiction.” The Equal Protection Clause imposes no obligation on a given state concerning a “person” in another state who is not “within its [the first state's] jurisdiction.” State election laws are not identical now nor is there anything in the National Popular Vote compact that would force them to become identical. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution specifically permits diversity of election laws among the states because it explicitly gives the states control over the conduct of presidential elections (article II) as well as congressional elections (article I). The fact is that the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution permits states to conduct elections in varied ways.

The National Popular Vote bill does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

It is important to note that neither the current system nor the National Popular Vote compact permits any state to get involved in judging the election returns of other states. Existing federal law (the “safe harbor” provision in section 5 of title 3 of the United States Code) specifies that a state’s “final determination” of its presidential election returns is “conclusive”(if done in a timely manner and in accordance with laws that existed prior to Election Day).

The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and requires each state to treat as “conclusive” each other state’s “final determination” of its vote for President. No state has any power to examine or judge the presidential election returns of any other state under the National Popular Vote compact.


mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:56 pm

The congressional district method of awarding electoral votes (currently used in Maine and Nebraska) would not help make every vote matter. In NC, for example, there are only 4 of the 13 congressional districts that would be close enough to get any attention. A smaller fraction of the county’s population lives in competitive congressional districts (about 12%) than in the current battleground states (about 30%). Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.


mvymvy May 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Under the National Popular vote bill, the nationwide winning candidate would generally receive a margin (roughly 75%) of the votes in the Electoral College in any given presidential election. The reason is that the National Popular Vote bill guarantees that the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC) will receive at least 270 electoral votes (51%) coming from the states belonging to the compact. This bloc is what enables the compact to guarantee the election of the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). Then, in addition to this bloc of 270 or more electoral votes, the nationwide winning candidate would generally receive some additional electoral votes from whichever non-compacting states he happened to carry. Because the non-compacting states would likely be divided approximately equally, the nationwide winning candidate would generally receive a margin (roughly 75%) of the votes in the Electoral College.


Ryan May 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The 14th Amendment issue with the National Popular Vote still stands in my book, despite your attempts to spam this post. I linked to the NPV, so relax — the folks can read it for themselves. Nonetheless, you cling to the states rights argument, but high percentages of voters are still being disenfranchised.

There were plenty of state laws which denied blacks the free right to vote during the Jim Crow days — poll taxes, character vouching, written tests, etc. State sovereignty in that case was ultimately trumped by the federally protected right to vote, many times using the 14th Amendment as justification.

What you’re arguing is that the democratically selected Electors do NOT have the ability to express the will of the people in a state to select who is to lead our nation — they must be coerced by the state legislature into sending their votes to someone the people did not necessarily choose, essentially codifying the “faithless Elector” phenomenon and disenfranchising that state’s right to choose their Presidential Electors.

It’s a bad plan and legally suspect.


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