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National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - Dirty Trick or Legitimate Legislation

Updated on March 19, 2019
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, common sense, and the rights of the people.

Once again America is facing a challenge to its election process; this time it’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This piece of legislation is an agreement between a group of states that pledged to award all of their Electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. With the recent announcement from the Governor of Colorado, who signed the measure into law last week, there are 12 states and the District of Columbia participating. Other states participating are Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and California. New Mexico appears to be poised to join the group with pending legislation already drawn up. In each of these states, voters are predominantly Democrat. Unlike other bills, this one will only take effect if the law is passed by states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes; the amount necessary to win the presidency.

The Electoral College

Over time there have been more than 700 proposed Constitutional amendments to either reform or eliminate the Electoral College; each one failed. This approach however is different, as it circumvents the process of amending the Constitution and it’s garnering a lot of attention. The authors of the bill offered the legislation in the form of an interstate compact, which is an agreement between two or more states. One provision of most compacts is that they must be approved by the United States Congress, subject to the provisions in Article I, section 10. Congressional consent can be granted by one of three methods. A state can join an existing compact or model compact, such as the Driver’s License compact. Several states can submit a compact to Congress prior to joining it, or states can agree to a compact and then submit it collectively for congressional approval. Some compacts are not subjected to Congressional approval, but only those that do not increase the power of the states over the federal government.

Currently 48 out of 50 states award their Electoral College votes to the majority winner of their states popular vote; this proposal would disregard the state tally and award Electoral College votes based on national numbers. Nebraska and Maine still award Electoral College votes based on Congressional Districts within their respective states, which allows for a split to occur. It’s interesting to look at the different methods each state uses to award Electoral College votes; the Constitution expressly leaves the matter of electoral-vote distribution to the state’s decision. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States. Even though on the surface, the Electoral College process appears to favor the states, many people disagree with it in principle.

History and Changes Along the Way

The Electoral College was created by the framers of the Constitution during the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The purpose was to create a system which gave American citizens the opportunity to vote for a Presidential Candidate, with the added safeguard of a group of electors who would have the final say. It was immediately challenged for many reasons. The population of the growing nation at that time was unequally distributed. Cities such as Boston and Philadelphia were population magnets while areas like the Deep South were minimally populated with citizens due to expansive agricultural areas. Also, at the time, women and men who didn’t own property were not allowed to vote. The Southern states did have a large head count of slaves, which they wanted included in the voter rolls. A huge debate took place in which Northerners, pointing out that salves were treated as property in common law; felt they should not have a vote at all. Southerners took the opposite stance and wanted the votes of their slaves counted. What ultimately emerged from the debate was that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a vote.

Over time, there have been attempts to game the Electoral College vote. In 1836, the Whig Party attempted to run multiple candidates in different parts of the nation to win a Party majority. It backfired when the opposition won an absolute majority and put Martin Van Buren in the White House. Other smaller schemes were attempted, but the 12th Amendment was always employed to determine the legitimate winners. Although the 1876 election was considered the most disputed election ever, Benjamin Harrison’s election in 1888 was the first real debate on popular vote versus Electoral College votes. At the time, Democrat incumbent Grover Cleveland had huge margins of victory and huge turnouts in the 18 states that he won. Harrison won 20 states, but by small margins. Even though Cleveland received more than 100,000 more votes than Harrison, he still lost the election. After that election, things went according to plan, with no disputes until the election of 2000 when George Bush was elected President over challenger Al Gore. That election was the closest in American history and the source of controversy circling firmly around the state of Florida. In the end, after a recount, Bush won Florida by 537 votes (0.009% of the vote). Gore won the national popular vote by 543,000 votes

The 2016 Election and Aftermath

In 2016, America again saw a President elected that didn’t win the Electoral College. Once again it was a Republican candidate, Donald Trump, defeating a Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Despite predictions that Mrs. Clinton would easily win the election, she was handily beaten in the Electoral College by political upstart Trump. Clinton won the popular vote by 2%, with a victory in California of over 4.3 million votes, leading the way. President Trump finished the race with 304 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 227. In previous disputes, the difference had been small, but with a 2.8 million vote advantage in the 2016 election by the losing candidate Clinton, the Democrats were recharged in their battle to do away with the Electoral College or find a way around it.

Pro and Con

The backers of the new legislation have cited polling data going back more than 50 years which state that the majority of Americans supporting the popular vote as a determining factor in choosing the President. In addition to the examples already discussed, those supporting the legislation cite that the current method utilized in most states (winner takes all) encourages candidates to focus most of their campaigning efforts on “swing states”. The nearly-even distribution of voters in those states mean that even a slight change could alter the outcome. States such as Idaho and Alabama, which are dominantly Republican, are virtually ignored, but states like Ohio are blanketed daily with campaigning candidates. Also, the backers of this legislation feel that the current system actually deters voter turnout in many states. For example, a Republican voter in either New York or California might not vote because they know that the Democrats always win those states.

This legislation has been promoted by the left-leaning media. Opponents are calling it an “urban power grab” that would certainly shift the political climate of the United States away from rural America. There have been pro and con arguments published in editorials in many major newspapers. What is likely the strongest opposition comes from the League of Women Voters who cite many different reasons as to why the legislation should be opposed. They feel that there are Constitutional Issues that need further review, mainly to determine how a political compact may function differently from a commerce compact. Also as of this time, Congressional approval has not been given.

Potential Problems and Challenges

At state level, voters supporting the candidate who wins their state would want their state’s electors to support their choice. Under this compact, that state’s Secretary of State would be required to certify electors choosing a candidate who was the winner of the national popular vote rather than the candidate the voters in that state chose. This appears to clearly disenfranchise a portion of the voters. Also, although many complain that the current system hurts some voters who live in states heavily populated with opposition voters, this Compact wouldn’t correct that issue. It would shift the focus of campaigns to large urban areas with large populations which would be the new de-facto “swing states”. In this new proposed scenario, political control of the nation could possibly be placed in the care of just 11 states, which when combined would generate enough Electoral Votes to secure the Presidency.

Other issues could arise from recounts, faithless electors, and the Voting Rights Act. Many states are required under law to get approval from the U.S. Attorney General before making aby changes to their state voting rules. Also, since this does appear to be a work-around of the United States Constitution, it’s expected that the Supreme Court would need to be consulted for legality. If you’d like to read about The League of Women’s Voters argument, it can be found here - http://www.lwvvc.org/NPVArgument_con.pdf

Conclusion

The process to make changes to the Electoral College is detailed in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment process gives several ways to change the Constitution, and may be used to bring about nearly any alteration a majority of the people desire. This process has taken place three times in our history, the 1804 12th Amendment, the 14th Amendment in 1868, and the 23rd Amendment in 1961. It’s clear that America can make changes when necessary, but they must be done in the methods our legal system provides, not skirted around to gain an unfair political advantage. The previous changes had bi-partisan and widespread voter support. This attempt is one-sided and appears to be just another Democrat tactic to capture American political power permanently.

Comments

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  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    6 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

  • tsadjatko profile image

    6 months ago from now on

    mizbejabbers says because the population has shifted the issue needs to be studied closely for a more fair way of voting in this democratic republic.

    ? Like the founders thought the population would never shift? That’s crazy.

    The point of having the electoral college is to prevent against “the tyranny of the majority” and rather than just providing for the direct election of the president most of the nation’s founders were actually rather afraid of democracy. James Madison worried about what he called “factions,” which he defined as groups of citizens who have a common interest in some proposal that would either violate the rights of other citizens or would harm the nation as a whole. Madison’s fear – which Alexis de Tocqueville later dubbed “the tyranny of the majority” – was that a faction could grow to encompass more than 50 percent of the population, at which point it could “sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.” Madison has a solution for tyranny of the majority: “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

    As Alexander Hamilton writes in “The Federalist Papers,” the Constitution is designed to ensure “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The point of the Electoral College is to preserve “the sense of the people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen “by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.

    The Electoral College does make it possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and still not become president. But that is less a product of the Electoral College and more a product of the way states apportion electors. In every state but Maine and Nebraska, electors are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. So if a candidate wins a state by even a narrow margin, he or she wins all of the state’s electoral votes. The winner-take-all system is not federally mandated; states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they wish.

    The election of 2016 through the electoral college actually finctioned exactly as it was intended and kept us safe from the tyranny of the majority which was reflected in the popular vote.

    Can you imagine if Hilliary had won what a mess this country would be in now since she opposed every single policy Trump has managed and is managing to impliment, all of which are making America great again, America the country the Democrats will tell you was never great!

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    6 months ago from Beautiful South

    Yeah, I guess everyone who lives in a state that does not have delegates that represent the actual vote could say that. However that still doesn't make it really representative of the popular vote since their opposing votes don't count either. But is this really fair to either party? This makes it easy for big money to buy it out regardless of which side they are on.

    I agree with you on voting methods except for the early voting. We utilize it because we are both disabled and we don't have to stand in line as long. However, we follow the rules and present our IDs when asked, although we really don't have to in my state. I don't see how early in-person voting should be any different from regular in-person voting because actually takes pressure off both voters and polling workers which allows more time to check each voter out. I think it is the provisional ballots that cause a problem. I've seen people throw bitch-fits when they were told their ballots would be provisional. They accuse the poll workers of denying them their civil rights. (I've been a poll watcher and have spent a whole day at the polls back when I was able.)

    But I agree with you on absentee voting. I've never been able to understand how they can keep people from cheating on absentee ballots. The problem is how to allow deployed military, college students, and other citizens temporarily away from home to vote.

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    6 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, however your argument can be used with Republicans living in Blue states such as NY or CA. I'm sure Democrats love the fact that many Republican votes get nullified due to the large populations of those states.

    If America were to go to a system of popular vote, it would certainly need to include a national voter ID card or some other proof that the voter is both a citizen and eligible to vote (many other nations have systems like this in place). I'd personally like to see early voting be eliminated and change the way absentee or mail-in ballots are handled. The current system is too porous. Voting is a right, but a right which assumes the voter is responsible enough to register in time for an election and come out to vote in every election.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James MizBejabbers 

    7 months ago from Beautiful South

    The population has shifted since the electoral college was written into the Constitution and the issue needs to be studied closely for a more fair way of voting in this democratic republic. Of course, the Republicans are very happy with a system that discounts the votes of the opposition. Since I live in a Red state run by a Red governor and a Red legislature (for whom I've worked), non-Republicans have no real incentive to vote anymore because we know our votes won't be considered by the delegates.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    7 months ago from now on

    Here’s another democrat tactic,

    Candidates including Sens.Cory Booker, D-N.J., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have all signaled an openness to overhauling the court if they become president. And progressive groups are putting their money behind the message, an effort to tap into lingering liberal anger over President Trump's two nominees confirmed to the high court.

    One idea that Booker thinks is interesting,you have 15 members, but only ten of them are appointed in the political fashion. Five of them can only be seated by unanimous agreement of the other ten," he told "Fox News Sunday." "The bottom line is, we've got to make some kind of structural form to depoliticize the Supreme Court."

    think they are getting desperate?

    Oh yeah!

    The only way to depoliticize the Supreme court is to put all constitutionalists on it.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    7 months ago from now on

    Appears to be a Democrat tactic?

    Yeah, like having an unsecured server with top secret govt information open to hackers, or using the IRS and the DOJ against your political opponents, or taking money from foreign influences through the Clinton Foundation engaged in pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities committed by Hillary Clinton ...There is no end to the Democrat tactics, that’s all they have is tactics because everything they want to do is against the constitution they are sworn to uphold - nothing but lying, evil crooks and cons, that’s what the Democrat party is.

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