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  • Protecting the Electoral College from the National Popular Vote Scheme

    The “National Popular Vote” plan (NPV) is a scheme that would effectively abolish the Electoral College without going through the formal (and politically difficult) process of amending the Constitution. The NPV proposes an interstate compact in which participating states agree in advance to automatically allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote (the highest vote getter, even if only a plurality), disregarding the popular vote results in their states.

    The NPV supposedly would go into effect as soon as “states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes” needed to win an election (270 votes) join the purported compact. This would give the voters of as few as 11 states control over the outcome of presidential elections and give the most populous states a controlling majority of the Electoral College.

    Unfortunately, eight state legislatures and the District of Columbia have agreed to participate in this politically dubious, unconstitutional, and dangerous cartel. The NPV is already 49 percent of the way to the goal of 270 electoral votes and forcing even nonparticipating states into this drastic change in the Electoral College.

    The NPV compact is not only unconstitutional, but it is also bad public policy that would undermine the protections of the Electoral College. It would diminish the influence of smaller states and rural areas of the country; lead to more recounts, contentious fights over provisional ballots, and conflicts over the results of presidential elections; and encourage voter fraud. It could also radicalize American politics and lead to Presidents who are elected with very small pluralities, or who failed to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It strikes directly at the Founders’ view of federalism and a representative republic that balances popular sovereignty with structural protections for state governments and minority interests.

    As part of its “Preserve the Constitution” series, the Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation is going to have a presentation on the NPV on Friday, October 28. We will be discussing the original purposes of the Electoral College and their relevance today, as well as the effect the NPV would have on our system of electing the President.

    I will be joining Trent England, vice president of policy at the Freedom Foundation, as well as Michael Uhlmann of the Department of Politics and Policy at Claremont Graduate School in California, to talk about this very important issue. The event will be hosted and moderated by Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan.

    Posted in Featured, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to Protecting the Electoral College from the National Popular Vote Scheme

    1. @cgmv123 says:

      I don't see how the NPV is unconstitutional. States can allocate electors however they want.
      "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…".
      It may be bad policy, but it doesn't look unconstitutional. I'm talking letter of the law and not spirit.

    2. Ryan says:

      Hans, I don't have the time or the forum to expound on this further (I touch on this topic a bit in my blog http://ryanjsuto.blogspot.com/2011/01/short-note-… but you essentially argue 3 points here:
      1. Constitution – NPV is unconstitutional
      2. Fairness – NPV is unfair
      3. Politics – The political and practical ramifications are undesirable.
      You're only right on #3, and maybe only half right. Your statements about rural v. urban areas are true, but whether that is undesirable is simply subjective and partisan. But on #1 and #2, you're just plain wrong. NPV doesn't go against the Constitution in any way, as it doesn't abolish the EC (indeed, callin NPV 'unconstitutional' infringes state sovereignty). Moreover, if one thinks one person's vote should have the same weight as any other person's vote, regardless of state, in a national election, then NPV is infinitely more fair than the EC.

      I would love to debate this issue, but I cannot be in D.C. on that day due to law school. But, if you ever find yourself in Syracuse, we should set up just such a debate.

      • concerned says:

        Did you ever study basic civics in high school? Typical liberal ignorance is scary because it's lazy and becoming a way of life among the "youth?" of today.

      • SamAdams says:

        Each vote is already equal. We DO NOT vote for president. There is NO SUCH THING as the "popular vote." Our votes for the ELECTORS for our States are already equal. The votes of the Electors themselves who actually do the voting for President are already equal. Equality of the vote is not a problem. It's just that you don't understand how the EC works or why it was designed this way.

    3. Bill says:

      Which are the eight states that have approved this idea and what is the political composition of their legislatures? The states that approve of it might give some hint as to the reason for the NPV.

    4. eggplant says:

      Hans, your article makes some baseless assertions. For example: "[NPV] would diminish the influence of smaller states and rural areas". What data supports this? We should live in a nation of one person, one vote, with all counting equally. But if you are a republican voting in Connecticut, or you are a democrat voting in Alabama, your vote counts for zero, as you always will be a minority voter with no ability to influence the electoral college outcome of your own state. Right now, it seems that the only people that actually determine the outcomes of our presidential elections all live in swing states like Ohio or Florida. Why should their votes count more than everyone else's.

      The NPV is a brilliant, BIPARTISAN, solution — hardly the "scheme" that you describe, that "would give the voters of as few as 11 states control over the outcome of presidential elections". That's what we have now with the electoral college process. You want to debate this? Bring it on!

      • SamAdams says:

        See my reply above on "equality" of the vote. Also, we don't live in a system limited to only two parties. Our system is and should be open to as many parties, or no parties as is the desire of the candidates themselves. To the extent it effectively functions as a bi-partisan system, that is only because those two parties have passed unbalanced and protectionist laws in each state to block other parties from gaining traction. NPV will not solve that problem. NPV will also not solve the swing state problem, but will rather transform it into swing precinct problems. Fraud will be rampant. Recounts nearly routine. It will get fugly fast.

        • BillR says:

          First of all, our system has two parties because it is a majoritarian system. Look up Duverger's Law if you want to learn more or take a course on comparative electoral systems. It has nothing to do with suppression of smaller parties.

          Second, your "logic" is unbelievable. Fraud and recounts will be more frequent because… more votes will actually matter. So what you're saying to me, a conservative Californian, is that my vote for President should continue to have zero impact on the election because if it actually mattered- God forbid!- I might have the motive to commit election fraud.

          I have the faith that our nation can overcome such possibilities, and that truly universal suffrage is worth trying.

    5. maryanne says:

      just one small comment…. CAN WE ALL SAY AT ONCE BANANA REPUBLIC. Our forefathers knew what would come and they tried to protect us from ourselves, so what do we do, we challenge it because it is so "outdated." Outdated, it has worked for us for over 200 years, so far. What I am seeing with the American population, especially our youth on Occupy Wall Street, is people forming sentences, having the parrots repeat them, and they aren't even insulted that their new mommies think that they are so stupid that they can't have an original thought. Let's keep America the way it has been. Has worked wonderfully for so many.

    6. Eugene says:

      I don't see a Constitutional impediment to the NPV. It is best described as an "extra-Constitutional" act – perhaps outside the authorized scope of any government.

      The electoral college works well: 1. It protects the freedom of individuals (we vote by state just like every other federal elected office), 2. It reduces fraud, 3. It reduces the influence of counting errors – a very common malady, 3. It ensures the winner succeeded only because he built a national coalition, and his challenger did not, 4. It current mechanism (minus NPV) reduces the use of the fail-safe House-of-Rep process.

      • Bobbie says:

        sorry Eugene, I misunderstood!

      • motorvoter says:

        To each of your points:

        1. No we don’t. We vote as individuals for U.S. Senators and Congressmen, as well as for governors, state legislators, sheriffs, etc. For each office, the candidate with the most votes wins. Except for the office of President of the United States

        2. Under the status quo, fraud is cost-effective, because stealing a few hundred or a few thousand votes can tip 100 per cent of the electoral votes of a “battleground” state. The bigger the vote pool, the less advantage there is in committing fraud. NPV would make fraud essentially futile, not encourage it.

        3. See above—like fraud, counting errors have less potential effect in a national vote pool.

        Second 3 (you forgot to change the numbering, Eugene). On the contrary, the status quo does not require a national coalition, it simply requires getting pluralities in a dozen or so “battleground” states. NPV requires a national plurality. which cannot be achieved without building a national coalition.

        4. The “House-of-Rep process” is not a fail-safe, it’s just a fail. There’s nothing safe about allowing a regional candidate with little national support to throw the election into the House.

      • BillR says:

        It reduces the incidence of fraud and the impact of counting errors because it reduces the number of votes that actually matter in the decision of who becomes President.

        In what kind of warped thinking is that a good trade-off?

        Also, you couldn't be more wrong about building a "national coalition". How is concentrating on swing states like Iowa part of building a national coalition? If anything it's building a "swing state" coalition. Small states like Iowa will definitely lose power if NPV passes, which is a great thing, because they way they decide elections and marginalize the rest of the country is antidemocratic lunacy.

    7. Bobbie says:

      this can't be trusted at all!
      all of a sudden we're going to the national popular vote? Another way to fraud the people and get the corrupting elite back in. Eugene, you can believe all you want but "it" will protect NOTHING except those corrupting!

    8. Carolyn Alder says:

      I am glad that the Friday forum will explain the Framers intent. No one seems to understand what the Framers had in mind. The Constitution established the USA to be a complex constitutional representative republic–NOT a democracy!

      The Framers designed a unique constitutional federalism (shared powers and responsibility) into the Constitution by having each federal office (national level of government) appointed by a different means for a different length of time by a different method of selection.

      The only national office directly elected by the people was the House of Representatives for 2 year terms to represent the interest of the people on national issues. (Not to bring home the bacon to individuals or their district.)

      The Senators were appointed by the State legislatures to represent the interest of the state government on national issues for 6 year terms. (They were accountable to their State legislature–not to bring home the bacon for their state, but to prevent federal encroachment on their state or create costly federal programs that each state would be taxed for according to their population.)

      The Framers designed a unique (complex) method to select an individual to the office of the President of the United States. That individual was to represent the nation as a whole for 4 year terms. (He was not the "King" of the people or the "King" of a party, or the legislator in chief.) It was a multi-step indirect process using "independent" Electors from each state (on the same day) to "nominate" (name two equally qualified outstanding individuals–one not from their own state) who could be the best possible presidential candidates. The signed, sealed, certificates were opened in joint session of Congress. The names of the five highest individuals named would proceed to the House of Representatives for consideration and deliberation. The beauty of federalism again came into play as each state had one vote and a majority of states was necessary to an appointment. (The candidates were nominated by one group of independent Electors–representing the people and a second group made the final decision–representing the States. After all he was to be the President of the United States.)

      There was no multi-year, multi-millions, campaign promises, self-aggrandizing, agendas, and party politics. Unfortunately, the system was too beautiful, too intelligent, too ingenious to live and the unique process was soon hijacked by politic parties.

      The hastily ratified 12th Amendment solidified political party usurpation.

      For more information on the Framers intent on the original Electoral College see: "The Evolution and Destruction of the Original Electoral College". http://www.freedomformula.us

    9. Carolyn Alder says:

      I am glad that the Friday forum will explain the Framers intent. No one seems to understand what the Framers had in mind. The Constitution established the USA to be a complex constitutional representative republic–NOT a democracy!

    10. CarolynAlder says:

      I am glad that the Friday Forum will address the Framers’ intent in the topic—“Protecting the Electoral College from the NPV.” No one seems to understand what they had in mind. The Framers designed a constitutional federalism (shared powers with delegated responsibilities) between the States and the Federal (national level) government. They established the United States of America to be a complex constitutional representative republic—NOT a democracy!

      Part of the genius of the system is that each branch of the Federal government was to be elected by a different method, to represent different interests, for a different length of term.

      The only branch of the Federal government elected directly by the people was The House of Representatives. (A new innovation from the Articles of Confederation where only States were represented.) They had a two year term and were to represent the interests of the people regarding national issues. (Not to bring home the bacon to their constituents or to their districts.)

      The Senators were appointed by their State Legislature to represent the interest of their State government, regarding national issues, for a term of six years. They were accountable to their State Legislature. (They were not to bring home the bacon to their state, but rather protect their state from Federal encroachments such as unauthorized Federal programs which then each State would have to pay their fair share based on their population.)

      The Framers intelligently designed a unique, indirect, multi step process for selecting the chief executive, specifically to avoid intrigue and CABAL (vying for the position) of the President for the United States. One body (representing the interests of the people) would nominate the best possible potential candidates, and another body (representing the interests of the states) would make the final selection.

      The Framers instituted a method using a college of electors, known as the Electoral College, consisting of “independent” presidential Electors in each state (chosen in a manner each State Legislature would decide). They would meet on the same day in their own State to “nominate”, name two outstanding individuals, (one not from their own state) based on past performance—not campaign promises. Then the signed, sealed and certified lists were sent to the seat of government and opened in joint session of Congress. After the tally, the top five individuals receiving the most “nominations” (named the most times) became the candidates. (Except in the case of George Washington, the designers expected that there would be many nominations.) Then in the House of Representative, the merits of these individuals would be discussed and deliberated. Each state had an equal voice, one vote, and a majority of the states required to agree for an appointment. Here again the principle of federalism in practice.

      Talk about “State rights”! After all, the President was to be the President of the United States, not the “king of the people”, or the “king of the party”, or the “legislator in chief”.

      How IRONICAL now when so many states are crying “nullification”, “State rights”. “State sovereignty,” “10th Amendment”, etc. states who have signed on to the NPVC want to give their Electoral Votes to the “democracy” of popular vote.

      They obviously do not understand what the Framers had in mind in establishing a complex (method of election) constitutional representative republic—NOT a democracy!

      The Framers’ system was too beautiful, too intelligent, too ingenious, too good to live. It was soon hijacked by political parties. The hastily ratified 12th Amendment institutionalized party usurpation.

      We are soooo far gone astray from the Founders’ and Framers’ principles of freedom and representative government, that it is almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion. I hope that you can on Friday and I hope that you have lots of listeners who can try to understand the thinking of the Framers.

      We would like to be of service however we can. For more information on the original Electoral College see: “The Evolution and Destruction of the Original College.” http://www.freedomformula.us

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