Vermont is one gubernatorial signature away from joining an effort to ditch the Electoral College. The Vermont legislature gave final approval to the National Popular Vote plan last week. (More details regarding the mechanics of the legislation can be found here.)
As a legislator, Governor Shumlin once sponsored the bill, so he is expected to sign it now. His signature will make Vermont the seventh state to join NPV’s compact. The District of Columbia has also approved the measure. These eight entities have a combined total of 77 electoral votes. Unfortunately, the bill also appears to be on a fast track toward approval in California. Those 55 electoral votes would bring the total number of participating electoral votes to 132. NPV needs 270 electoral votes to go into effect. Implementation of the compact will effectively eliminate the Electoral College.
NPV disputes such a characterization, of course. Tom Golisano of NPV celebrated the decision in Vermont, declaring that NPV will allow all votes to count “while preserving the Electoral College and the intent of the Founding Fathers.”
What an odd thing to say. NPV preserves the intent of the Founding Fathers? Would these be the same Founders who explicitly rejected a national direct-election system for the American presidency? NPV conveniently forgets that the original small states — states just like Vermont — would not have ratified the Constitution if a direct-election system had been included. NPV also ignores the fact that its plan sidesteps a constitutional-amendment process that would require ratification by 38 states before such radical change to presidential elections can be implemented.
NPV has been working hard to pretend that its plan is a federalist, pro–Electoral College measure. This is a political calculation that makes sense in the wake of Tea Party and Republican victories last November, but it is inconsistent with an honest reading of the Constitution and American history.
It’s too bad that Vermont legislators fell for the superficial sound bites touted by NPV. They should have spent more time studying the important reasons that small states in 1787 rejected a national direct election system. Their failure to do so will end up hurting their own small state.
— Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.