Hey, Let’s Amend the Constitution!

by Charles C. W. Cooke

From The Hill:

The head of the House Democratic campaign arm this week proposed a constitutional amendment that would give the winner of the popular vote in the presidential race an additional 29 electoral votes.


Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) did not offer an explanation in the joint resolution filed in the House for why he was proposing to change the way elections in the U.S. are decided.

Oh, good. As history teaches us, idle whim is a boffo reason to change a centuries-old constitution. The Hill goes onto explain that:

Under the Constitution, the candidate who wins at least 270 electoral votes wins the presidency, regardless of the popular vote.

Yes, that’s because this is a federal system in which the states vote for the president and there is no such thing as the “popular vote.”

The prospect of a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College usually provokes cries of abolishing the Electoral College completely, but rather than simplifying the process, Israel’s resolution would add an additional level of intrigue to the electoral puzzle.

No more “intrigue” than could be added by, say, changing the Constitution to allow any candidate who wins the popular vote but loses the state of Ohio an extra 18 electoral college votes. Right?

The timing of the resolution from Israel, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is curious since there is increasing speculation that for the fifth time in history, the 2012 presidential election could result in a split between the popular vote and Electoral College decision. And in this case, most of the speculation has been that President Obama might win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

If President Obama wins the electoral college, he wins the election. The “popular vote” is utterly irrelevant. These are the United States — yes, that’s United States and not American Districts — and that’s how it works. There is no national election, as such. Those who would abolish the electoral college have to answer clearly how exactly they see the states — which are not merely regional departments of the federal government — and, for that matter, why they don’t also want to abolish the Senate.

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