George Washington once warned against those who would undermine the Constitution. “It is requisite,” he wrote, “that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon [constitutional] principles however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”
Washington’s statement could easily have been aimed at the anti–Electoral College National Popular Vote effort, which is currently working to win support in several states. The measure has been approved by committees in Minnesota and Oklahoma and is pending on the Minnesota House and Oklahoma Senate floor. NPV is still pending in and could soon be approved by Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island legislative committees.
Keep in mind that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention directly rejected such a national direct-election process. Yet NPV states now claim the authority to sign a contract and unilaterally change this decision. They conveniently blow by the constitutionally provided process for change: the formal amendment process, which requires supermajority approval.
Supporters deny that their plan is an end-run around the amendment process, even as they describe their plan in terms that echo Washington’s warnings.
That pesky constitutional-amendment process. So impractical!
NPV supporters have given themselves away by the manner in which they discuss their plan. Perhaps legislators in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and elsewhere should take the hint. As Washington observed, NPV is merely trying to “undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”
— Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.