The Corner

The Electoral College Takes Another Hit

And so the dominoes continue to fall. The D.C. Council yesterday approved the National Popular Vote plan that has been pending before several state legislatures. D.C.’s approval comes less than two months after Massachusetts approved the plan. Two procedural steps remain before NPV is officially enacted in D.C.: The mayor must sign the legislation and Congress has 30 days to review it. If these two hurdles are overcome, then D.C.’s approval will bring the total number of entities supporting the bill to seven: Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington. These six states and D.C. together hold 76 electoral votes. NPV goes into effect when states holding 270 electoral votes are committed to the pact.

As I have written before, it is also important to remember the three other state legislatures that approved the scheme but met with gubernatorial vetoes (California, Rhode Island, Vermont). A reasonable legal argument can be made that the gubernatorial vetoes are irrelevant. Thus, NPV may have as many as 138 electoral votes.

At its heart, NPV is a blatant strike at the Constitution. It tears apart a well-established institution that was admired by the Founding generation and that has served America successfully for centuries. Alexander Hamilton described its reception by the Founding generation, noting that “the mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system…which has escaped without severe censure.… I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”

Second, NPV achieves its objective only because its plan does an end-run around the constitutional amendment process. Even assuming that the Electoral College should be eliminated, respect for the Constitution demands that we go through the formal amendment process. If a direct-election system is to be implemented, it should be ratified by three-quarters of the states, as required by Article V.

The Council’s action gives constitutionalists in both parties an excellent opportunity to highlight their allegiance to the Constitution during this election season. Constitutionalists in the House and Senate should sponsor resolutions of disapproval if and when NPV is signed by D.C.’s mayor. Those congressmen who fail to defend the Electoral College — and thus our Constitution — should be held to account at the polls.

— Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.

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