The Corner

Attacks on the Electoral College Gain Momentum

You won’t hear about it in the mainstream media, but the Electoral College is on the verge of being eliminated. One important legislative vote could occur Thursday. Two others could occur in the upcoming days and weeks.

A California-based group, National Popular Vote, is lobbying hard for a dangerous piece of anti-Electoral College legislation. My NRO article on the mechanics of the legislation is here. Five states have already approved NPV, but now three additional states are dangerously close to joining them: Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York. Another trio of state legislatures approved the scheme, but their governors vetoed the plan. These latter states remain important; a reasonable argument can be made that the gubernatorial vetoes are irrelevant.

If each of these states is counted, NPV could have as many as 169 electoral votes in favor of its plan. It needs 270. NPV has come startlingly close to success even as most Americans remain completely unaware that the presidential-election process is so close to being turned on its head.

The American presidential-election system is a unique blend of federalism and democracy, combining purely democratic state-level elections with a national election among the states. The practical effect of this system is that a candidate can’t win unless he appeals to a wide variety of voters around the nation. NPV’s plan tries to keep the democratic portions of the election, even as it strips the system of its federalist aspects. It fails, instead managing to lose both.

One fundamental flaw is NPV’s refusal to seek change through a constitutional amendment. NPV tries to take 51 very different sets of state and local laws, crushing them together into one national outcome. It won’t work. One coherent election result can’t be derived from 51 different election codes regarding ballot qualification, recount triggers, voting hours, etc. Inevitably, voters and candidates will be treated unequally across the country. Despite NPV’s claims, “more democracy” is not achieved when voters are thrown into the same pool for election purposes, but then have their votes tallied differently.

NPV is on the senate floor in Delaware this week. Grassroots efforts in the state have resulted in many phone calls to senate offices. The outcry seems to be working: Consideration of the bill has so far been delayed twice, apparently because the Democratic leadership is still working to get votes. NPV could also be considered by the Massachusetts senate and New York assembly at any time. In each case, approval sends the measure to the governor’s desk.

A few senators and assemblymen need to hear from their constituents before they do irreversible damage to our highly successful Electoral College system.

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



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