The Corner

D.C. Mayor Ditches the Electoral College

The National Popular Vote plan is one step closer to becoming law in Washington, D.C. Last week, Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the bill, which was approved by the D.C. Council in September. Congress has 30 days to object to the bill.

NPV has long denied that its plan is an end-run around the constitutional amendment process, but now it is taking matters one step further: Amazingly, this progressive movement is pretending to be a federalist, states’ rights organization.

As I have previously explained, NPV operates through an interstate compact, which requires participants to award their presidential electors to the winner of the national — not state — popular vote. The compact is binding when states holding a majority of electors have agreed to its terms. Once in effect, NPV would essentially eliminate the Electoral College, replacing it with a direct election system.

In recent months, several NPV editorialists have argued that an originalist view of the Constitution demands acceptance of NPV. Advocates cite the right of states to determine their own manner of elector allocation and argue that this state prerogative should be defended. In true originalist form, proponents of NPV invoke the Founders. Surely the Founders would expect states to adopt NPV, as needed, to protect their interests! True federalists should accept that a state such as Massachusetts can give its electors to the winner of the national popular vote, if it so chooses.

Fine. If Massachusetts feels so strongly about the wisdom of giving its twelve electors to the winner of the national popular vote, then perhaps it should vote to do so. Now. Alone. Effective today, without the protections afforded by NPV’s interstate compact.

Massachusetts won’t take such a step, obviously. No state legislator wants to make such a leap unless he is guaranteed that a critical mass of legislators in other states will jump with him. Proponents want NPV in its entirety; they are not aiming for a simple change that impacts only one state.

NPV is not an exercise of states’ rights that serves the voters of a particular state. It is, at best, an abuse of state discretion that attempts to subvert the constitutional amendment process. It seeks complete and radical change to the presidential election system. And, because a handful of states can enact the compact even if a majority disagrees, NPV could actively deprive most states of their right to participate in decisions about changes to the constitutional structure. NPV is not pro-states’ rights. It is most emphatically anti-states’ rights.

NPV’s latest arguments are misleading, to say the least. Its plan subverts one constitutional institution (the Electoral College) even as it dishonestly bypasses another (Article V’s amendment process). D.C.’s elected officials should have been able to see through the ruse.

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

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