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Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College?, Part II

Today's Fightin Words podcast: The temptations and hazards of a national popular vote for president.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

May 2, 2014 - 9:00 am

al-gore

Listen to Part I here.

On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Continuing discussion with constitutional scholar Dave Benner on the temptations and hazards of the National Popular Vote state compact.

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Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the boards of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, Minnesota Majority and the Minority Liberty Alliance. He maintains a blog and daily podcast entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of conservative Minnesotan commentary, and regularly appears on the Twin Cities News Talk Weekend Roundtable on KTCN AM 1130. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.

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Because of state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), 80% of the states, like Minnesota, and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That's more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.
During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to the handful of ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

Charlie Cook reported in 2004:
“Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [in the then] 18 battleground states.” [only 10 in 2012]

Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009:
“If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

State-by-state winner-take-all laws adversely affects governance. Sitting Presidents (whether contemplating their own re-election or the election of their preferred successor) pay inordinate attention to the interests of “battleground” states.
** “Battleground” states receive over 7% more grants than other states.
** “Battleground” states receive 5% more grant dollars.
** A “battleground” state can expect to receive twice as many presidential disaster declarations as an uncompetitive state.
** The locations of Superfund enforcement actions also reflect a state’s battleground status.
** Federal exemptions from the No Child Left Behind law have been characterized as “‘no swing state left behind.”

The effect of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system on governance is discussed at length in Presidential Pork by Dr. John Hudak of the Brookings Institution.

Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a "safe" state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a "swing" state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida's shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, Steel Tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states - like water issues in the West (where only Colorado and Nevada are battleground states).
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Prior to arriving at the eventual wording of section 1 of Article II, the Constitutional Convention specifically voted against a number of different methods for selecting the President, including
● having state legislatures choose the President,
● having governors choose the President, and
● a national popular vote.
After these (and other) methods were debated and rejected, the Constitutional Convention decided to leave the entire matter to the states.

Article II, Section 1:
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation's first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state's electoral votes.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and preserves state control of elections and requires each state to treat as "conclusive" each other state's "final determination" of its vote for President.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, mischief, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

The closest popular-vote election count over the last 130+ years of American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election--and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

Which system offers vote suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?

A shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore's lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. In 2012, a shift of 214,733 popular votes in four states would have elected Mitt Romney, despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of 4,966,945 votes.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
With National Popular Vote, every voter would be equal and matter to the candidates. Candidates would reallocate their time, the money they raise, and their ad buys to no longer ignore 80% of the states, like Minnesota, and voters.

With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

16% of Americans live in rural areas.

The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

A nationwide presidential campaign, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

With a national popular vote, every voter everywhere will be equally important politically. When every voter is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as waitress mom voters in Ohio.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
With National Popular Vote, when every popular vote counts and matters to the candidates equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn't be about winning a handful of battleground states.

Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 80% of states, like Minnesota, and voters are ignored by presidential campaigns.

In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

In 2012, 24 of the nation's 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions.- including not a single dollar in presidential campaign ad money after Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee on April 11. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

24 of the 27 smallest states are not exerting their political will in presidential campaigns. They are irrelevant, like 80% of us.

None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.
The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

Support for a national popular vote in rural states: VT–75%, ME–77%, WV–81%, MS–77%, SD–75%, AR–80%, MT–72%, KY–80%, NH–69%, IA–75%,SC–71%, NC–74%, TN–83%, WY–69%, OK–81%, AK–70%, ID–77%, WI–71%, MO–70%, and NE–74%.

Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

Kerry won more electoral votes than Bush (21 versus 19) in the 12 least-populous non-battleground states, despite the fact that Bush won 650,421 popular votes compared to Kerry’s 444,115 votes. The reason is that the red states are redder than the blue states are blue. If the boundaries of the 13 least-populous states had been drawn recently, there would be accusations that they were a Democratic gerrymander.

Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE --75%, ID -77%, ME - 77%, MT- 72%, NE - 74%, NH--69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%, SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%, and WY- 69%.

Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The indefensible reality is that more than 99% of campaign attention was showered on voters in just ten states in 2012- and that in today's political climate, the swing states have become increasingly fewer and fixed. The rest of us are taken for granted or written off.

Where you live should not determine how much, if at all, your vote matters.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, will not reach out to about 80% of the states (like Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho) and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win.
10 of the original 13 states are ignored now.
Four out of five Americans were ignored in the 2012 presidential election. After being nominated, Obama visited just eight closely divided battleground states, and Romney visited only 10. These 10 states accounted for 98% of the $940 million spent on campaign advertising. They decided the election.
Two-thirds of the general-election campaign events (176 of 253) were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).
None of the 10 most rural states mattered, as usual.
About 80% of the country was ignored --including 24 of the 27 lowest population and medium-small states, and 13 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressmen John Buchanan (R–Alabama), and Tom Downey (D–New York), and former Senators David Durenberger (R–Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R–Utah).
Supporters include former Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA)

Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee

The Nebraska GOP State Chairman, Mark Fahleson

Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State

Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:"A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College."

Some other supporters who wrote forewords to "Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote" include:

Laura Brod served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

James Brulte the California Republican Party chairman, who served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

Dean Murray was a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

Thomas L. Pearce served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls: : AK – 70%, AR – 80%, AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CO – 68%, CT – 74%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, FL – 78%, IA --75%, ID – 77%, KY- 80%, MA – 73%, ME – 77%, MI – 73%, MN – 75%, MO – 70%, MS – 77%, MT – 72%, NC – 74%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NM– 76%, NV – 72%, NY – 79%, OH – 70%, OK – 81%, OR – 76%, PA – 78%, RI – 74%, SC – 71%, SD – 71%, TN – 83%, UT – 70%, VA – 74%, VT – 75%, WA – 77%, WI – 71%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%.

The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, Republican, Democratic, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

NationalPopularVote
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
A survey of Minnesota voters showed 75% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

Support was 84% among Democrats, 69% among Republicans, and 68% among others.

By age, support was 74% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 77% among 46-65 year olds, and 75% for those older than 65.

By gender, support was 83% among women and 67% among men.

Most Americans don't ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it would be wrong for the candidate with the most popular votes to lose. We don't allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls

By state (Electoral College votes), by political affiliation, support for a national popular vote in recent polls has been:

Alaska (3) -- 66% among (Republicans), 70% among Nonpartisan voters, 82% among Alaska Independent Party voters
Arkansas (6) -- 71% (R), 79% (Independents).
California (55) – 61% (R), 74% (I)
Colorado (9) -- 56% (R), 70% (I).
Connecticut (7) -- 67% (R)
Delaware (3) -- 69% (R), 76% (I)
DC (3) -- 48% (R), 74% of (I)
Florida (29) -- 68% (R)
Idaho(4) - 75% (R)
Iowa (6) -- 63% (R)
Kentucky (8) -- 71% (R), 70% (I)
Maine (4) - 70% (R)
Massachusetts (11) -- 54% (R)
Michigan (16) -- 68% (R), 73% (I)
Minnesota (10) -- 69% (R)
Montana (3)- 67% (R)
Mississippi (6) -- 75% (R)
Nebraska (5) -- 70% (R)
Nevada (5) -- 66% (R)
New Hampshire (4) -- 57% (R), 69% (I)
New Mexico (5) -- 64% (R), 68% (I)
New York (29) - 66% (R), 78% Independence, 50% Conservative
North Carolina (15) -- 89% liberal (R), 62% moderate (R) , 70% conservative (R), 80% (I)
Ohio (18) -- 65% (R)
Oklahoma (7) -- 75% (R)
Oregon (7) -- 70% (R), 72% (I)
Pennsylvania (20) -- 68% (R), 76% (I)
Rhode Island (4) -- 71% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), 35% conservative (R), 78% (I),
South Carolina (8) -- 64% (R)
South Dakota (3) -- 67% (R)
Tennessee (11) -- 73% (R)
Utah (6) -- 66% (R)
Vermont (3) -- 61% (R)
Virginia (13) -- 76% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), 54% conservative (R)
Washington (12) -- 65% (R)
West Virginia (5) -- 75% (R)
Wisconsin (10) -- 63% (R), 67% (I)
Wyoming (3) –66% (R), 72% (I)
NationalPopularVote
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your spam is no more legitimate the second time you regurgitate it as it was the first time.
You continue to deceive about the history of the electoral system, as well as present false assertions about the system as it stands now, offer false promises about the superiority of the change you propose, and refuse to acknowledge the suspect, even unconstitutional, nature of the method you propose.

Stop trying to subvert my government and diminish my vote!
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
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