Ohio could decide to hand its votes in presidential elections over to the Democratic Party if a proposed ballot measure passes in November. If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment would award Ohio’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. The language of the ballot measure would enshrine the following in the state’s constitution.
It is the expressed will of the People that every vote for President be valued equally and that the candidate who wins the most votes nationally becomes President. Therefore, the General Assembly shall within sixty days of the adoption of this amendment take all necessary legislative action so that the winner of the national popular vote is elected President.
In other words, Ohio would let states like California and New York essentially have veto power over the will of the state’s voters in presidential elections — diluting the influence of rural and conservative voters in favor of the coastal elites in populous states that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Supporters, of course, would never frame it that way, but that is in essence what would happen if the national popular vote were used to decide how Ohio’s electoral votes are allocated. It’s a sneaky way to subvert the Electoral College without the messy work of amending the U.S. Constitution.
The proposed amendment was submitted to the attorney general’s office by Don McTigue, a Columbus election lawyer, who provided 1,000 signatures from Ohio voters. The signatures were collected by a Washington, D.C. canvasing outfit, but it’s not completely clear who all is behind the effort. Cleveland.com reported that McTigue “referred comment to Reed Hundt, a former Federal Communications Commission chair who is now chair and CEO of Making Every Vote Count, a non-profit pushing for a binding national popular vote.” Hundt declined to respond to Cleveland.com’s request for comment.
Making Every Vote Count is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in Washington, D.C., that is “dedicated to electing the president by a national popular vote,” according to the group’s website.
The Ohio Ballot Board has ten days to decide whether to approve the submitted ballot language and the attorney general must validate the signatures submitted with the petition. If approved, supporters will have until July 3 to collect 442,958 valid signatures (10 percent of the vote in the last gubernatorial election) from registered voters in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
A ballot measure, of course, is the worst possible way to change a law. The outcome largely depends on which activist organizations have the best fear-fueled ad campaigns. It’s the whole reason a comprehensive union reform law — passed by the duly elected legislature in Ohio and signed by the governor — was overturned by a popular-vote referendum in 2011. Activists — many of them from out of state — poured millions into ads showing grandma hanging out of the window of a burning house with firefighters unable to respond because they were asked to pay a few bucks toward their healthcare costs. By and large, the populace, who often votes based purely on emotion, is not well enough informed to vote on complicated issues like union reform or whether to hand over the state’s presidential votes to states like California and New York. That’s why we elect a legislature — to represent the interests of constituents.
The popular vote movement is spreading like wildfire across the country. On Thursday, New Mexico became the 14th state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and the District of Columbia. The states, which represent a whopping 189 electoral votes, have agreed to shift their voting allocations once the group amasses 270 votes, the threshold needed to decide a presidential election. If Ohio decides to join the Compact, the state’s 18 electoral votes would push that number to 207. A few large states or several small states could easily put them over the top.