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Fate of National Popular Vote Bill Uncertain

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 6, 2012 4:32pm
(11) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2012, Election Policy

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Government Administration and Elections Committee co-chairwoman Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D- Milford

In five minutes Monday, the Government Administration and Elections Committee voted to raise 35 concepts this session. A bill to join the National Popular Vote Compact was not among them.

Last year the committee voted 10 to 5 to pass a bill that would have Connecticut join nine other states who have mandated their Electoral College delegates cast their votes for whichever presidential candidate gets the most votes nationally. But the bill was never raised on the House floor.

After the meeting, committee co-chairwoman Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D- Milford, said leadership was still discussing whether or not they would raise the bill again this year. She would not speculate whether they were likely take up the issue.

However, its absence from the long list of concepts the committee unanimously agreed to take up Monday does not bode well for national popular vote advocates. Slossberg noted that 15 of the concepts approved were at the request of different agencies. The other 20 were placeholder bills for issues they may decide to address.

“We put those bills aside to have as needed when issues arise so we don’t have to do things on an emergency basis and the business of the people of our state is not held up by technical difficulties. So that’s just a forward looking action,” she said.

Among the “dummy bills” passed were “An Act Concerning Elections” and “An Act Concerning Technical Changes to Election Laws.” Either placeholder could likely be germane to national popular vote if the committee decides to address it.

Rep. Matt Lesser, D- Middletown and vice chairman of the committee, said whether the issue gets raised will come down to a question of time. The committee has a long list of things it wants to accomplish, including changes to the Freedom of Information Act, and a short session to get it done, he said.

“I think its a strategic question the chairs are going to have to make but the committee members overwhelmingly want to get it done,” he said.

Last week, national popular vote supporter Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said it was too early to say whether there would be a bill this year.

“The reality of this very short session is that for bills to get considered, you have to have co-chairs who are both open to considering it and chambers who are both open to considering it,” he said. “I have a sense that both House and Senate leadership are canvasing their members on various issues to see if the votes are potentially there.”

As far as committee leadership goes, co-chairman Rep. Russ Morin has supported the bill in the past, whereas Slossberg has opposed it. Sen. Edward Meyer, D- Guilford, said this year it will be a question of whether Slossberg allows time to debate a concept she doesn’t support.

“In the past she has agreed to allow a vote even though she opposes it,” he said.

If the bill makes it out of committee, supporters seem confident there are enough votes in both chambers to pass it. Fleischmann said House members have previously shown they have enough enough support, which he didn’t think has changed.

Sen. Gary LeBeau, D- East Hartford, said, without conducting a poll of state senators, he thinks the bill will be raised and passed this year.

“When people look at it and understand it and get past their objections, it’s pretty common sense,” he said.

LeBeau said he continues to get emails from people urging he support the bill. Meyer said if the bill is raised and makes it out of committee, he guesses it will pass the Senate with 2 to 1 support.

Even though national popular vote was not mentioned at Monday’s meeting, Meyer said he wouldn’t count it out yet.

“We have a number of meetings in which we can vote to raise bills. I think we’ll have more than enough time to do this,” he said. “And this being a presidential election year, I’m hoping there will be more motivation to debate it and move it.”

Not everyone on the committee is supportive of the concept. Committee member Rep. Hetherington, R-New Canaan, wrote an Op-Ed for CTNewsJunkie, saying national popular vote would be a bad thing for the country because it would encourage splinter parties, who may get a candidate elected if the vote is split enough ways.

“There is far less incentive for extremists to rest their case in primary battles when they can be real players in the general election,” he wrote.

National Popular Vote Regional Director Ryan O’Donnell said the group remains optimistic a bill will be raised in Connecticut this session. He said there has also been momentum nationwide. Since last year, Vermont and California have joined to compact and Rhode Island’s legislature is considering legislation this year, he said.

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(11) Comments

posted by: mvymvy | February 6, 2012  5:44pm

A survey of Connecticut voters conducted April 19-20, 2008 showed 73% support for a national popular vote for President.

By party, support for a national popular vote for President was 80% among Democratic voters; 59% among Republicans, and 76% for Others.

By age, support was 76% among 18-29 year olds; 67%-33% among 30-45 year olds; 72% among 46-65 year olds; and 78% among those 65 years and older.

By gender, support was 81% among women and 64% among men.

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 in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

NationalPopularVote
Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via nationalpopularvoteinc

posted by: mvymvy | February 6, 2012  5:44pm

If an Electoral College type of arrangement were essential for avoiding a proliferation of candidates and people being elected with low percentages of the vote, we should see evidence of these conjectured apocalyptic outcomes in elections that do not employ such an arrangement.  In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in the last 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | February 7, 2012  12:40pm

How about a bill for term limits and proportional representation.

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  9:02pm

A) who was surveyed? Hang around campus and you’ll get overwhelming numbers in favor of increasing college funding.
B) A 2008 poll? Anything more recent? Or perhaps more recent polls don’t support the position?
C) April 2008, Before Obama, Dems would sell their souls to ensure getting back control of White House.In a close election using NPV, elections will be decided by LA, NYC, and a few other huge cities. Which is what the Electoral College is designed to prevent.
More representative of the will of the people would be splitting a state’s electors.
Split the Electors based on House districts according to popular vote, with the 2 Senate based going to state winner.
I’ll leave it to someone with more time to go through and figure out effect on whole result, but looking at the largest states-
CA would have given (with 61%-37%) 32+2 to Obama and 21 to McCain.
NY @ 62-37% Obama 18+2 - 11
FL @ 51-48% Obama 13+2 - 12
TX @ 55-44% McCain 18+2- 14
Winner takes all, currently and with NPV gives overwhelming power to large cities- Obama won CA by just under 3 million votes,of which 1.2 mil was the spread in L.A..
NY won by @ 1.9 mil, won NYC(County) by 500,000.
The creation of the EC was in large part to prevent this- keep New York, Boston, Philly, and large (and ‘elite’)population centers of the East from running roughshod over less populated (typically less educated,agrarian)emerging states.
CT would have been 5-2 for Obama.Won state by @ 370,000 with over 100,000 from Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, & Stamford.

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  9:23pm

Why should any state give up their voice? Of course it’s easy for a liberal in tint CT to say NPV is the way to go, especially if they see it getting instituted in a place like TX or FLA (yes Bush won there, it’s been 12 years quit whining!) where a Republican win would be wiped out.
Currently only Maine & Nebraska do this, but it’s drawing interest in other states..
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11256/1174283-454.stm
http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/state-lawmaker-wants-state-to-split-electoral-college-votes-131619683.html

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  9:39pm

A pretty level-headed (for the most part- the Civil War analogy, while understandable and in some ways fitting is way over the edge alarmist wise)analysis ...
http://www.maitreg.com/politics/articles/electoralcollege.asp

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  10:14pm

And think about the effect on turnout and how it will be effected down the ballot.
CT typically has highest turnout in Presidential years. If people see that their Pres vote really means nothing because the prize will be decided by national vote- why bother? If you say ‘civic pride’,well where is that in off years now? NPV is more likely to chase away voters in droves than bring candidates to CT.
Think about it, Connecticut cast less than 2 million votes in 2008 Pres election. Chicago/Cook Cty cast over 2 million.
Is a candidate going to focus any real resources on a state who’s 7 votes they’ll get simply by winning LA & NYC (or even Chicago) each potentially delivering 3-9 times as many votes.
“CT, yeah didn’t we drive through there on the way to New York to Boston? I think the press bus stopped at McD’s on 95- does that count as a campaign visit?”

posted by: sharewhut | February 7, 2012  11:12pm

One last comment on the ‘survey’, was it a survey or a poll (a poll implies a more scientific approach)?
And frankly (and jadedly) I take any of these with a grain of salt.
I’m sure that in the computer age things have changed, but back in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s, as a Political Science major I would have class assignments to conduct polls/surveys. Students would be assigned a random number and a phone book and make calls to every ‘x-th’ person in the book… and we’d sit around with a case of beer, make a few calls, then fill out our sheets approximating the results of the few calls we made… never gave much weight to polls since…

posted by: mvymvy | February 8, 2012  5:09pm

Sharewhut:
Thanks for asking. There is a more recent poll.

A survey of Connecticut voters conducted on May 14–15, 2009 showed 74% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states. Voters were asked:

“How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?”

The results of the first question, by political affiliation, was 80% among Democrats, 67% among Republicans, and 71% among others. By gender, support was 81% among women and 66% among men. By age, support was 82% among 18-29 year olds, 69% among 30-45 year olds, 75% among 46-65 year olds, and 72% for those older than 65.

Then, voters asked a second question that emphasized that Connecticut’s electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states, not Connecticut, vote. In this second question, 68% of Connecticut voters favored a national popular vote.

“Do you think it more important that Connecticut’s electoral votes be cast for the presidential candidate who receives the most popular vote in Connecticut, or is it more important to guarantee that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states becomes president?”

The results of the second question, by political affiliation, was 74% among Democrats, 62% among Republicans, and 63% among others. By gender, support was 75% among women and 59% among men. By age, support was 75% among 18-29 year olds, 57% among 30-45 year olds, 68% among 46-65 year olds, and 70% for those older than 65.

The results, with all cross-tabs is at
http://nationalpopularvote.com/resources/CT-Poll-EXTENDED-Results-May-2009.pdf

posted by: mvymvy | February 8, 2012  5:13pm

Sharewhut:

With the current state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, winning a bare plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population, could win the Presidency with a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

But the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question.  In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey).  The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country.  For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry. 
 
Among the 11 most populous states in 2004, the highest levels of popular support, hardly overwhelming, were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas (62% Republican),
* New York (59% Democratic),
* Georgia (58% Republican),
* North Carolina (56% Republican),
* Illinois (55% Democratic),
* California (55% Democratic), and
* New Jersey (53% Democratic). 

In addition, the margins generated by the nation’s largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally.  Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas—1,691,267 Republican
* New York—1,192,436 Democratic
* Georgia—544,634 Republican
* North Carolina—426,778 Republican
* Illinois—513,342 Democratic
* California—1,023,560 Democratic
* New Jersey—211,826 Democratic

To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004—larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes).  Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

posted by: mvymvy | February 8, 2012  5:16pm

Sharewhut:

The district method used by Maine and Nebraska has not been received well when recently proposed in a couple of other states.

Dividing a state’s electoral votes by congressional district winners would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system.

If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country’s congressional districts.

The district approach would not provide incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in a particular state or focus the candidates’ attention to issues of concern to the state. With the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all laws (whether applied to either districts or states), candidates have no reason to campaign in districts or states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In North Carolina, for example, there are only 2 districts (the 13th with a 5% spread and the 2nd with an 8% spread) where the presidential race is competitive. In California, the presidential race was competitive in only 3 of the state’s 53 districts.  Nationwide, there have been only 55 “battleground” districts that were competitive in presidential elections. With the present deplorable 48 state-level winner-take-all system, 2/3rds of the states (including California and Texas) are ignored in presidential elections; however, 88%  of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

Awarding electoral votes by congressional district could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.