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National Popular Vote Clears First Hurdle

by Christine Stuart | Mar 10, 2014 6:30am
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election Policy

Christine Stuart photo

Government Administration and Elections Committee debated the bill Friday.

The National Popular Vote Compact got one step closer Friday to becoming law when the Government Administration and Elections Committee forwarded the bill to the Senate with a 9-4 vote.

Joining the National Popular Vote Compact has become a perennial issue in the Connecticut legislature but has yet to be passed into law.

Under the bill, Connecticut would join nine other states and the District of Columbia in an agreement that would become effective only if enough states joined so that 270 electoral votes, or enough votes to win the election, went to the winner of the popular vote.

Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, promised a lengthier debate on the bill when it reached the Senate floor, but gave his colleagues a more than 20-minute preview of his opposition to the bill during a committee meeting Friday.

“The National Popular Vote bill before us kicks aside the Republic of the United States in favor of democracy,” McLachlan said. “Now everybody thinks that democracy is a good idea. Well, of course it’s a good idea. But when you talk about the debate about why the United States of America has been successful versus some democracies that did not last as long as the United States did, some of that goes to the success of the Republic form of government.”

McLachlan went onto argue that “the National Popular Vote Compact is tearing away at the Republic form of government of the United States of America.”

He said the history of the constitutional convention makes clear why this one office of president is elected differently, “it was for a reason.”

But Rep. Ed Jutila, who supports a National Popular Vote and co-chairs the General Administration and Elections Committee, said “the Electoral College of today is not the one the founding fathers anticipated.”

He said Connecticut should join the compact because “everybody’s vote should be equal. Number two, every vote, in every state should be politically relevant in every election. Number three, the candidate for president who gets the most votes nationally should win.”

The issue received attention in recent years after the 2000 presidential election, which saw the Bush-Cheney campaign win the White House with a 271-266 electoral vote advantage despite polling 540,520 fewer popular votes than Gore-Lieberman.

Aside from 2000, the electoral college vote took precedence over the popular vote in three other elections: 1824, 1876, and 1888.

Supports of the bill also believe it would inspire presidential candidates to visit the state and campaign because the votes in Connecticut would count as much as the votes in other states. Opponents don’t believe it would have any impact on how often presidential candidates visit the state.

The committee forwarded the bill to the floor of the Senate by a 9-4 vote Friday.

This year, the bill has the support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who voiced his support for the measure last month.

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(13) Comments

posted by: Art Vandelay | March 10, 2014  7:40am

As much as I empathize with the arguments FOR a true popular vote, I have to disagree. The Founding Fathers got it right.  I think it’s a HUGE mistake.  It’s another way for this country to become a ONE party country.

posted by: M_Easty | March 10, 2014  8:54am

The idea that more presidential candidates would visit our state under national rules is absurd. They are coming now but mostly for fund raising not for votes. We have become a solid Democrat state, there’s no reason for them to come. Also, under national rules all they would need are the electroal college votes from NY, CA, TX, Ill, and a few other big states and they’re in. No need to visit CT for a few measly EC votes.  The founders were much smarter than any of these people in office today, leave it alone!!!

posted by: dano860 | March 10, 2014  10:03am

With all that transpired in the Bush-Cheney years it scares me to think what we would be looking at if it were a Gore-Lieberman administration handling those situations.
Vladimir would have probably made the the re-patriot moves on the old countries long ago.

posted by: ocoandasoc | March 10, 2014  11:46am

If you don’t like the ectoral college system, fine, work to abolish it and go to a national popular vote. But this Compact idea is an inartful lash-up that’s not worth the serious consideration of the legislature when they have so many other important issues to address.

posted by: ConnVoter | March 10, 2014  12:08pm

Stupidest idea in the world.  Name one reason why a politician would ever come to Connecticut if this is passed (other than to get more money from Fairfield County).

Want to know how to make people listen to remote outposts like Winsted or Norwich or Durham?  Give them an opportunity to participate in the electoral college.  This plan would take it away and is borderline unconstitutional.

posted by: mvymvy | March 10, 2014  12:43pm

“Art”

Anyone who supports the current presidential election system, believing it is what the Founders intended and that it is in the Constitution, is mistaken. The current presidential election system does not function, at all, the way that the Founders thought that it would.

In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
 
The statewide winner-take-all rule (used by 48 of the 50 states) is not in the Constitution.  It was not the Founders’ choice (having been used by only three states in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789).  It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention, and it was not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. The Founders were dead for decades before the winner-take-all rule became prevalent.
     
The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.
     
Supporters of National Popular Vote find it hard to believe the Founding Fathers would endorse the current electoral system where 80% of the states and voters now are completely politically irrelevant. 

** 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.

** Virtually none of the small states receive any attention.

** None of the 10 most rural states is a battleground state.

** 24 of the 27 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX are ignored. That’s over 85 million voters, 200 million Americans.

Once the conventions are over, presidential candidates now don’t visit or spend resources in 80% of the states. Candidates know the Republican is going to win in safe red states, and the Democrat will win in safe blue states, so they are ignored.

States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.
 
With National Popular Vote, with every voter equal, candidates will truly have to care about the issues and voters in all 50 states and DC.  A vote in any state will be as sought after as a vote in Ohio and Florida.  Part of the genius of the Founding Fathers was allowing for change as needed. When they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t give us the right to vote, or establish state-by-state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes, or establish any method, for how states should award electoral votes. Fortunately, the Constitution allowed state legislatures to enact laws allowing people to vote and how to award electoral votes.

posted by: oldgulph | March 10, 2014  12:51pm

The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

The presidential election system of 48 state-by-state winner-take-all that we have today is not in the Constitution

With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% 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. 
                                                                 
In 2004, among the 11 most populous states, in the seven non-battleground states, % of winning party, and margin of “wasted” popular votes, from among the total 122 Million votes cast nationally:
* Texas (62% Republican), 1,691,267
* New York (59% Democratic), 1,192,436
* Georgia (58% Republican), 544,634
* North Carolina (56% Republican), 426,778
* California (55% Democratic), 1,023,560
* Illinois (55% Democratic), 513,342
* New Jersey (53% Democratic), 211,826

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: oldgulph | March 10, 2014  12:53pm

A survey of Connecticut voters 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?”

Support, 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.

NationalPopularVote

posted by: oldgulph | March 10, 2014  1:33pm

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 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 Connecticut or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Connecticut.

With National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.  Wining states would not be the goal. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states.

posted by: oldgulph | March 10, 2014  1:36pm

The Founders in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, were eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.
 
National Popular Vote is based on Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives each state legislature the right to decide how to appoint its own electors. Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the U.S. Constitution in Article II, Section 1 gives the states exclusive and plenary control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes:
“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.
             
Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.
     
In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
 
The statewide winner-take-all rule (used by 48 of the 50 states) is not in the Constitution.  It was not the Founders’ choice (having been used by only three states in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789).  It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention, and it was not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. The Founders were dead for decades before the winner-take-all rule became prevalent.
     
The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.

posted by: emilywaitress | March 10, 2014  3:07pm

Popular vote would be fine if certain base standards were put in place before a person would be allowed to vote.  I base intelligence test, maybe general civics exam.  Of course proof of citizenship and legal status would be required as well.

posted by: Joebigjoe | March 11, 2014  7:55am

Emily got it right. How about we also add in that unless you have worked at least 1000 hours in a year you cant vote unless you have a spouse that has worked that many. You can vote in retirement forever if you have worked a certain amount of time or a spouse has, and military service also qualifies you for life.

Then let’s go to the popular vote.

posted by: abg | March 11, 2014  4:17pm

I just wonder if the conserva-troll commentators on here realize that National Popular Vote benefits Republicans given the current configuration of the electoral map, in which Republican votes are inefficiently distributed for the purposes of the Electoral College, the same way Democratic votes are inefficiently distributed for the purposes of winning control of the House of Representatives. Don’t take my word for it, ask Nate Silver (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/as-nation-and-parties-change-republicans-are-at-an-electoral-college-disadvantage/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0). So if you’re a gun-totin’, freedom-lovin’ tea party patriot eager to see a Ted Cruz / Sarah Palin ticket in the White House, you should tell your legislator to support this legislation.