OP-ED | Fix a Flawed System – Use the National Popular Vote
The National Popular Vote (NPV) initiative has gained ground across the U.S. because it does something overwhelming majorities of Americans in every state support: It ensures that the person who gets the most votes for President wins. Rep. John Hetherington’s recent criticisms of the initiative published on this site are so flawed that it’s hard to know where to start.
Along with so many others, I hope 2012 is the year that Connecticut will join the growing number of states that have passed the National Popular Vote initiative. The beauty of the initiative lies in its simplicity: the Presidential candidate with the most votes in the U.S. wins the election.
Rep. Hetherington claims that the NPV plan “allows any candidate to win without gaining a majority or even a minimum percentage of the popular vote”. This describes our current system of electing the President, as well as NPV. There is no requirement that the winner of the Electoral College receive an absolute majority of the national popular vote to win the Presidency – as evidenced by the non-majority elections of Presidents Lincoln, Wilson, Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton.
Further, under the current system, an absolute majority of the statewide popular vote is not needed to win any state’s electoral votes. In 2008 for example, no candidate received an absolute majority of the votes in four states. And in some years that have seen multiple Presidential candidates, winners have not gotten an absolute majority in any state.
Rep. Hetherington argues that the NPV plan would somehow help extremist candidates outside the mainstream of politics. If this were true and the Electoral College system were needed to discourage these candidates, we would see extremist candidates in elections that do not use an Electoral College system - gubernatorial elections, for example. When’s the last time you saw a fringe candidate win the Governorship in Connecticut?
Indeed, it was actually the state-by-state winner-take-all rule in our current system that encouraged extremist candidates like segregationists Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, who tried to exert influence by gaming the system and winning key states.
Rep. Hetherington goes on to say “some official in each participating state would have the awesome charge of deciding who received the most votes in the entire United States”. This is plain nonsense. Under existing federal law, each state has to provide a certified popular vote count to Washington a week before the Electoral College meets (the “safe harbor” date). This count is considered “conclusive” – there’s no mystery at all about it.
The Presidential candidate who gets the most votes in the United States should win the Presidential election. I hope the Connecticut General Assembly will listen to the 74 percent of Connecticut voters who agree.
Rep. Andrew Fleischmann represents the 18th district in West Hartford.