Photo courtesy of http://caracaschronicles.com
Photo courtesy of http://caracaschronicles.com

By Malia Hill

Hey, I have an idea that should make the NFL season more fair and representative of which is really the best team.  Instead of awarding the championship title to the winner of the Superbowl, we should abolish the Superbowl and playoffs, and decide the winner based on which team scored the most points that year.  Wouldn’t that be the best determination of who really deserves to win?

I’m kidding, of course.  I’m a Ravens fan—a lot of the time, we’re lucky to creep into double digits.  But before you dismiss this example as pure nuttiness, you should realize that it’s a lot like what some states (including Hawaii) are trying to do with the Electoral College.  And just as Ravens fans (and Jets fans and 49ers fans as long as Alex Smith is at quarterback) would oppose awarding the Superbowl based on regular-season point totals, so should smaller states fight the elimination of the Electoral College.  And for very similar reasons . . . it undermines their importance and ignores their standing.

At stake is something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), a coalition effort (of sorts) to accomplish a backdoor elimination of the Electoral College by having states individually pass legislation that agrees to award its electors by popular vote within the state.  Then, once the NPVIC has sufficient participating states to control a majority of the Electoral College, they would cast their votes as a block in favor of the nationwide popular vote winner (regardless of who won the popular vote within each state) so as to guarantee that the winner of the national popular vote wins the Presidency.  (As for the states that do not join the Compact and might have objections to divisive electoral manipulation?  Too bad for them I guess.)

Supporters of such initiatives point to polls that say that Americans generally favor getting rid of the Electoral College.  However:

  • These are polls, not Holy Writ.  Most people don’t spent more than a few seconds in their year (or even life) to contemplate the significance of the Electoral College, and the arguments supporting it are not easily reduced to bumper sticker slogans.
  • The fact that polls support the Electoral College’s abolition is just further support for its necessity.  Polls are a perfect example of how majorities can roll over the opinions of significant minorities, which is exactly what the Electoral College is designed to safeguard against.

Let’s return for a moment to the NFL analogy.  If we abolished the playoffs and crowned the champion via highest point totals, teams like Green Bay, New England, and San Diego are going to dominate every year, while teams like the Ravens wouldn’t so much as sniff a championship, no matter how many season wins they stack up.  Now replace “Green Bay, New England, and San Diego” with California, Texas, and New York.  And replace the Ravens with Hawaii.  Eliminating the Electoral College in favor of a nationwide popular vote will essentially eliminate the influence of small states in favor of the giant population centers.  You think Hawaii gets ignored now?  Just wait.

Just as the Senate was a Constitutional compromise to protect the legislative interests of the smaller states, so does the Electoral College protect their voting interests.  (Note that I’m not objecting to a state awarding its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in that state—the Constitution permits the states to award its votes as they see fit, and most states follow some version of determining electors based on the state’s popular vote.)

What this is really about is knee-jerk politics (fallout from the 2000 Bush vs. Gore election), and it’s every bit as thoughtful and well-advised as most knee-jerk political initiatives are.  Unfortunately, Hawaii is currently a member of the NPVIC, despite the fact that this goes against its own interests and tradition.  It’s time that Hawaii withdrew from the NPVIC and reaffirmed its independence and importance.

 

Malia Hill is an associate of the Grasssroot Institute of Hawaii.

Comments

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7 COMMENTS

  1. National Popular Vote is NOT a backdoor elimination of the Electoral College by having states individually pass legislation that agrees to award its electors by popular vote within the state.

    The National Popular Vote bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded by states in the Electoral College, instead of the current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all system (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states). It assures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

    With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

    Now 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, Hawaii, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

    When and where votes don’t matter, candidates ignore those areas and the issues they care about most.

    I don’t know how the author thinks Hawaii or the other smallest states could be any MORE ignored under National Popular Vote, than how they are clearly ignored now.

    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%.

    In the lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers — including one house in DC, Delaware, Maine, and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Vermont.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    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 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%.

    Most Americans don’t 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 consider the idea of the candidate with the most popular votes being declared a loser detestable. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, Hawaii, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC, Hawaii, IL, CA, NJ, MD, MA, VT, and WA. These 9 jurisdictions possess 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  2. I don’t think Hawaii is ignored now. We KNOW Hawaii is ignored now. In fact, with the exception of New Hampshire, every small state is ignored under the current system. The reason is a winner-take-all system wherein candidates have no incentive to campaign in states where they are well ahead or well behind.

    The National Popular Vote plan is aimed at eliminating the winner-take-all system, not the Electoral College. If every vote were equal, do you really think Barack Obama wouldn’t campaign in Hawaii to drive turnout? Under the present system, he assuredly will not.

    I would compare winner-take-all to the BCS system in college football. Votes don’t count equally, the rules are arbitrary, and we can’t be sure the champion really won the season.

    Oh, and both systems completely ignore Hawaii.

  3. The smallest states are the most disadvantaged under the present winner-take-all electoral system. With the exception of New Hampshire, the thirteen least populated states have received little attention in recent Presidential elections. Their combined dearth of electoral votes makes it counterproductive for a candidate to spend time and advertising dollars for these small electoral prizes. In fact, when Republican nominee George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney of Wyoming as his running mate in 2000, he mocked the states state’s political irrelevance, joking: “I didn’t pick Dick Cheney because of Wyoming’s three Electoral Votes.”

    In addition to their electoral insignificance, other than New Hampshire, each of the smallest 13 states is a non-competitive “safe state.” Wyoming and Idaho are two of the reddest states in the nation. Neither has chosen a Democrat for President since Lyndon B. Johnson swept the nation in a landslide in 1964. Neither is likely to be a showdown state anytime soon. In 2008, Republican John McCain won Idaho with a resounding 63.1% of the vote. He won Wyoming with 64.8% of the vote. In addition, McCain won Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota with formidable margins.

    Contrariwise, the other six smallest states are some of the bluest in the nation. In fact, Obama’s best electoral performance was in the District of Columbia, with just 3 electoral votes. His next four best showings were in three of the six smallest states; Hawaii, Vermont, and Rhode Island, respectively. McCain did not win a single county in any of these states. Obama won the other two smallest states, Delaware and Vermont by more than 15% of the vote.

    The quintessential battleground state of Ohio ha 20 Electoral votes. Because the Buckeye state is a battleground state, it managed to garner 52 visits from major Presidential nominees during the 2008 Presidential election.

    U.S. Senator Robert J. Dole (R-KS 1967-1996), who was the Republican nominee for Vice President in 1976, came to appreciate the inordinate amount of attention he spent on the campaign trail in large states at the expense of smaller states like his own. “Through my experience with the Republican National Committee and as a Vice Presidential candidate in 1976, it became very clear that the populous states with their large blocks of electoral votes were the crucial states. It was in these states that we focused our efforts.”

    The current winner-take-all electoral system that is presently employed in 48 states results in a situation where the small states are ignored. Presidential candidates allocate their time and resources in electorally rich swing states like Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania, while ignoring the small states where the elections have been decided on paper even before the campaign season begins.

  4. You have hit the nail directly on the head, Malia!

    The President of the United States is elected by the STATES, not by the population. The US Constitution has never provided for ANY popular election of the President at ALL! We are the United STATES of America, not the United Population of America – a unique Federation of 50 States that has survived extremely well since 1789!

    There IS no single winner-take-all” SYSTEM that causes any of the so-called ‘problems’ mentioned by NPV scheme backers. In fact, the NPV side-deal end-run completely dismantles the Constitutionally-designed Check-and-Balance that the Electoral College is!

    The current Electoral system is not to be blamed for ANY presidential campaign ignoring any State – THAT happens because of scarce resources in the campaigns themselves.

    In fact, the NPV side-deal end run compact creates a LOSER-Take-All system for Hawaii every time Hawaii voters disagree with the national popular vote! HAWAII HAS ALREADY JOJNED THIS COMPACT!!

    The hidden agenda behind the NPV is to elect the President with “the MOST votes” rather than the MAJORITY of State votes now required by the Electoral College. In a crowded field of candidates, a President could be elcted with only 35% of the national popular and yet win a LANDSLIDE in the Electoral College.

    The NPV Compact is a bad deal all the way around and must be stopped at every turn.

    This will now likely happen NEXT NOVEMBER!! Hawaii could well have 60% of the STATE popular vote go to re-elect Barack Obama and yet be compelled by the NPV compact which Hawaii already is a part of to cast ALL of Hawaii’s electoral votes for Obama’s opponent!! The legislature has already made that deal happen! Explain why THAT is good public policy?!!

    The National Popular Vote scheme overthrows, rejects and overturns the results of the STATE Popular Vote – which the NPV Compact compels the State to conduct! – every time the People of Hawaii disagree with the rest of the country!

    There are at least 23 more bags full of new problems created by this scheme, but one of the worst is that it tremendously weakens the American Federation of States. Hawaii voters would be well served to urge the legislature to repeal its commitment to the NPV Compact.

  5. Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the majority 270+ (of 538) electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast. Voters in Hawaii would finally matter.

    With the Electoral College, and federalism, the Founding Fathers meant to empower the states to pursue their own interest within the confines of the Constitution. The National Popular Vote is an exercise of that power, not an attack upon it.

    The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, in 2012 will not reach out to about 76% of the states 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. When and where votes don’t matter, candidates ignore those areas and the issues they care about most.

    With National Popular Vote, candidates would reallocate the money they raise to no longer ignore more than 2/3rds of the states and voters. More than 2/3rds of the states, like Hawaii, and people have been just spectators to the presidential elections. That’s more than 85 million voters.

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

    States have the responsibility and power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond.

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “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.”

    Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

    The Electoral College is now the set of dedicated party activists who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates.

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party. The electors now are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges. If a Democratic presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state’s dedicated Democratic party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. If a Republican presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state’s dedicated Republican party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate who collects 270 votes from Electoral College voters from among the winning party’s dedicated activists.

    With the current system of electing the President, no state requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state’s electoral votes.

    Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation’s 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

    Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.– including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912, and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), and Clinton (1992 and 1996).

    (FYI, with the current system, it could only take winning a plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.)

    Most voters don’t 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 consider the idea of the candidate with the most popular votes being declared a loser detestable. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

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