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.