A four-year-old effort that effectively would turn the Electoral College out to pasture in the United States by arranging a direct vote of president by the people is gaining strength, and is poised to claim support from states that control 106 of the 270 votes now needed to claim the Oval Office.
The total might be even higher already.
But that has a number of analysts alarmed, including author Tara Ross, who has written in opposition to the concept of a direct national vote for president at the SaveOurStates.com website.
“Eliminating the Electoral College would probably mean at least two things: Elections will become easier to steal and the two-party system will be undermined. So it follows that two types of political parties would benefit the most: Those that don’t mind stealing elections and third parties,” she wrote.
The California-based National Popular Vote has been working since about 2006 on its plan that would assign Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who has captured the most individual votes in a presidential election nationwide – no matter who has won in an individual state.
The Electoral College system now assigns votes by the state – or in a couple of cases by the congressional district – based on the popular vote in that state or district. This is the circumstance that gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 even though Al Gore collected more popular votes.
It is being promoted in state legislatures – it has been introduced in all 50 – as a compact among the states in which legislators commit their state’s votes to the popular-vote winner as soon as there are enough states to guarantee a victor with 270 Electoral College votes.
So far, Hawaii, with 4 votes; New Jersey, 15; Illinois, 20; Maryland, 10; and Washington, 11, have made commitments. As of now, there are active bills that could put another three states in that camp: New York, 31; Massachusetts, 12; and Delaware, 3.
That would total 106 of the needed 270 Electoral College votes.
Spokesman Barry Fadem told WND the move would help small states and other “flyover” regions where political candidates don’t usually campaign because a vote is a vote wherever, and advertising and such would be less expensive in rural areas.
He said the compact among the states is perfectly legitimate because the Founding Fathers gave to the state legislatures the responsibility to determine the allocation of Electoral College votes.
“Why would a presidential candidate campaign in Hawaii or Alaska? The reason is because every vote would count,” he said.
However, Ross, who has written, “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College,” said in a National Review analysis that the campaign is coming “startlingly close to success even as most Americans remain completely unaware that the presidential-election process is so close to being turned on its head.”
She described the current system as a “unique blend of federalism and democracy, combining purely democratic state-level elections with a national election among the states.”
“The practical effect of this system is that a candidate can’t win unless he appeals to a wide variety of voters around the nation,” she said. But the new plan strips elections of the federalist aspects.
She has explained that under the new system, a candidate could win the presidency with 15 percent plurality of the vote.
She also noted that three more states, California, Vermont and Rhode Island, have approved the plan legislatively, but the governor vetoed them – a situation that could be challenged in court since the Constitution assigns to legislators the responsibility of defining elections.
Those three states carry another 62 Electoral College votes, putting the possible total at 168 should those vetoes successfully be challenged. Collaboration on the part of another three or four states with large populations could, then, put the program past the tipping point.
National Popular Vote’s “compact gives the presidency to the winner of the ‘largest national popular-vote total.’ Note that it says the ‘largest’ total, not a majority. The compact does not so much as designate a threshold that must be attained for a winning plurality. Nor is provision made for a runoff because (National Popular Vote) can’t force nonparticipating states to conduct runoffs. Thus, a presidential candidate could win with only 15 percent of votes nationwide,” she warned.
“But it gets worse. Under this scheme, a state could be forced to award its entire slate of electors to a candidate who was not on its own ballot. What if voters in New York and Massachusetts throw all their weight behind one regional candidate? That person may not be on the ballot in a state like Washington, but all 11 electors from Washington would be given to that Northeastern regional candidate if that candidate obtains any winning (albeit small) nationwide plurality,” she said.
Tom DeWeese, author of the DeWeese Report and a chief of the American Policy Center, said the Electoral College is an effective way of keeping each state in play in a presidential election.
“When the Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College, they did it to equalize the states, knowing that some would be much larger than the others. They knew if they didn’t do that, certain states would control,” he said.
“I think that if we didn’t have the Electoral College, you would have the East Coast and the West Coast controlling what happens,” he said.
He notes that the goal is for the deal to be done by 2016.
“Our Founding Fathers went to a lot of trouble to give us a government that was fair, representing all the people in every state – to protect a minority of one against the will of a mob which isn’t too concerned about the rights of someone standing in their way. Hence, the Electoral College,” he wrote in a commentary article.
“The abolishment of the Electoral College would, in fact, establish an election tyranny giving control of the government to the massive population centers of the nation’s Northeastern sector and the area around Los Angeles. If these sections of the nation were to control the election of our nation’s leaders, the voice of the ranchers and farmers of the Mid and Far West would be lost, along with the values and virtues of the South. It would also mean the end of the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty. ”
WND columnist Henry Lamb has joined those expressing concern.
“Democracy is often described as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Democracy is mob rule. Democracy collapses when the majority discovers it can vote for itself treasure from the public coffers. Democracy is the last plateau of social order before anarchy,” he has written.
“The last remaining vestige of a federal republic is the Electoral College, an ingeniously designed system to ensure that small states are not overrun by large states in the election of the president. Now, there is a powerful movement afoot to bypass the Constitution, and the amendment process, and destroy the Electoral College, which would transform America into a pure democracy,” he said.
“The National Popular Vote movement seeks to get legislation adopted in enough states to guarantee that the president will be the candidate who receives the majority of the popular vote, thereby nullifying the constitutionally prescribed Electoral College,” he continued. “The genius of the Electoral College designed by the founders is that it provides at least a degree of check and balance against the nation being perpetually led by a president chosen by urbanites. The Electoral College requires candidates to be aware of and concerned about the desires of all states, not just the states with the largest populations.
“It is essential that the president of the United States never be the choice of one segment of the population, or a ‘faction,’ as James Madison feared. The president must represent the broadest possible range of ideas and concerns of Americans all across the varied landscape,” he said.
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