Don’t believe the myths about a national popular vote

Don’t believe the myths about a national popular vote
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Now that the Connecticut Senate has passed, in bipartisan fashion, the National Popular Vote bill, I’d like to address some of the more common myths surrounding the bill that arose during the floor debate — and the likely outcomes of reforming the current state-based system. Some of these myths I have recently published as opinion here at The Hill.

First, this bill is not unconstitutional and it is not an end-run around the Constitution. The state-based, winner-take-all-laws that the National Popular Vote bill replaces were never debated at the Constitutional Convention and never mentioned in “The Federalist Papers.” In fact, a majority of states did not have state-based, winner-take-all laws until the eleventh presidential election, generations after the Founding Fathers were dead. So, if you are defending the current system as “the Founders’ system,” honesty and history demand that you stop doing so.

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Second, the idea that the current system is designed to protect small states is just plain silly. It is not. In fact, the five smallest states have not received a general election campaign event in more than 20 years. Small-state interests routinely get ignored under the current system, in favor of the parochial interests of a few battleground states. It is obvious that a lack of small-state influence is a shortcoming of the system. National Popular Vote, when it takes effect, will ensure that a voter in Bismarck, North Dakota, for example, is as relevant as a voter in Boca Raton, Florida.

 

Those who claim that campaigns will simply focus on California in a national popular vote election are completely misguided. Remember, California will represent only 12 percent of the voting population in such a vote for president. Even in the worst years, Republicans earn four out of every 10 votes in California — without running earnest campaigns there. So the math discredits the argument that California will control presidential elections. It is a red herring, at best.

There are some who argue that a state such as Connecticut will lose its “voice” under a national popular vote for president. Quite the contrary, under the bill, all Connecticut voters will be counted in determining which presidential candidate received the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The votes of Connecticut Republicans will be added to the votes of other Republicans in other states, and similarly among Democrats. The president-elect will be the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and D.C. Connecticut’s seven electoral votes will be cast for the national popular vote winner.  

If those electoral votes were cast for a candidate who did not win the plurality inside Connecticut, it simply means that most Connecticut voters did not vote for the national popular vote winner. It would be clearly far worse to deny the presidency to the person supported by the most voters nationwide than to deny the seven persons filling temporary, honorary positions of presidential elector in Connecticut.

At times, my conservative friends raise the issue of voter fraud as the bogeyman of a national popular vote system for electing the president — even though it is obvious the current system poses the bigger threat. During the 2000 presidential election, 528 fraudulent votes in Florida would have flipped the critical swing state and overturned the entire election result through minimal action.

I understand the burden of proof is on the proponents of change, but Whac-A-Mole objections from closed-minded opponents ignore one critical fact: the system is badly broken. It must be fixed.

Four out of five states routinely are ignored as candidates seek the American presidency. Battleground-state voters have vastly more political influence with candidates for president under the current system than flyover-state voters. Our presidents side with parochial swing state voters on their issues. Meanwhile, divergent elections lead to false claims of illegitimacy for the sitting president of the United States.

These problems can be easily addressed through constitutionally appropriate state-based action.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes — that is, enough to elect a president (270 of 538). Under the compact, the winner would be the candidate who receives the most popular votes from on election day.

As for Republicans not being able to win a national popular vote election, as a former state party GOP chairman who twice ran for national chairman, I believe in the power of our ideas. I believe a national popular vote will set up a fair election between all candidates for president. Under this new system, the candidate with the best ideas — ideas that resonate with the most American voters — will be elected president of the United States.

I say, let’s line up and beat them.

Saul Anuzis is a senior consultant to National Popular Vote. He is a former Republican Party chair of Michigan and member of the Republican National Committee.