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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

National Popular Vote

The New York State Senate has voted for the National Popular Vote. The group promoting the plan describes it on its website:
Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
In the New York Post, Michael Uhlmann writes that New Yorkers -- and others -- might end up regretting the move:
Think about it: Suppose a majority of New Yorkers vote in 2012 to re-elect Barack Obama, only to discover that their state's 31 electoral votes have been awarded to the Republican, who happened to win more popular votes than Obama nationwide. (In 2004, for example, President Bush failed to carry New York but beat John Kerry nationwide by more than 3 million votes.)

Suppose further that, in response to the inevitable public outcry, New York's legislators or election officials seek to withdraw from the interstate compact and appoint a new set of electors committed to Obama. The professors insist their compact prevents that -- but few politicians will bow to some academic legal theory when so much is at stake politically.

And if New York's electoral votes determined the national outcome, don't suppose the GOP candidate would stand idly by while state officials sought to reverse their compact commitment.

Lawyers' briefs would fly like cannon shot at Waterloo -- not only in New York but throughout the nation, as politicians in various states tried to anticipate or reacted to steps being taken by politicians elsewhere. Every state where the vote was close, and thus had the potential to change the presidential outcome, would see angry demonstrations, allegations of fraud and demands for recounts that would make Florida in 2000 look like a picnic.

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