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Saturday, May 21, 2011

National Popular Vote: Action in California

Previous posts have looked at the National Popular Vote proposal. The Orange County Register reports:

With many California legislators endorsing a national movement to elect the president by popular vote rather than through the electoral college, the state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would award the state’s electoral votes to the nation’s popular-vote winner.

Seven states and the District of Columbia, with a combined 77 electoral votes, have approved similar measures so far. The law will not be activated until states totaling 270 electoral votes – the majority needed to elect a president – have such a provision on the books.

California’s bill was passed primarily by Democrats in a 51-21 vote. If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, it would add 55 electoral votes to the pact.

The state-by-state effort is designed to circumvent the constitutional mandate for that the electoral college choose the president, since it appears unlikely Congress will amend that provision.

A week earlier, the proposal got some high-profile endorsements. From a news release:

In a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson (R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former Iowa Governor Chet Culver (D) endorsed the National Popular Vote plan. They join a bi-partisan coalition working to ensure the presidency goes to the winner of the most overall popular votes in all 50 states.

“As a former high school government teacher, Secretary of State in charge of elections in Iowa, and governor, I have always worked hard to increase voter participation and ensure fairness in our electoral process,” said Culver. “The time has come for states to join together and support the simple premise that the individual who receives the most votes for President should become the next President of the United States. I first ran for office as a teacher and coach who wanted more young people to vote, and after I was elected Secretary of State we were able to take great strides to make elections more accessible to all. Voting systems across the country have been modernized, and we now have an opportunity to continue making progress by passing the national popular vote initiative to guarantee that the person who receives the most votes is elected to our nation’s most important elected office.”“We live in a time when the American people are increasingly cynical about their government’s ability to deal with our most pressing problems,” said Thompson. “This means that there is a need for bold, effective presidential leadership as never before. Therefore, we simply can no longer afford to run the risk of having a president who is handicapped by not having won the most popular votes. The National Popular Vote approach offers the states a way to deal with this issue in a way that is totally consistent with our constitutional principles.”

”I’m proud that the state of Illinois was among the first to enact this plan,” added Edgar. “This isn’t a red state issue or a blue state issue; it’s about making sure every state has a voice in our presidential elections.

At Save our States, Tara Ross takes exception:

The Constitution requires approval from three-quarters (38) of the states before radical change can be made to constitutional processes. NPV is on track to change the method of electing a President with the approval of fewer than 20 states.

The Constitution implements a system that combines the best elements of federalism, republicanism, and democracy. The Founders understood from their study of history that a pure democracy “is one of the greatest of evils” that “soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” It is “very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.” NPV shuns the lessons of history—so important to the Founders—and replaces America’s federalist, republican, democratic presidential election process with a purely democratic one.

There is more: NPV will likely cause Equal Protection, legal and logistical problems that I have discussed at length elsewhere. But even these few examples should show that Thompson and others need to more thoroughly study the history of our Constitution and the Electoral College before casually claiming that NPV is consistent with America’s founding principles.