Friday, October 28, 2011

Electoral College and Popular Vote

Gallup reports:
Nearly 11 years after the 2000 presidential election brought the idiosyncrasies of the United States' Electoral College into full view, 62% of Americans say they would amend the U.S. Constitution to replace that system for electing presidents with a popular vote system. Barely a third, 35%, say they would keep the Electoral College.
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With 62% of Americans today in favor of abolishing the Electoral College, Americans show relatively little attachment to this unique invention of the country's Founding Fathers. The system was devised as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to select the president and those who favored election by the people, and it has resulted in a highly state-based approach to presidential campaigning.

Those who advocate abolishing the Electoral College often do so on the basis that the system puts undue emphasis on a small number of swing states. Whether Americans as a whole are concerned about that byproduct is unclear. However, they broadly agree that the country should adopt a system in which the popular vote prevails. While Republicans are less supportive of this than Democrats, 11 years after the 2000 election politicized the issue, the majority of Republicans once again favor the change.
A Heritage Foundation forum is highly critical of the National Popular Vote plan. Hans von Spakovsky writes:

Supporters of the NPV claim that because the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to determine how electors are chosen, the NPV is constitutional and requires no approval by Congress. Such claims, however, are specious. The NPV is unconstitutional because it would give a group of states with a majority of electoral votes “the power to overturn the explicit decision of the Framers against direct election. Since that power does not conform to the constitutional means of changing the original decisions of the framers, NPV could not be a legitimate innovation.”[17]

The Constitution’s Compact Clause provides that “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress…enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State.”[18] The Founders created the Compact Clause because they feared that compacting states would threaten the supremacy of the federal government in matters of foreign affairs and relations among the states.[19] If states could make agreements among themselves, they could damage the nation’s federalist structure. Populist states, for example, cannot agree to have their U.S. Senators vote to seat only one Senator from a less populous state.

The very purpose of this clause was to prevent a handful of states from combining to overturn an essential part of the constitutional design. The plain text makes it clear that all such state compacts must be approved by Congress.