Opinion

National Popular Vote Opponents Are Afraid of the Constitution

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Posted: Jan 18, 2020 12:01 AM
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National Popular Vote Opponents Are Afraid of the Constitution

Source: AP Photo/Steve Karnowski

The tinfoil hat wearers, the faction that includes moon-landing deniers and the kind of crackpots William F. Buckley Jr. and Russell Kirk expelled from mainstream conservatism, has set its sights on derailing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact is the constitutionally conservative agreement that guarantees 270 electoral votes and the presidency to the candidate who wins the most individual votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Fifteen states and the district have already passed the compact, giving the measure 196 of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary for it to take effect.

With momentum for reform building in New Hampshire, one pundit is actually suggesting that the Granite State defy federal law, specifically section 3, title 3 of the U.S. code — a provision in effect since 1887 — to throw a monkey wrench into the final nationwide tally for president.

This particularly nutty idea would involve New Hampshire refusing to submit the state’s official vote count until after electors meet to officially determine the new president and vice president in the December following an election. Without a final national popular vote tally, the reasoning goes, the president and vice president could not be legally certified. One can only imagine federal marshals breaking down the door of the N.H. secretary of State’s office to secure the vote ledger. Saturday Night Live writers take note: There’s a skit here.

Joking aside, however, serious questions remain for the anti-National Popular Vote crowd. It would be enlightening for them to provide us with answers to wit:

Why are you so afraid of the United States Constitution?

Under article 2, section 1, the Framers specifically granted state legislatures the right to allocate their electoral votes in any manner they see fit. The 16 jurisdictions that have passed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact bill have done so under the full authority of the Constitution. Did the Founders get it wrong?

Why are you so afraid of the American people?

Under the compact, which preserves the Electoral College while adopting a national popular vote, the candidate who receives the most popular votes always becomes president. No vote is ever cancelled out. Regardless of whether or not you support the majority winner in your state, your vote counts for your candidate. Every voter in every state becomes relevant in every presidential election. What’s so bad about that?

Why are you so afraid of including and empowering small states and rural states that are all but ignored under the current system?

Every state should be a battleground state. A vote in New Hampshire should count as much as a vote in Florida or Ohio or any other jurisdiction. That’s what National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is all about. With every vote equal and important, it stands to reason that candidates would be compelled to campaign in states they would never bother to visit under the current system. Think Democrats campaigning in red wall states like Kansas and Republicans barnstorming in blue wall states like Massachusetts. Walls come tumbling down. What’s wrong with that?

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Why are you so afraid of a boost in nationwide voter turnout?

Overall voter turnout in 2016 was 61.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 12 so-called battleground states targeted by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton experienced generally higher participation than in the other 38 fly-over states. The conclusion is clear: When candidates show up in a state, so do voters. A presidential election under the compact would require candidates to campaign from sea to shining sea. Isn’t that better than limiting presidential campaigns to a handful of swing states thereby ignoring some 215 million people in the process?

New Hampshire is poised to become one of the first states to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in 2020. And believe me when I say: New Hampshire, there is nothing to fear.