I read the comments to my last column making the case for The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and what it could mean for the nearly 5 Million Republican voters in my home state of California. I will ignore the personal attacks and questioning of my conservative credentials, as anyone who knows me will vouch for my consistent contribution to the conservative movement in California and beyond. Rather, I will set the record straight on two matters of substance raised in those comments- namely the National Popular Vote Compact threatens our Republican form of government and that is inconsistent with the “intent of the Founding Fathers."
Neither of these objections is true. I would like to explain why.
First, Madison defined a Republic as a government that derives its power from the people it serves. In a Republic, we elect leaders to represent our interests for a set period of time called terms. Citizens vote and elect their leaders in a Republic and citizens would continue to vote for president of the United States under the National Popular Vote proposal. Nobody - that I am aware of -can claim that the state of Michigan does not have a Republican form of government because it elects its’ Governor by a majority vote of Her citizens. Michigan is a Republic, in fact, because She does elect a Governor to a four-year term. The United States of America will continue to be a Republic when states choose to adopt the National Popular Vote proposal. To argue otherwise is ignorant (not pejorative) and ignores the very definition of what it is to have a Republican form of government.
As to the Constitution and the Founders' intent. Many confuse the current state-based “winner take all” system for the “Founders System”. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of history and the fact pattern at the founding of our Republic and the state adoption (over time) of the winner take all laws in place in 48 states and the District of Columbia today.
At the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers took 30 votes over 22 separate days related to how our young nation might select the president. They considered and rejected many ideas such as Congress selecting the president; the legislatures selecting the president; governors appointing electors; the state legislatures selecting electors; electing presidential from districts within the states; and, yes, even a national popular vote election for president. One thing they never discussed, debated or voted on, however, was the state-based winner take all system many of you defend as the founders' system in the comments section. When you read Hamilton’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, Article II of the Constitution itself and the Federalist papers you will find ZERO mention of the “winner take all” system you claim IS the founders' system. In fact, if you do your homework, you will note that a majority of the states did not have the state-based winner take all laws until the 11th presidential election.You will also find the comments of Senator Thomas Hart Benson made after the election of 1824, when John Quincy Adams became president even though he did not win the popular vote, when Senator Benson said “the [winner take all] system … was … not the offspring of any disposition to give fair play to the will of the people. It was adopted by the leading men of those states to consolidate the vote of the state…basically to enhance those states" in the lead up to the Civil War.
The intent of the Electoral College is that states would use their power to maximize the political power of the citizens of the state as a check to the president. That is why Article II; section i says simply, “Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct a number of electors...”. It is my firm belief and simple opinion that today, fly-over states would have more influence with the president if they stopped using their state power to award electors using the “winner take all” rule, which makes battleground state voters hyper-relevant and the voters of their home states all but irrelevant.
Remember, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact awards all of a state’s electors to the party of the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It takes effect when states with 270 or more electoral votes have the Compact in place. That is a majority of the Electoral College, which guarantees the presidency under Article II of the Constitution. The Compact preserves the state power to award electors and the Electoral College. It will make every voter, in every state, politically relevant in every presidential election.
The last thing I’d like to address is congressional consent. Indeed Congress plays a roll in consenting to Interstate Compacts. But, Congressional consent is not (and has not been in the case of all the other interstate compacts currently in effect) a pre-condition to state action. In fact, Congress generally offers consent after compacts reach their triggering threshold - in this case when states with a majority of the electoral votes and a majority of members of Congress have adopted the proposal. To declare the National Popular Vote compact unconstitutional because it lacks consent at this time, misunderstands the role of Congress, the process and timing of consent and conservative 10th Amendment and state-power case law.
This is an important issue that required constructive debate. Let’s shelve the drive-by, name calling and have a discussion worthy of our Founding Fathers and the Republic they so wisely left us.