Monday, April 1, 2019

Facts, Not Myths Back National Popular Vote’s Surge in Popularity

Ronald Reagan was reportedly fond of referencing the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Monahan’s admonition, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Today, that would most particularly include opponents of the growing drive to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would award 270 electoral votes and the presidency to the candidate who wins the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Of all the myths conjured up by naysayers to try and torpedo the compact, perhaps the most egregious portray the measure as either unconstitutional or an effort to eliminate the Electoral College. Both are patently false.

The compact isn’t the same thing as the national popular vote that the 2020 presidential candidates are calling for. The compact is 100 percent constitutional and consistent with the intent of the Founding Fathers, who explicitly gave states the authority under the Constitution to form agreements among themselves for any number of reasons. There is no issue with the states usurping the power of the federal government.

Moreover, while some reform advocates argue for elimination of the Electoral College through a long and cumbersome effort to amend the Constitution, the compact preserves the Electoral College intact, exactly as the Constitution specifies. In fact, the compact states that if the Electoral College is done away with, the compact goes away.

Under the Constitution, states are free to award their electors in any way they see fit. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution either mentioning or mandating the current winner-take-all system by which most states award their electoral votes. The Founding Fathers never approved it. By entering the compact, the states agree to direct their Electoral College votes through a popular vote.

The myths and falsehoods aren’t limited to the Constitution and the Electoral College. Another falsehood imagines the votes of large, populous states running roughshod over smaller, less populated states. This is patently untrue. More people live in rural areas and small towns than in the big cities. If Republicans direct their campaign efforts in the former areas, they should be able to win the popular vote, since they dominate those areas. Right now, they direct their energy at the swing states instead.

Under the current system, we don’t so much elect the president of the United States as we do the president of the battleground states. The 12 states where the candidates spend virtually all of their time — and money — chasing blocks of electoral votes that can swing back and forth every four years. The other 38 states and the District of Columbia — encompassing roughly 70 percent of the population — are ignored because they are so faithful in voting either Republican or Democrat every four years.

In an election fought under the compact, the 12-state election model becomes a 50-state contest in which candidates are compelled to chase down every single voter in every nook and cranny of the nation. The states are essentially working with other states to make their votes more relevant.

Oregon is a good example of why the compact is needed. Over the last eight presidential elections from 1988 to 2016, a total of 5,429,496 Oregonians cast their popular votes for the Republican ticket. And in all of that time, their efforts have failed to produce one single GOP electoral vote. Because eight out of eight times, the Democrat ticket won Oregon’s popular vote and all of its electoral votes.

Under the compact, voters gain a direct voice over the disposition of the 270 electoral votes. No voter in any state would have their vote cancelled out because they didn’t go along with the majority of others in their state. Every voter would have their vote counted directly toward their choice for president. And the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes would become president.

Florida is gradually becoming more Democratic, as Puerto Ricans move into the state and overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Republicans are going to lose this swing state and will be unable to win presidential elections through the existing system much longer. It’s a good time to switch. The movement in support of the compact is gaining momentum with Delaware and New Mexico having just passed bills joining it for a projected total of 189 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to switch to the compact (a majority of the 538 electoral votes). It has bipartisan support because Democrats erroneously think large cities will end up deciding elections. Republicans need to do their homework on this issue before blindly repeating falsehoods.

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