This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky was published February 28, 2016 by The Resurgent.
Georgians who care about the U.S. Constitution should be alarmed about two bills being pushed through the state legislature. They would, in essence, eliminate the Electoral College set up by the Framers—but without going through the required process of passing a constitutional amendment.
The Georgia legislature is currently considering whether Georgia should enter into a state compact known as the National Popular Vote plan. The NPV is being pushed by a California advocacy organization organized and financed by multimillionaires John Koza and Tom Golisano. Koza is a former Al Gore elector; Golisano was a John Kerry supporter who gave a cool $1 million to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Koza and his fellow liberal activists (such as Jonathan Soros, who also supports the NPV) want to get rid of the Electoral College—without getting the consent of the majority of Americans or the approval of Congress.
Their stealth campaign proposes an interstate compact in which participating states agree to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the popular vote results in their states or whether the candidate even qualified to be on that state’s ballot. So in 2008 and 2012 when the majority of Georgia voters chose John McCain and Mitt Romney, the state would have ignored its voters and awarded the state’s Electoral College votes to Barack Obama.
The NPV will go into effect as soon as states with a majority of the electoral votes needed to win an election (270) join the compact. Unfortunately, a number of states—all of which are blue states—including Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, California and Massachusetts, have agreed to participate in this dangerous cartel. Yet the NPV undermines federalism by undercutting the roles of the states in the presidential election process.
According to the U.S. Census, 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas. Forty percent live in the 10 largest media markets. The NPV would elevate the importance of big urban centers such as New York and Los Angeles and these major media markets, while diminishing the influence of smaller states and rural areas. That was a major reason for establishing the Electoral College in the first place: to prevent elections from becoming contests where presidential candidates would simply campaign in big cities for votes and ignore the rest of the country.
Those who complain that only battleground or “swing” states get all of the attention forget that states that are today considered to be solidly “blue” or “red” weren’t so long ago. California was competitive for decades, and Florida was considered a red state until the mid-1990s. Swing states change, but with only rare exceptions, urban areas will always have high populations. The NPV will only help those urban centers—not the rural areas and smaller states that are protected by the Electoral College.
Recounts under the NPV would be a nightmare. The Electoral College reduces the possibility of a recount since popular vote totals are often much closer than the margins produced by the Electoral College’s “winner-take-all” system in 48 states. Even presidents who win with relatively small margins in the national vote usually win an overwhelming mandate in the Electoral College, providing finality and a mandate to the winner.
Recount rules are different in every state. Yet a recount in just one state would be an incentive for a national recount since every additional vote found anywhere could make the difference to the losing candidate. Take the contentious fight that happened in just one state in 2000—Florida—and imagine that happening in every county in every state in the country.
The NPV would encourage voter fraud. After all, every bogus vote could make the difference in changing the outcome of a national race, not just the results in one state. This would be particularly dangerous in one-party towns where there is no opposition party to work as election officials or poll watchers. There is little incentive to engage in such partisan fraud where it is most possible now, since the dominant party is likely to win in that county or district anyway, but under the NPV scheme, there is an increased incentive to engage in fraud in places that are the most corrupt and one-sided.
The NPV could also radicalize American politics, since the winner under the NPV is whichever candidate gets the most votes, even if it is only 25 percent or 35 percent in a race with multiple candidates. This could lead to presidents being elected with very small pluralities, making it even harder to govern the nation.
There is no reason for Georgia to help implement a plan that strikes directly at the Framers’ views of federalism and a representative republic that balances popular sovereignty with structural protections for state governments and minority interests. The Electoral College has provided orderly elections for the world’s greatest democracy for over 200 years. We change it at our peril.