Maine Should Adopt the National Popular Vote—
Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:23 PM
I write in response to Representative Casas’s piece in the April 6 Free Press, “Why I Voted Against the National Popular Vote” (NPV). Regrettably, he never explained any of the reasons why some support changing the status quo and adopting NPV, instead telling us only that he was “not dazzled” by them. So I am presenting some. I intend in a later letter to answer the one objection he gives to NPV and correct two very inaccurate characterizations he makes of it.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Why some of us argue that we should change the current way our president is elected through the Electoral College. The current process violates a fundamental principle of our democracy and can result in an undemocratically selected president :
I take it as undeniable that the system is simply prima facie irrational, bizarre. Try to explain to a befuddled foreigner how a candidate, A, can receive almost 3 million votes more than a candidate, B, and yet B is the winner. Does not compute. Suppose a parent has a daughter of middle school age who is perplexed by this, “Dad, why don’t we elect the president just like we elect our governor? The person who gets the most votes wins.” Good question, kid. It is simply impossible to make the case that it is more consistent with democracy, that it is just “common sense,” or more rational than NPV would be. Instead, one has to resort to the historical explanation, i.e., the unique historical situation involving the coming together of sovereign individual states to form a strong central government. Representative Casas alludes to this with his welcome information about James Madison, slaves — non-voters but 3/5ths a person, etc. The Electoral College was a compromise, horse-trading, necessary at the time in a situation which no longer is relevant to our time. Shouldn’t we try to replace this undemocratic anachronism? Can we do so without a constitutional amendment? The answer is “Yes,” if enough states pass the NPV.
Representative Casas says of NPV, “you get one person one vote, which is nice [emphasis mine.)” To me that principle is more than just “nice.” “One Person One Vote,” as I understand it, is a profound fundamental principle of democracy. It means all votes of American citizens are equal. No matter what my age, sex, race, education, religion, occupation, wealth, education, etc., my vote counts as “One,” and that is the same for every other American. Doesn’t it go without saying that list should also include what state I happen to live in? But the Electoral College as presently applied violates that principle. Modifying the Electoral College under the NPV bill corrects that flaw.
Some examples: 1. As mentioned, we see that flaw in our recent presidential election. A smaller number of votes managed to outweigh a considerably larger number of votes. This depended upon the states in which they were cast.
2. Suppose we have two states ( I’m making up simple numbers), Indiana and Wisconsin, both of which have populations of 10,0000,000, and each has 20 electoral votes. Candidate A beats candidate B 8,000,000 votes to 2,000,000 in Indiana. Candidate B defeats A in Wisconsin 5,500,000 to 4,500,000 votes. In terms of selecting the president under current rules it is a draw, 20 electoral votes for A and 20 electoral votes for B. But, the actual will of the people in terms of how they voted was 12,500,000 for A and only 7,500,000 votes for B, 7,500,000 = 12,500,000? Only if we want maintain that a vote in Wisconsin is worth 1-2/3 as much as a vote in Indiana.
3. We all understand that if you happen to live in a strongly “blue” state, e.g., California or New York, your vote as a Republican basically will have absolutely no influence in the outcome of the election. The value of a Republican vote equals 0. It makes no difference if Republican votes were far less than Democratic votes or if the difference was very, very small. Likewise, if you happen to live in a strongly “red” state, like Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama, you know a Democratic vote will have no influence on the outcome. Value of a Democratic vote equals 0.
Furthermore, since this system makes a Republican vote in California or a Democratic vote in Mississippi absolutely pointless in determining who will become president, it discourages voter turnout for such voters. If you think voting should be encouraged rather than discouraged, then this is another objection to our current system and a plus for NPV. Under NPV the California Republican can be motivated to vote knowing her vote will be added to the national total of Republicans and she will be doing her small part to help carry the day.
Suppose you are offered a choice: Our president can be elected by national popular vote or our president can be elected by the current system, with the characteristics I have pointed out. Which is more rational? Which is more in accordance with democracy.? Which would you choose? This is not a hypothetical question. We really can have the former if enough states adopt NPV. I hope Maine will.
(to be continued)
Bill Griffith, Hope