April 18, 2014

Why is New York willing to throw its Electoral College votes to the Republican presidential candidate?

"N.P.V. is a good idea for all sorts of high-minded civic reasons," Hendrik Hertzberg instructs us, on the occasion of New York signing onto the National Popular Vote interstate compact.
When an election is for a single office and only one candidate can win, it’s obviously outrageous when the candidate who gets more votes somehow loses to the one who gets fewer. But that doesn’t happen very often — "only" four of our thirty-nine elected Presidents, including "only" one of the two most recent, made it to the White House despite the citizenry’s preference for somebody else. What’s more outrageous is what happens every time: four-fifths of the states are ignored in the general election.
But that's what happens without the compact! You have to picture what would happen with it.

There are now 10 states in the compact — Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, and New York — plus the District of Columbia, representing 165 electoral votes. The commitment to switch a state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote will kick in once a total of 270 electoral votes are represented by the states committed to switching. 270 is the majority needed to win, so the plan won't go into effect until the states in the plan have the power to determine that the national vote winner will in fact win.

Now, why is it that the states who are jumping for this are all blue states, seriously blue states? Is it that they are still hurting over the 2000 election? Hertzberg surmises that it's just that the red states are holding back because they think it's some revenge for 2000, but the blue states are in because it's such a great idea.

Which party actually benefits from a switch to the popular vote? California and New York are huge states, where there are many millions of Republican votes who aren't going to control the in-state majority in a close election but would make a big difference in the national popular vote. In the 2000 election, Gore got about half a million more votes than Bush, but if the game had been to win the most votes nationally, they would have campaigned differently. Getting out Republican voters in California and New York would have mattered. And 2000 is the past. Going forward there would be so much difference.

If I'm right about this, why don't red states join in and push the compact membership up to the point where it directs the Electoral Votes? Release the pent-up Republicans of California, New York, and Illinois!

Maybe conservatives are simply being conservative, unwilling to see all the strange things that might happen if the old order is changed. There will be a lot of new moving parts if the switch to NPV occurs. People might think that it will become simpler — just one big vote — but this complacency is another moving part. Have you considered third party candidates with strong regional appeal skewing the vote totals of the major party candidates or perhaps even getting the plurality (perhaps a piddling plurality!)? Have you visualized the nightmare of a nationwide recount? I understand the conservative resistance to change and the liberal enthusiasm for it, which is why I'm saying that I don't think the political interests have been analyzed competently.

That last sentence prompted me to check to see if FiveThirtyEight had offered up any analysis. This should be right up Nate Silver's alley. And, indeed, Nate Silver does have an article on the occasion of New York's signing onto the compact. But it's: "Why a Plan to Circumvent the Electoral College Is Probably Doomed." That is, he's looking at whether the needed additional states will ever join and assuming it's a blue state thing:
Perhaps the compact can get Delaware, Connecticut and Maine to join.... But they account for only 14 total electoral votes... Oregon and New Mexico.... have just 12 electoral votes between them....

In theory, states that want a Republican in the White House might have a lot of incentive to join the compact. That’s because in the 2008 and 2012 elections, the Electoral College worked to Democrats’ benefit. States closest to the tipping point, such as Colorado, voted for Obama by a slightly wider margin than the nation as a whole. That implies that if there had been a uniform swing against Obama and he lost the national popular vote, he could have still won the Electoral College by eking out a victory in these states.
That's all Silver has to say about how different things would be if the election hinges on the nationwide popular vote, so I'm disappointed. He doesn't even mention the masses of Republicans trapped in big blue states whose power would be unleashed.

I'm wondering if Democrats do worry that the NPV would be bad for them, but they've signed on, in the states where they've signed on, because, like Silver, they see that the reform movement will hit a wall. They like the look of supporting this reform. It works for them politically to cast aspersions on the fairness of our voting system. It's all theater at this point.

But what if Republicans do the careful analysis and figure out that they would have a great advantage — as I suspect (though I might be wrong!)? Things could suddenly get quite wild.

88 comments:

Rumpletweezer said...

It's because the current crop thinks the Founding Fathers were stupid, isn't it?

Captain Ned said...

The people pushing the Compact are nothing more than those still believe Al Gore won in 2000.

Belial said...

There are lots of prudential and structural reason why NPV is probably a bad idea, ranging from unknown consequences to the fact that the founders didn't want it and they got pretty much everything else right (first commenter to mention slavery gets a Godwin pin); but the simplest answer is that if Hendrik Hertzberg is fer it, I'm agin it.

Fen said...

Which party actually benefits from a switch to the popular vote?

On principle? Neither. We're a Republic, not a Democracy. As the "mob" gets dumber and dumber ("but it has Brawndo!") I fear for the nation. They'll vote themselves into a dictatorship in exchange for a free cell phone.

In practice? If the blue states want to dilute their EV count, I'm all for it.

Hunter McDaniel said...

Among other things, NPV would considerably increase the stakes in the decennial fights over gerrymandering.

Anonymous said...

This is a horrible idea that will reduce the power of the individual voter even more than the current system does (which I dislike as well).

Dave Schumann said...

The Compact Clause seems to get much less discussion in this matter than it deserves. The backers of this movement even call it a "compact," as though inviting conflict with the Compact Clause.

Backers cite US Steel v Multistate Tax Commission, but the impact of this compact would be so much larger on the federal/state balance that it hardly seems on point. This seems like a good discussion.

AJ Lynch said...

Libruls still hold grudges about 2000 election and, more importantly, libruls are constantly seeking ways to game our systems.

MartyH said...

Doing NPV changes us from the United States of America to the United People of America. Right now, the states choose the President, with each state casting its vote (weighted for population) for President. It'd be a continuation of the diminution of power of the states in general, and the smaller states in particular.

Her's a question-assume that the NPV passes. Who selects the electors who go? Would NY send Ds promising to vote for the R if an R won the popular vote? Would you trust them? Because states not participating in the compact will vote in accord with their population. This could turn into a Trojan horse where the will of the people is actually subverted.

Scott M said...

but the simplest answer is that if Hendrik Hertzberg is fer it, I'm agin it.

LOL

Tank said...

I'm one of the people who would have to reconsider my vote. Although not a Repub, as a Conservative/Libertarian type, I usually vote a protest Libertarian or nothing in Presidential elections. But that is partially because I know that in NJ, where the Dem always wins the presidential vote, my vote makes no difference.

If it were now to count towards a popular vote that might swing things differently, hmmmmm.

RecChief said...

change doesn't scare me, but if you want to see candidates campaign only in Florida, Texas, California, and the Eastern seaboard from Northern Virginia to NYC, go ahead and make this change.


And Captain ned is on the mark here.

Kristian Holvoet said...

How would this even be constitutional?

"Clause 3. No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

No agreement or compact with another state?

And if the EC is so bad, there is an actual, constitutional remedy: an Amendment.

Amichel said...

If we ever went to a pure popular vote, it would mean a Presidential candidate would rarely, if ever, visit some of the smaller states. I mean, why waste your time in Iowa or South Carolina if you can pick up as many votes just in New York City?

MSG said...

If the compact ever did require the election of a Republican, the Democrat states would suddenly find some constitutional pretext to renege and drag the whole mess into the courts.

Lyssa said...

In the 2000 election, Gore got about half a million more votes than Bush, but if the game had been to win the most votes nationally, they would have campaigned differently.

I wish that more people appreciate this. The day before the 2000 election, GWB was in my podunk small city in Tennessee. TN's taken a hard right turn since then, but at the time, it was considered solidly purple, and it was Gore's home state (allegedly), so it was very much in play.

I'm embarrassed at how much I didn't understand the electoral college at the time (college sophomore, honors), but I did understand that it was a very close race, and was amazed that he would "waste" his time in our insignificant city.

But if GWB had not won Tennessee, Florida wouldn't have mattered a bit.

Prolixus said...

I expect that if some Republican leaning states signed on because of some expected advantage and then realized that advantage in 2016 then a serious constitutional crisis would happen.

Imagine that the 2016 election is Rand Paul vs Hillary Clinton. Paul wins the popular vote, but Clinton wins the electoral college under the old system. In a panic NY or CA votes to abandon the compact and reassign their electors to Clinton. The chaos that would result from such an action would pose an existential threat to the United States. I imagine that state governments with Republican majorities would refuse to recognize the validity of a Hillary Clinton inauguration and could recognize Rand Paul as President in Exile.

Ann Althouse said...

@Kristian

I think that's just one of the legal problems, but here's how supporters of NPV answer your question. Another approach is to get congressional approval.

tim maguire said...

Imagine how much more expensive elections would be if the parties had to campaign in the safe states as hard as they do in the toss-ups!

Par for the liberal intellect that they rail against money in politics at the same time they want to explode the cost of national elections.

Anonymous said...

If presidents are chosen by national popular vote, any election close enough for the difference between popular and electoral votes to matter in the first place will be decided by which party can find more forgotten boxes of ballots in the trunks of poll workers' cars-- a longtime specialty of big-city Democratic machines.

rhhardin said...

New York won't in fact live up to it no matter what they say.

Anonymous said...

It's a bad idea for a lot of reasons other than partisan political ones.

However, as to your point Professor, remember in 2000 how Florida was called for Gore early and the western voters in upper Florida didn't come out to vote.

I seriously cannot imagine how many more people in California and other states would suddenly be coming out to vote, especially because the election just couldn't be called as early as it is now.

Even in Alaska you don't get as many votes because Alaska is a solid red state. And by the time they vote, it's all but over.

Instead of vocusing commercials and visits on swing states, we'd have a lot more focus in population centers like New York, Florida, Texas and California.

And that wouldn't be good for Democrats.

who-knew said...

NPV is a dumb idea, but if these people really want a nationwide vote, they should work for a constitutional amendment. But, knowing they can't convince the majority, they'd rather subvert the constitution. And what's to keep a state from repealing their NPV law between the election and the electoral college vote if they don't like the results? The founders avoided a true national election for a reason but if you're hell-bent on changing that, NPV is the wrong way to go about it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Imagine that the 2016 election is Rand Paul vs Hillary Clinton. Paul wins the popular vote, but Clinton wins the electoral college under the old system. In a panic NY or CA votes to abandon the compact and reassign their electors to Clinton. The chaos that would result from such an action would pose an existential threat to the United States. I imagine that state governments with Republican majorities would refuse to recognize the validity of a Hillary Clinton inauguration and could recognize Rand Paul as President in Exile."

Yeah, and wouldn't that be similar to what the Florida legislature was doing at the last minute in 2000. The U.S. Constitution give the state legislatures the power…

What chaos!

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to get the good writing, experimental literature and the occasional cartoon without the Lefty-liberal politics?

Ctmom4 said...

I think Dick Morris has a very good point. ( yes, I know, Dick Morris, eww!). In all the densely populated blue cities, Dem machines would be working overtime to get out the dead votes. Zombie armies for Hillary! You thought Philly 2012 was bad? Just wait!

Ann Althouse said...

"I wish that more people appreciate this. The day before the 2000 election, GWB was in my podunk small city in Tennessee. TN's taken a hard right turn since then, but at the time, it was considered solidly purple, and it was Gore's home state (allegedly), so it was very much in play."

Ah, this reminds me why the Dems see an advantage. Their constituents live in more demographically concentrated locations. They could pump up their numbers by getting out the vote in the big cities, where there's not much point when they know they've won the state. If conservatives are more widely dispersed out in the small towns and rural places, they're harder to reach.

But currently the people in the cities leverage a lot of votes where those cities are in big states. Within those states, including Illinois, NY, Calif, the dispersed Republicans lose power to the concentrated Democrats.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Given that Obama's 2012 vote was less than McCain's 2008 vote, yet Romney won more states than McCain, it's fairly obvious that many of those Republicans staying home were in places like California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and so on.

Odds are good that NPV would actually have worked to the advantage of Republicans in 2012.

As originally intended the President is not a representative of the people. America is a union of States, not people, and the President is to be elected by those States (again, not people) to administer the Union on behalf of said States.

When he lost the presidency in 1888 despite receiving a majority of the popular vote (most recent time before 2000) he was totally fine with it. In fact, during his time in office he vetoed almost 600 bills passed by Congress, often with the same acerbic comment: "I see nothing in the Constitution granting Congress the right to be involved in such things."

He was a Democrat. How far they have fallen.

Before Cleveland the two previous elections with a PV-EV discrepancy were 1824 and 1800. Look at the frequency of recurrence: 24 years, 64 years, 112 years. That's a very clear trend.

The NPV people still have their panties in a wad about 2000, and they clearly have the historical perspective of a swarm of fruit flies.

Andy Freeman said...

> Among other things, NPV would considerably increase the stakes in the decennial fights over gerrymandering.

Huh? Gerrymandering only affects intra-state districts.

I think that electoral college votes should be assigned by congressional district with the winner of the state's popular vote getting the two for the senators. Yes, that would increase the value of gerrymandering, but it's easier to pass than proportional in a state.

However, states should continue to be considered separate elections.

Anonymous said...

Also, let's be like Europe and have a Parliamentary system on the way toward pure democracy and larger social democratic bases.

Subsidized cheese, health-care, and social justice for all!

I saw Hertzberg praising Bloomberg as a new model for democrats with the anti-NRA stuff.

Back to 'No Labels' non-partisanship?

At least some Left-left-liberal folks let you know what they believe and you don't even have to elect them.

Anonymous said...

Here's Hertzberg discussing his vision of Democracy Now!:One voice, one vote liberty and social justice for all.

I feel like I'm back at college with that reaaallly liberal professor holding aloft the 60's banner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3YzDShZDWg

garage mahal said...

decided by which party can find more forgotten boxes of ballots in the trunks of poll workers' cars-- a longtime specialty of big-city Democratic machines.

It's too bad Republicans can never catch them in the act. It makes you wonder why Republicans never advocate for election reforms like demanding paper ballots and hand count every election. Instead, they try and limit voting hours and voter ID which doesn't prevent any voter fraud at all. Does preventing someone in line to vote from going to the bathroom prevent voter fraud? What ARE Republicans thinking!?

persiflage mahal said...

As a political junkie and student of history I'm all in favor of this stupid, stupid idea. Inevitably, it'll create chaos and keep us entertained for weeks.
400-comment posts daily!

campy said...

I agree with previous commenters that this structure will collapse the very first time it's tested.

n.n said...

The electoral college acts as a firewall to limit the effects of demographic bias by state. This is especially poignant in the case of states where structural disparities motivate political, social, and economic corruption.

PB Reader said...

I think this is a bad idea. it dilutes the concept of our nation as a republic and devalues the individual vote and state's rights.

Jim said...

I voted for Gary Johnson in 2012 on the theory that if Romney couldn't carry Kansas without my vote, then, he was toast. I would never have voted for Gary if I still lived in MO and I sure wouldn't have voted for him in a national popular vote scenario.

West Town said...

Shouldn't the Electoral system balance power between the Executive and Legislative branches? In theory, perhaps, but how much was the system "broken" by the Seventeenth Amendment?

Fen said...

Heh. According to Garage Logic, Al Capone was only guilty of tax fraud.

Patrick O said...

Because Blue states know that this will only be "Constitutional" if it benefits Democrats.

The moment California's votes would go to a Republican, a judge would stay the law, delay it, overturn it.

So, it's a no lose situation for blue states. If needed, it's there to help a Democrat. And there's really no risk it would help a Republican. California voters know what happens to laws that might bother the sensibilities of the Left.

Dave Schumann said...

@Andy -- "gerrymandering" was the wrong word, but under the NPV, a shift in electoral votes could invalidate the compact. (Which, again, is a patently unconstitutional compact to rig a federal election).

So if the states in the compact have 270 EVs, and then a census happens and just one EV moves to a non-compact state, that invalidates the compact. It doesn't take a lot of population difference to shift one EV. In fact you could imagine someone doing some math to calculate just how to tweak the census numbers to invalidate the compact.

So in *that* sense it would substantially raise the stakes in the Census, because one EV moving could blow up the stupid compact.

RecChief said...

"And if the EC is so bad, there is an actual, constitutional remedy: an Amendment."

You don't really expect Progressives to attempt to follow the constitution do you? They tried that with ERA remember? Much more expedient to just make amendments through judicial precedent and the Supreme Court.

RecChief said...

"This could turn into a Trojan horse where the will of the people is actually subverted."

You say that as though that isn't the intended outcome.

Unknown said...

This plan invites massive fraud. A state dominated by one party has an incentive to show as large a vote as possible. In an unbalanced state like this, the majority party will likely have the opportunity to cheat if they're so disposed.
David in Cal

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Popular vote for President is a great idea, but then we really would need national voter ID.

A Constitutional Amendment replacing the electoral college with a popular vote would be the best way to go.

The big constitutional question is that the NPV Compact would bind the states that are not part of the Compact to a President that they may not support and who might not otherwise become President.

If you can effectively amend the Constitution that way, what other compacts might be possible?

Could red states enter interstate compacts on immigration, abortion limitations, or gay marriage?

There are some unintended consequences to the Compact approach that go beyond NPV.

Dave Schumann said...

The ease of exiting the Compact is also going to be a major problem. Imagine you have an election where the Republican is polling a slight majority in national polls and, in October, Massachusetts wonders why the hell it's about to send its electors to elect a Republican.

They withdraw from the compact (there is clearly NOTHING in any law to prevent them from doing so). This breaks the compact, sending everyone back to the old system (winner-take-all in most places). All of this is perfectly legal. But the outrage that would result -- the Republican's spent tens of millions of dollars campaigning in upstate New York (e.g.) that was just wasted. The Democrat, similarly, has wasted days in Houston and other Texas metros. The election's in a week.

The system seems designed to provoke a crisis that can't be resolved legally.

Kristian Holvoet said...

Ann, I read the link you sent me, and must admit it looks like some interesting lawyering. I just can't wrap my head around how it is still constitutional. Sure, PA and NJ enter into an agreement on how to apportion state taxes when people live in one state and work in another. Interstate compact / agreement, which should probably be okay even if Congress doesn't give it a stamp of approval.

But this compact is meant to explicitly circumvent / game part the the constitution regarding elections to the executive branch. I don't see how you can wave your hands and say the courts have said that congress doesn't always have to give consent at THAT.

Bob R said...

"I wish that more people appreciate this. The day before the 2000 election, GWB was in my podunk small city in Tennessee. TN's taken a hard right turn since then, but at the time, it was considered solidly purple, and it was Gore's home state (allegedly), so it was very much in play."

It's not a red/blue advantage directly. It's a dense population advantage. If NPV wins the flyovers will be flown over - forever. No one will ever campaign in Tennessee again. We won't have national campaigns, we'll have bicostal campaigns.

Original Mike said...

"Have you visualized the nightmare of a nationwide recount?"

This. It is more important that everybody agrees who is President than who the President is.

RecChief said...

It's too bad Republicans can never catch them in the act. It makes you wonder why Republicans never advocate for election reforms like demanding paper ballots and hand count every election. Instead, they try and limit voting hours and voter ID which doesn't prevent any voter fraud at all. Does preventing someone in line to vote from going to the bathroom prevent voter fraud? What ARE Republicans thinking!?

Wisconsin

46 States

here

here

here

my favorite

Federal prosecutors have charged 89 individuals and convicted 52 for election-fraud offenses, including giving false voter-registration information

Al Franken's backyard "The report finds that 113 individuals who voted illegally in the 2008 election have been convicted of the crime" 200 cases remain. 1,099 felons 'voted' in a race decided by 312 votes

And here is a possible method.

Nope, not even a smidgen of vote fraud, or the appearance of such. No reason to ensure that only citizens vote.

Thanks for making your case GM

Kirk Parker said...

Are you sure you've presented the conceptual opposition to this idea adequately? I no more want the president to be the results of the popular nationwide vote, any more than I would want state boundaries to be re-jiggered after every census like congressional districts are! I object to the very concept of a national popular vote for ... well, for anything. Federalism today, federalism tomorrow, federalism forever! And I say this as someone from a state whose population is fairly close to 1/50 of the national population, and who thus at the moment is not benefitting from a disproportional representation in the Senate.

Interestingly, going by wiki's figures, the current population estimate for just the 50 states is 315,482,390 which works out to 6,309,650 per equal-size state. We're a bit on the high side of that figure, so starting with us and working down to state that's equally on the small side of the mean:

Washington 6,971,406
Massachusetts 6,692,824
Arizona 6,626,624
Indiana 6,570,902
Tennessee 6,495,978
Missouri 6,044,171
Maryland 5,928,814
Wisconsin 5,742,713

FWIW.

richardsson said...

This is an idiot idea. Patrick O has it exactly right. This is just another attempt by the Democrats to rig the election so they can win, only it won't work. First they rig the game, then they go to court if it doesn't turn out the way they planned. Al Gore lost the election in Tennessee, not in Florida. I must say that the older I get, the better Richard Nixon looks to me despite his flaws. I never much liked Nixon but when things didn't go his way, he put the good of the country ahead of his own desires twice. In the aftermath of the 2000 election, the bumper sticker "Sore Loserman" said it all. They cheat, they lie, they hide ballot boxes in the trunks of cars in case the votes are needed in a recount, they vote six times, they vote for people in the cemeteries. In all our history, we've only had two elections go into the House of Representatives and three more where the Electoral College trumped the popular vote. This should be known as the Sore Loserman Compact

Mattman26 said...

To claim that it's "obviously outrageous" that the winner of the national popular vote could lose the election is just plain lazy, and undermines the value of everything that follows.

It's no more outrageous than that a state with a tiny population has the same senate representation as a state with a huge population (which of course is where the whole electoral college "problem" comes from).

To be sure, you can make an argument that every citizen's vote should be of equal weight, but to act like the argument makes itself, or that any other argument is inherently wrong, is just willfully ignorant (and arrogant).

Our forebears made a "compact" called the Constitution 220-some years ago where it was decided that each state would be its own sovereign entity, and certain consequences flow from that. And now it's shocking and inexplicable?

cubanbob said...

Yeah, and wouldn't that be similar to what the Florida legislature was doing at the last minute in 2000. The U.S. Constitution give the state legislatures the power…"

Madame I beg to differ. It was Al Gore's lawyer's and a friendly liberal Florida Supreme Court that were the cause of the mischief. It was they who tried to changes the election rules during the election process.

Now if you want to blame the Florida legislature then do so in the context of the thread: In a scenario where the big blue states pull such a move to get a democrat elected president (using the 2000 election as an example where Gore #2 gets 500k more votes nationally)-where the Florida legislature files suit in the US Supreme Court to have the compact invalidated.

NPV is a bad idea and contrary to how the country was setup. In an earlier thread there a lot of comment of some state seceding the union. NPV would go a long way to fomenting smaller states to seriously consider seceding. Or another twist it could start movements to split a number of states apart if only to gain leverage in congress to offset the presidential election.

Skipper said...

Why isn't this unconstitutional, contrary to the Constitution's election scheme?

Anonymous said...

According to Garage Logic, Al Capone was only guilty of tax fraud.

Only if applied consistently, which as you know is not something that happens very often to Garage Logic. Bear in mind that Scott Walker is still guilty of everything.

Anonymous said...

High minded or undermined the principle of the Republic to install the tyranny of the majority? They know with the legalization of illegals, they will grab more power.

Ambrose said...

I think there is a simple explanation. If NPV helps elect a Democrat, the states will abide by it. If it would result in swinging an election from Democrat to Republican, the blue states would find an excuse to back out of it after the general election and before the electoral votes are cast.

Mark Jones said...

"This system seems designed to provoke a crisis that can't be resolved legally."

Well, then, I guess Obama will have to remain in the White House to maintain order until Eric Holder's Justice Department figures out what to do.

Mark Jones said...

"...can't be resolved legally."

Well, then, I guess Obama will have to reluctantly remain in the White House until Eric Holder's Justice Department can figure out how to deal with this problem. Seems legit.

Thorley Winston said...

If this compact was to be established and a Republican won the popular vote, which of the following would the Blue States who signed on to this do:

(a) Withdraw from the compact or change their laws to allow their Electors to vote for the Democratic candidate;

(b) Have their Attorney General tank the case intentionally when it is challenged in court;

(c) Find some pretext not to live up to their agreement without formally withdrawing from it;

(d) Openly renege on their agreement.

(e) All or any of the above.

tim in vermont said...

Sorry, but the EC and the Senate are the remaining firewalls against big city voter fraud.

This is one of those issues were democracy is like a train, and this would be the last stop.

Bob Palnik said...

Some rough calculations:

2000 was 271-267 Bush
New method 267 - 271 Gore

2004 was 286-251 Bush
New method 281-257 Bush

2008 was 365-173 Obama
New method 289-249 Obama

2012 was 332-206 Obama
New method 273-265 Obama

Wilbur said...

It doesn't take much imagination to foresee blood in the streets some future day. Between this Compact and their habitual vote fraud shenanigans, the Democrats are playing with fire.

I wouldn't have been shocked to have seen it 2000. I was in Florida and saw the way those vote-counters were trying to rig the result.

Alex said...

I have no problem with this as the Constitution allows each state to decide which method to award it's electoral votes. For once people are drawing inside the lines.

David said...

campy said...
I agree with previous commenters that this structure will collapse the very first time it's tested.


It's going to collapse before it's tested. The Democrats are not going to commit political suicide. That's a Republican trick. Even if a state or two adopts it, the Democrats will tie it up in court until it withers and dies.

And by the way, if the writers of the Constitution wanted a majority of the popular vote to elect a President, they would have set it up that way. The electoral college has not developed as the founders might have thought (electors exercising some discretion and judgment) but it does operate as a balancing feature in a diverse country. The next time the left wins a presidential election without the highest popular vote total, you will see what a great idea they think it is.

Steven said...

Well, NPV would potentially be more vulnerable to vote fraud in a locale flipping a national election. But Democrats have assured me that the fact that Democrat local, state, and federal prosecutors don't prosecute people for vote fraud in deep blue parts of depp blue states means there's no vote fraud happening, and that when a Republican-controlled DoJ tries to uncover any, it's just a witch-hunt.

Elmer Stoup said...

No way! Democrats will stuff the ballot boxes in big cities to ensure they win.

Richard Dolan said...

Assuming enough states signed on, enforcement would raise interesting issues, quite apart from the possibility that some state might revoke its participation between the election and the casting of the electoral college votes. The 11 Amendment might get a work-out, although creative minds (the kind that equate mandates with taxes, for example) could always discover an exception or two to save the day.

Anonymous said...

In 2000, all the networks reported that Gore had won in FL, before the polls were even closed in FL. Combined with saying Ohio was "too close to call" (when the numbers for Bush in Ohio were far better than the numbers were for Gore in several states they'd already called for Gore) with 2+ hours of voting left in a large part of the country, the networks created an Electoral College perception that Bush had lost, and Gore had won.

Go back to 1980, and how pissed west coast Democrats were at Carter for driving down the Democrat vote on the west coast by conceding before the west coast polls were closed. The networks engaged in a vote suppression effort for the Democrats in 2000. And it nearly worked. It did work in the popular vote.

And poor baby Democrats have whined about it ever since.

The rest of us laugh at them.

Anonymous said...

Which party actually benefits from a switch to the popular vote?

Whichever party is better at vote fraud.

It doesn't matter how many votes the Philadelphia machine makes for Democrats (and with multiple precincts where the Democrat gets 100% of the vote, you're pretty much guaranteed that vote fraud is happening there (people make mistakes in voting. Even with an error rate of only 0.1%, in an area with 20,000 votes, and every single one of them favoring the Democrat, you'd still expect 20 of them to screw up and vote Republican by mistake)), all they can do is steal the vote of the State of PA. With NPV, they can steal the whole country.

Kansas City said...

It seems like a bad idea to me because: (a) it changes the basic nature of the electoral college as designed, which has served pretty well; and (b) it invites massive democratic efforts to increase the number of low information voters. Our nation is already significantly at risk due to the number of low information persons and to increase their political power only increases the prospect for disaster.

Kansas City said...

Also, I think Ann is probably wrong that there would be a net benefit to republicans through increased republican votes in blue states. I think the increase in low information democratic votes will significantly exceed any increased republican votes and, in the process, diminish the power of red states.

John said...

I don't think this is a good idea but fail to see any Constitutional issue. The Constitution is very clear:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors...

So the states clearly have the right to appoint the electors as they choose. That has long been by popular vote but even as late as the election of 1848 some states were still appointing electors without popular vote.

There are also a couple of states (Nebraska and Maine?) that proportion the electors based on popular vote.

As for the "compact" just what is this? Seems to me that there would be no problem with any state saying "We'll do what other states do" which is what this seems like.

I would agree that they can't enter into a formal agreement with the other states without Congress. That is not what this is about though, is it?

So, Professor Althouse, what is your take on any Constitutional issues raised by this plan?

Are there any?

John Henry

rcocean said...

Good grief, lets just go to the popular vote, and get rid of Electoral College. Its absolutely absurd that someone can win California by 1 vote and get 55 of the 270 EV's needed to win.

In the late 19th to mid 20th century the Electoral College had a warping effect on the American Politics. You had to nominate someone from Ohio or NY - because they had the most electoral votes. So we ended up with a whole bunch of mediocrities. And you had to pander to people from NY or Ohio because every vote counted in the states with most EV's.

Ann Althouse said...

@Kristian Holvoet

I have never studied the question in the appropriate depth to have a legal opinion, but I tend to react that way you do. This is such and extreme effort to subvert the original plan that I think the presumption should be against it.

garage mahal said...

Thanks for making your case GM

You apparently didn't read my post. I said what Republicans always propose to fight voter fraud doesn't solve anything, or prevent anything.

Kirk Parker said...

We need to have (1) a rollback of all-mail balloting, (2) very stringent absentee-ballot requirements, (3) uniform poll opening and closing times nationwide--say 5am EST to 8pm Hawaii time--coupled with making it a serious felony for any election worker to divulge any results prior to closing time.

rcommal said...

Wait a sec: "Trapped"?

I thought that at least a good chunk of the point of, not to mention the arguments for, "separate states, yet also "e pluribus unum" is that people, individual people and/or individual families, could vote with their feet.

RecChief said...

"
It's too bad Republicans can never catch them in the act."

Yes, I read your post. you obviously didn't take the time to read the links I posted for you. Seemed you had missed a few things.

In my state, it was liberals who pushed for new ATM-like voting machines that didn't produce a paper record, scrapping the bulletproof optical reader machines that left a paper trail. Wonder why that is. That's a rhetorical question, it's because it's harder to cheat when there is a voting machine as simple as the optical reader. You're a walking fail.

Lonetown said...

How would this help Republicans in NY? NY has 3 large parties (used to be 4) and Republicans (who are really libs there) represent around a third.

What about the Conservative party? Their votes are just thrown out?

I guess that is as it is now.

stlcdr said...

It is President of the [United] States, not President of the People.

Popular voting like this is overall a bad thing. Many believe that democracy is a good thing; it's simply an instrument. That instrument will be - always - used to oppress minorities.

(Minorities: as in 49% or less, not what government decides what a 'minority' is).

The fact that this is such a big issue demonstrates that the shift from state powers to federal powers has gone too far. Not being a native born citizen, I'm sometimes astounded by the lack of respect and understanding for The Constitution, and the prophetic words of the Declaration of Independence, and that people would want to live again under the reign of king George.

jim murray said...

I believe that the electoral college was set up to moderate the popular vote. The 'people' can go mad and overwhelmingly support a despot, eg Hitler, Chavez, and the EC was implemented to dull that likelihood.

toto said...

On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 28–18 margin.

Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent or past closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA --75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%.

By state (Electoral College votes), by political affiliation, support for a national popular vote in recent polls has been:

Alaska (3)- 78% among (Democrats), 66% among (Republicans), 70% among Nonpartisan voters, 82% among Alaska Independent Party voters, and 69% among others.
Arkansas (6)- 88% (D), 71% (R), and 79% (Independents).
Arizona - 60% (R), 79% (D), and 57% others
California (55)– 76% (D), 61% (R), and 74% (I)
Colorado (9)- 79% (D), 56% (R), and 70% (I).
Connecticut (7)- 80% (D), 67% (R), and 71% others
Delaware (3)- 79% (D), 69% (R), and 76% (I)
District of Columbia (3)- 80% (D), 48% (R), and 74% of (I)
Florida (29)- 88% (D), 68% (R), and 76% others
Idaho(4) - 84% (D), 75% (R), and 75% others
Iowa (6)- 82% (D), 63% (R), and 77% others
Kentucky (8)- 88% (D), 71% (R), and 70% (I)
Maine (4) - 85% (D), 70% (R), and 73% others
Massachusetts (11)- 86% (D), 54% (R), and 68% others
Michigan (16)- 78% (D), 68% (R), and 73% (I)
Minnesota (10)- 84% (D), 69% (R), and 68% others
Mississippi (6)- 79% (D), 75% (R), and 75% Others
Montana – 67% (R), 80% (D), and 70% others
Nebraska (5)- 79% (D), 70% (R), and 75% Others
Nevada (5)- 80% (D), 66% (R), and 68% Others
New Hampshire (4)- 80% (D), 57% (R), and 69% (I)
New Mexico (5)- 84% (D), 64% (R), and 68% (I)
New York (29) - 86% (D), 66% (R), 78% Independence Party members, 50% Conservative Party members, 100% Working Families Party members, and 70% Others
North Carolina (15)- 75% liberal (D), 78% moderate (D), 76% conservative (D), 89% liberal (R), 62% moderate (R) , 70% conservative (R), and 80% (I)
Ohio (18)- 81% (D), 65% (R), and 61% Others
Oklahoma (7)- 84% (D), 75% (R), and 75% others
Oregon (7)- 82% (D), 70% (R), and 72% (I)
Pennsylvania (20)- 87% (D), 68% (R), and 76% (I)
Rhode Island (4)- 86% liberal (D), 85% moderate (D), 60% conservative (D), 71% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), 35% conservative (R), and 78% (I),
South Carolina - 64% (R), 81% (D), and 68% others
South Dakota (3)- 84% (D), 67% (R), and 75% others
Tennessee 73% (R), 78% (D)
Utah (6)- 82% (D), 66% (R), and 75% others
Vermont (3)- 86% (D); 61% (R), and 74% Others
Virginia (13)- 79% liberal (D), 86% moderate (D), 79% conservative (D), 76% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), and 54% conservative (R), and 79% Others
Washington (12)- 88% (D), 65% (R), and 73% others
West Virginia (5)- 87% (D), 75% (R), and 73% others
Wisconsin (10)- 81% (D), 63% (R), and 67% (I)
Wyoming (3) – 77% (D), 66% (R), and 72% (I)
NationalPopularVote

toto said...

With the current system of electing the President, none of the states requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state's or district’s electoral votes.

Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation's 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

If an Electoral College type of arrangement were essential for avoiding a proliferation of candidates and people being elected with low percentages of the vote, we should see evidence of these conjectured outcomes in elections that do not employ such an arrangement. In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in the last 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.-- including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912 and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), and Clinton (1992 and 1996).

Americans do not view the absence of run-offs in the current system as a major problem. If, at some time in the future, the public demands run-offs, that change can be implemented at that time.

And, FYI, with the current system of awarding electoral votes by state winner-take-all (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation's votes.

toto said...

The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely, not less likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It's much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we'd had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush's lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore's nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
“It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a "final determination" prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their "final determination" six days before the Electoral College meets.

toto said...

In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

On March 25, in the New York Senate, Republicans supported the bill 27-2; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party by 26-2; The Conservative Party of New York endorsed the bill.
In the New York Assembly, Republicans supported the bill 21–18; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative party supported the bill 18–16.

The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressmen John Anderson (R–Illinois and later independent presidential candidate), John Buchanan (R–Alabama), Tom Campbell (R–California), and Tom Downey (D–New York), and former Senators Birch Bayh (D–Indiana), David Durenberger (R–Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R–Utah).

Supporters include former Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA)

Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

The Nebraska GOP State Chairman, Mark Fahleson, supports NPV.

Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:"A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College."

Some other supporters who wrote forewords to "Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote" include:

Laura Brod served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

James Brulte the California Republican Party chairman, who served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

Dean Murray was a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

Thomas L. Pearce served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

Harold said...

All the states have rules for how to distribute their electoral votes. None of them HAVE TO USE how the people vote at all, but they all do. The rules have to be in place before the election is held, then adhered to. This is ultimately why Gore's court campaign to get Florida's electoral votes failed. He was trying to change the rules after the game had been played. The supreme court didn't let him.

If the states wanting to allocate their votes accoording to national popular vote get enough votes for their compact, I can just about guarantee what will happen. In the very next election, the Republican candidate will squeak by with a very bare majority, and the old way of counting electoral votes would enusre a Democrat victory. You'll see all the majority Dem states jumping to change the rules after the fact.

Sort of how Frank Lautenberg ended up on the ballot and becoming senator from NJ. The courts ruled that the people had to have a choice. And they did. The indicted Dem, who won the Democratic primary fair and square, the Republican, or one of the 5 or 6 other candidates on the ballot. That wasn't a good enough choice for Democrats. After the deadline had passed for doing so, the indicted Dem was thrown off the ballot because the people deserved a choice, and Lautenberg, the elder and respected statesman took his place. All quite in violation of written law, but legalized by a court's decision that the law didn't count.

One last thing. Maine and Nebraska DO NOT allocate votes proportionally. Thay allocate by (1) Congressional District and (2) Toyal statewide vote. The winner in each CD gets an EV for that CD, the winner in the state overall gets the other 2. So in Maine, with 4 EV's, if Cand A won by one vote in CD1, and Cand B by 2 votes in CD2, the vote would be 50-50, and Cand B would get 3 EVs (75%) to Cand A's 1 EV. I actually prefer the Maine way of allocation.

And, there aren't enough EVs to begin with, because there aren't enough congresscritters. The number of congressman should be (total US state population)/(population of smallest state)