Thursday, November 02, 2006

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

There is a serious attempt right now to change how the President of the United States of America is elected. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a proposed agreement between states in the U.S. dealing with their allocation of electoral votes. This interstate compact, if enacted by enough states, would shift the method of election of the President of the United States to a national popular vote system. Full details can be found at National Popular Vote.

The site description of the plan notes, "Nationwide popular election of the President can be implemented if the states join together to pass identical state laws awarding all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The proposed state legislation would only come into effect only when it has been enacted, in identical form, by enough states to elect a President, —that is, by states possessing a majority (270) of the 538 electoral votes. "

Currently, the President is elected indirectly by electors in the Electoral College. Each state (and the District of Columbia) is allocated a certain number of electors based on their Congressional representation. (Except D.C. which gets three despite having no voting congressmen.) The results of this system usually elects a President who wins the national popular vote but not always.

According to the Popular Vote site, 29 states now have sponsors in one or more state legislative houses who will introduce the compact. The states right now are Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky,Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. It is a long shot but it is conceivably possible this could be implemented for the 2008 Presidential election.

While I do have some reservation about this, I can see its merits and may be able to support it. However, if the Electoral College is such a problem, why not just abolish it? This proposed plan plays games with the Electoral College to force it to conform to the national popular vote. This plan is legal and does not require a Constitutional amendment to bring about. However, would it not just be simpler to pass an amendment abolishing the Electoral College entirely?

In most states, electors in the Electoral College can vote for whoever they want for President. It is rare for an elector not to vote for the candidate they are pledged to vote for. This system would ask many electors to ignore the mandate from the voters of their state and instead pledge it to the national vote winner. If they do this, they are a faithless elector for ignoring the will of state voters. However, if they ignore the Interstate Compact and vote to reflect the will of state voters, these electors would also be faithless electors. It is not to hard to imagine electors making hard choices at odds with the Interstate Compact creating mass confusion and anger. Just think of the charges of a stolen election if enough electors solved this ethical dilemma by ignoring the Interstate Compact.

So, why not just pass a constitutional amendment and abolish the Electoral College? It would be cleaner and would be a whole lot simpler. If there is enough support to do this, do it. If there is not, then maybe trying to do this via other legislative means is a bad idea?

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