Beware the National Popular Vote

In his introduction to the book, Every Vote Counts: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote, former Republican congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson had this to say: “I believe the occupant of the nation’s highest office should be determined by a nationwide popular vote by legally registered voters.  The current system… can trump the national popular vote.  The system is not based on majority rule, and it fails to provide political equality.”

What Anderson suggests would horrify baseball fans.  What he is suggests, in baseball terms, is that if the Yankees and the Phillies were to meet in a seven-game World Series, where the Yankees won three games, 5-3, 6-1, and 3-2, while the Phillies won four games, 5-2, 6-5, 5-4, and 2-1, the Yankees should be declared World Champions because they scored 26 runs in the seven games while the Phillies scored only 24.  It doesn’t work that way in major league baseball and it certainly doesn’t work that way when fifty sovereign states vote to select a national leader.  Any scheme for selecting a president and vice president by national popular vote would clearly violate the intent of the Framers and may very well be unconstitutional.

If Mr. Anderson is serious about having elections determined only by legally registered voters, he should demand that the Congress and the state legislatures impose heavy fines and mandatory jail time for those who would vote illegally, and for those who would facilitate illegal voting.

Aside from their insistence that the members of the House of Representatives be elected by direct vote of the people and that members of the Senate be elected by the political leadership of the states, i.e. the state legislatures (later overturned by the 17th Amendment), the Framers were concerned that a foreign power might one day attempt to achieve through corruption and political intrigue that which they could not achieve on the battlefield.  It was precisely for that reason they concluded that the president and vice president be elected, not by direct vote of the people and not by the elected leaders of the states, but by the sovereign states themselves.

With that goal in mind, the Framers put the selection of the president and vice president into the hands of a small number of men, those “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations,” leaving the state legislatures to decide the manner by which the state’s electors would be chosen.  The institution they created was the Electoral College.

Arguing in favor of the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68,

“These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, etc.)” might come from many quarters, “but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.  How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

To those who now wish to emasculate the Electoral College, we pose this question:  Is it even remotely possible that just five years and eleven months after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the Founders would have presented to the states for ratification a Constitution that would allow an individual with divided loyalties… for example, a person with dual US-British citizenship, … to serve as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and the Navy?  To believe they would have done so requires a willing suspension of reason.

But now, in the earliest days of the 21st century, the Electoral College is under attack by those who misread or misconstrue our federal system.

In November 2000, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman won the national popular vote by 50,999,897 to 50,456,002 over George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  A switch of just 271,948 votes, just over one-fourth of one percent (0.27%), would have given Bush and Cheney a slim popular vote victory, along with a 271 to 266 vote victory where it really counted… in the Electoral College.

On August 8, 2011, California joined Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia (all blue states which normally vote Democratic) in adopting the National Popular Vote rule, pledging all of their electoral votes to the candidates for president and vice president who win a majority of the national popular vote.  California’s adoption of the rule brings 132 of the needed 270 electoral votes under the popular vote rule.  If and when states representing 270 electoral votes have joined the popular vote movement, then and only then will those states be able to eliminate any possibility of electing a president and vice president with less than a majority of the national popular vote.

But is it possible that the eight blue states that have now been drawn into the National Popular Vote movement are only “shooting themselves in the foot?”  Let’s play a little “what if,” using the results from the 2000 election… ironically, the election that has given the greatest impetus to the national popular vote movement.

What if the U.S. Supreme Court had failed to intervene and the Democrat-dominated Florida Supreme Court had been allowed to proceed with their order for recounts in only the four most heavily Democratic counties in the state?  Given the Democrats’ well-known propensity for vote fraud, does anyone seriously doubt that they would have “found” 500 or 600 uncounted votes in the trunk of someone’s car or in a voting machine storage warehouse?  Florida’s 25 electoral votes would have moved from the Bush-Cheney column to the Gore-Lieberman column and the final Electoral College tally would have been 292 to 246 in favor of Gore-Lieberman.

But what if, at the same time, Bush and Cheney had been able to attract 271,948 more votes out of the 101,455,900 votes cast… just one out of every 373 votes… to win a narrow victory in the national popular vote?  That number of votes could have been switched with just one more ad buy reminding voters of Al Gore’s role in the Los Angeles Buddhist temple fundraising fiasco.

What would have been the impact on the outcome of the election?

With the eight blue states and the District of Columbia… all of which cast a majority vote for Gore-Lieberman… being required by their National Popular Vote statutes to throw their 132 electoral votes to Bush-Cheney, the winners of the national popular vote, instead of a 292 to 246 Electoral College victory for Gore-Lieberman, the final electoral count would have been 378 to 160, Bush-Cheney over Gore-Lieberman… an Electoral College victory of landslide proportions.

In other words, the proponents of the national popular vote movement would have accomplished the exact opposite of what they intended.

Our experience of recent years tells us that the Electoral College and the potential for electing a president and vice president with less than a majority of the popular vote is the least of our worries.  What should concern us most is the fact that the Electoral College has on occasion failed to perform as the Founders intended, providing us with a president or a vice president who failed to meet the qualifications outlined in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.

On two occasions… the election of Republican Chester A. Arthur as vice president in 1880 and the election of Democrat Barack Obama as president in 2008, both sired by fathers who were non-citizens… the parties have nominated, the Electoral College has elected, and the Congress has certified, individuals who failed to meet the clear standard of a “natural born Citizen.”

Most, if not all states have laws requiring presidential electors to swear an oath.  In most cases that oath requires only that electors cast their electoral votes for the candidates selected at their party’s national nominating convention.  Minor fines are imposed for those who do otherwise and who choose to be “faithless” electors.  But there is much that the states can do to bring honesty and integrity to the process of selecting a president and vice president.  For example, in order to carry out the electoral function as the Framers intended, requiring electors to actually do their homework, the states should amend their electoral oaths to read as follows:

“Every party nominee for Presidential Elector shall subscribe to an oath stating that he or she, if elected, will cast his or her ballot for the persons nominated for the offices of President and Vice President by the national convention of his or her party, provided that said candidates for president and vice president are natural born citizens of the United States who have at no time in their lives been citizens or dual citizens of any foreign nation, who will be at least thirty-five years of age on the date of inauguration, and who have been residents of the United States for at least fourteen years.”

The national popular vote is an idea that appeals primarily to those on the political left, leading us to believe that it would most likely be the blue states that would adopt the national popular vote concept.  But if the blue state legislatures will only do a bit of simple arithmetic they might think twice before joining that movement.  With the long term outlook favoring Republican presidential candidates… because of the failures of the three most recent Democrat presidents, Obama in particular… they may be setting themselves up to provide Republicans with some massive presidential landslides in the years ahead.

The National Popular Vote movement is a liberal scam.  The states would be well advised to leave things exactly as they are.

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