Governor Jerry Brown is expected to provide a huge boost to the progressive anti-Electoral College movement with his signature on AB 459, the National Popular Vote law. The highly controversial bill, passed by both the Assembly and the state Senate last Thursday would enroll California in an interstate agreement that obliges member states in presidential elections to give their electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes nationwide, regardless of the true tally of each state’s electoral vote.
The National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact is designed to take effect only when (or if) it is adopted by enough states to constitute an Electoral majority. With the addition of California, NPV backers will see their potential contracted votes go from 77 to 132, nearly half of the 270 needed to win a majority from the 538 total electoral votes.
“California’s support of National Popular Vote is a very significant milestone in our effort to make every vote count,” said Dr. John Koza, founder of the National Popular Vote organization.
“This really is not a Democratic or a Republican issue,” said Tom Golisano, the national spokesperson for Koza’s organization. “The president we choose represents this entire nation, and we should all count when making that choice. Our presidential election should be a truly inclusive process.”
Koza, a Stanford computer science professor, first explored the NPV idea in his 2006 book Every Vote Equal. His theory is that the Electoral College should be effectively abolished in order to force presidential candidates to court voters in every state rather than concentrate exclusively on a few battleground states. Some even argue that NPV would encourage more third party and single issue candidates to run for president by eliminating the difficulties Independents have with winning electoral votes in the current system.
Legally, NPV relies on a provision in the Constitution, namely Article II, Section I, that grants authority to state legislatures to allocate electoral votes however they see fit. But opponents argue that the legal loophole being utilized, however clever and elegant it might be, represents an attack on the foundation of our representative form of government.
Former Governor of Delaware Pierre S. du Pont, IV has claimed that NPV would equate to an urban power grab favoring Democrats, disenfranchising the center-right rural masses. Former Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a previous attempt to implement NPV in California stating that it might lead to an unacceptable scenario where Electorates would be forced to ignore their state’s popular choice for president.
Indeed, if NPV became the standard with the electoral majority, it would change the structure of presidential campaigns by realigning incentives says Trent England, VP of Policy for the Freedom Foundation. England says the plan to “wipe away state lines for presidential campaigns” is an invitation to corruption not only in the election process, but in the formation of national policy as well:
“No election system is perfect, and the larger the constituency and the more power the office, the more incentives there are for shenanigans. Yet the current process has served the nation well; it has contained election disputes and pushed candidates and parties to build broader coalitions. After all, the genius of the United States isn’t just that we’re united … it’s also that we have states, and that we use them as the constituent parts of our nation.”
At this time, the “mandate for inclusiveness” that is the NPV motto remains a partisan cry. A short time before taking the vote to the Senate floor, all three Republican cosponsors demanded that their names be removed from the legislation. No one on the right voted for it and only one Democrat voted against it. Koza and his far left-leaning group since 2006 have spent a small fortune lobbying Republican legislators about the mutual benefits NPV would extend to both major parties.
NPV legislation has been introduced in every state. It has either died in committee or been struck down on the floor in all but seven. States that have passed the compact include Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.