re: National Popular Vote


I have argued with Will about NPV before, but I’ll add a few more thoughts. First, the bill did pass both houses of the Massachusetts legislature in the last session, but failed to reach the governor’s desk only because the session came to a close before a final procedural vote could be taken.

I’m a member of Common Cause which has been taking a lead role in  National Popular Vote. We are fighting for the bill again in this legislative session. The bill was reported out of the Election Laws Committee favorably last Fall. Since then, we have been pushing  for a vote and expect it to come before the House this Spring. We are confident NPV has the necessary support, since the identical bill passed both House and Senate in the last session with decisive majorities. Yet, it needs to come before the House quickly or the bill could get caught up in the same procedural snarl that killed it last time.

It took me a while to embrace National Popular Vote. “Is this a cockamamie plan or what”, says I. “If we want to get rid of the Electoral College, just pass a constitutional amendment that calls for election of the President and VP directly by the people.” Easier said than done! The amendment approach, which requires a favorable vote by 2/3rds of the Congress and 3/4 of the states, has been tried time and time again and every time it fails.

The nation’s history of electoral reform reflects just how tenacious we are in resisting change. For example, the first state gave women the right to vote in 1869. It then took 50 years of continuing struggle, with suffragettes going state-to-state trying to get each one to grant women that very basic right of citizenship – the right to vote. Only after so many states had approved it did Congress finally act, passing the 19th amendment and sending it to the states for ratification in 1919.

National Popular Vote follows a similar strategy: get state-after-state to join a compact in which each state awards their electors to the winner of the popular vote in all 50 states, not just their own. To date, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington and Hawaii have signed up. When enough states to represent a majority of the votes in the Electoral College (270 of the 538 total) have committed, only then does the compact go into effect.

Let’s make Massachusetts the next state to join! If we really believe that it is the people of the United States who should determine the Presidency, then National Popular Vote is the way to proceed.


6 replies on “re: National Popular Vote”

  1. “If we really believe that it is the people of the United States who should determine the Presidency, then National Popular Vote is the way to proceed.” Ouch. This is an oversimplification!

    Here is a link to my main statement on the issue. It’s a complex issue and reasonable people can differ. In fact, my position has shifted from pro to anti over time. I also think that the fact that only a handful of states have adopted it may tell us something about the politics of it, if not the merits.

  2. Will,

    I just received an email from MassVote asking me to ask you to support the National Popular Vote bill. At first I was surprised to see you did not support it. But when I read your reasoning, I had to agree with you.

    I agree with your two concerns regarding the NPV proposal, the “George Wallace” danger and the likelihood that the NPV may not be legally robust enough.

    What do you think of the approach taken in Nebraska and Maine? Since each states’ electoral college votes equals their number of Congressional districts, require electoral college members vote for the winner of their Congressional district.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I think that approach makes pretty good sense — it tends to make the electors from each state proportional to the vote. I voted for such an amendment yesterday, but it did not pass. The NPV did pass the house.

      I don’t feel that this issue is going to go anywhere nationally and feel that it is best not to lose time much fighting about it either way.

  3. This NPV is a sham! If this ever passes I can guarantee the following.

    If the election goes like 2000 the Liberals in Massachusetts will be thrilled and declare the system worked!

    If the election goes like 2004 when george Bush won th PV the Liberals will file law suit after law suit declaring they have been disenfranchised.

    1. It is true that the NPV came out of frustration with the 2000 outcome and has lost a lot of steam since. I wouldn’t use the word ‘sham’ — many people are sincere about it — but I think it is a sideshow and I do oppose it.

  4. Will,

    I agree with you – this is a bad idea and I hope you do what you can to stop this.

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