Once again, we have an election where it is alleged that the losing candidate won the popular vote. Understandably we have calls from her supporters to abolish the Electoral College by means of the National Popular Vote Compact.
Once again, we must articulate to our friends why this is a bad idea. Once again, we point out to most of those that support the Electoral College that they support it primarily for the wrong reasons.
We have a broken, risky, unequal election system. Cobbling a well-intended compact on top of it makes it more risky, more vulnerable, and the results even less credible:
- Our current system is subject to multiple risks from officials, other insiders, domestic partisans, independent hackers, and foreign powers. The Compact does not change any of that. It makes the system more risky to manipulation in every state. Currently the risk is limited to the so-called swing states.
- Our current system is not audited at all in half the states and insufficiently audited in the majority the states that have audits. The public should have little confidence in the accuracy of vote totals in each state and in the unofficial and official national totals. We should have little confidence in the purported popular vote winner, and even less if the compact is enabled.
- The compact is flawed in that there is no official national popular vote number until after the Electoral College is required to vote. The Compact does not and cannot change that. Its supporters attempt to refute that fact with obfuscation.
- Voters are unequal between states. The Compact will not fix that. It will aggravate that. Different voters are enfranchised and disenfranchised by differing state laws for eligibility. Voting is easier or more difficult by differing ease of registration and voting across the states. Frequently there are obvious attempts to make it easier or more difficult for certain classes of voters to vote. The Compact will increase those trends.
- Contrary to the Compact’s proponents contentions there is no national recount possible. Only half the states have some form of recount available. Those recounts are based on state margins, not on the alleged national popular vote number. The Compact does not change that. It could not, since the Compact will be triggered and apply to states representing barely more than half the votes. It would also require the establishment of a national body to declare and manage a recount. Once again, proponents claim through obfuscation that a recount would be possible.
- Let us not forget that we do not have voter verified paper records for a significant percentage of votes, so those votes are not actually auditable or recountable.
I would favor a national popular vote amendment to the U.S. Constitution, if and only if, it provided for a uniform franchise, required sufficient voting systems, sufficient audits and recounts nationwide. And sufficient laws that were enforceable and enforced to provide a trustworthy and trusted national popular vote number. Those ifs are a large leap for our democracy, yet are reasonable, economical, realistic requirements to achieve trustworthy democracy.
Luther Weeks is Executive Director of the website CTVotersCount.org, where this article was first published.