The National Popular Vote is not an end run of the Constitution

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Last Thursday, the Connecticut House of Representatives debated a bill, HB 5434, which would include Connecticut in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. When this bill passes in enough states, the NPV Interstate Compact will change the way the American people elect the President of the United States.

The compact will only take effect when the states that have passed this bill have an aggregate Electoral College vote of 270, thus enabling them to control the outcome of the election. The presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationally will be elected president. Instead of the current system used by 48 states to instruct their electors to cast their votes in the Electoral College to the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state, the participating states will all instruct their electors to vote in the Electoral College for the candidate who wins the popular vote nationally.

During the Connecticut House debate, an argument was made that the NPV Compact is an “end run around the Constitution.”  This assertion is not true.

  • It is not necessary to amend the Constitution to implement a system that elects the President by National Popular vote.
  • The Constitution states “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or holder of an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.”
  • The method of choosing electors changed several times in the early 19th Century. The current winner-take-all method employed by 48 states is not specified in the Constitution, and each state legislature is legally and constitutionally entitled to change it.
  • When the National Popular Vote Compact is adopted by enough states, presidential election campaigns will have to encompass all 50 states. We can expect campaigning in all states, but especially in the more populous regions of the country, instead of concentrating on the “Battleground States” under the current “Winner Take All” method. This “Every Vote Equal” method is more democratic.
  • Voter suppression has been a problem in eight of the 12 battleground states.
  • Some Republicans claim they are trying to combat voter fraud, but Secretaries of State of both parties have confirmed that less than 0.01 percent of voters try to cast votes fraudulently.
  • In Wisconsin, 300,000 fewer eligible voters voted in the 2016 presidential election compared to prior elections, and Donald Trump won that state by 23,000 votes. Similar voter suppression results were found in Pennsylvania and Florida.
  • NPV would help obviate efforts to sway presidential elections by voter suppression in a few battleground states.
  • Although many prominent Republicans have in the past announced support for the election of president by direct national popular vote, it is currently difficult to find a Republican office holder who will publicly support NPV.
  • Now a standard Republican response to the NPV proposal is to say that the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic, or specifically a representative republic, and should remain so. However, most Americans believe it is possible to have a democratic republic, such as France.

We urge all members of the Connecticut General Assembly to vote “Aye” on HB 5434.

Burwell Goode lives in Weston.

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