By Lori Hendricks
Last February, the Oklahoma State Senate passed by a 28-18 margin, SB906 which, had it made its way to the Governor’s desk, would have made Oklahoma the first solidly red state to join the National Popular Vote Compact (NPVC). That action drew a large public outcry, and the bill was not allowed out of the Rules Committee in the House, however proponents of the measure are not giving up. Sponsors of the legislation have used unscrupulous tactics including all-expense paid “educational” trips to entice legislators’ votes. In fact, the last took place in December to New York City for members of the House.
The Compact, now introduced in the House as HB1686, would only become effective when and if states controlling 270 electoral votes, the number required to elect the President, pass identical legislation. State delegates in these states would then be required to ignore the votes of their state’s electorate and cast their state’s electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote regardless of which candidate won the majority vote of that state. The National Popular Vote law has so far been enacted by 11 states for a total of 165 electoral votes — 61% of the votes needed to activate it. (DC, HI, IL, MD, MA, NJ, WA, VT, CA, RI, NY – ALL typically blue states)
Simply put, the Compact is intended to act as a loophole in the Constitution of the United States and amend the Constitution without an actual amendment. It usurps the will of the people of Oklahoma in favor for the will of voters in more populous states.
The Electoral College
The framers of the Constitution intended for Congress to be popularly elected, however the President and Vice President are intended to be “Executives of a Federation of Independent States”, and were to be elected by the States. As such, they designed the Electoral College as a solution to keep more populous states from overrunning the country.
James Madison warned of an interested and “overbearing majority”. He said this without knowing to what extent that majority would grow. Today, the populations of the 9 most populous states, CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA, OH, GA, MI are greater than the populations of the remaining 41 combined.
Although many find the process of the Presidential elections through the Electoral College to be somewhat confusing, nationwide support for the system has never fallen below 58% according to a study by the League of Women Voters.
Proponents argue that the plan makes Oklahoma more “relevant” and indicate we would see more Presidential candidates. In fact, in 2012 all candidates visited our state. The NPVC would end nation-wide presidential campaigns and dilute the importance of New Hampshire & Iowa; a candidate will only have to decisively win the ten or twelve largest metro areas. In fact, this plan would reduce the voting impact of voters in VT, WY, ND and SD to the equivalent of Brooklyn.
Proponents contend that the NPVC would encourage increased voter turnout. In reality, it would have the opposite effect. Why cast a ballot when the voter knows that even if their candidate got 60% of the popular vote in their state, their electoral votes could be given to an opposing candidate, or even worse, one that got less than 50% of the national popular vote in a race with three or more candidates.
Proponents argue that the Electoral College is flawed as it is based upon Congressional representation, which is determined by census-based population. They argue the census includes in their count those who have no right to vote i.e. those in prison and those in the country illegally. The NPVC does not correct this separate issue. If the method by which to determine Congressional representation is flawed, then that issue must also be corrected by Constitutional Amendment.
An Unpopular President
Were NPVC in place during the last two election cycles, Barack Obama, without having won a single county in the State of Oklahoma, would have been awarded our Electoral votes. Further, were this system in place in 2000, Oklahoma’s electoral votes would have been awarded to then President Al Gore!
The NPVC does not help Republicans and currently no red state has signed on to the compact. Since the Civil War, only 3 times has the Electoral College elected a President who did not win the popular vote: Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush – All were Republicans.
Most recently, in 2000, George W. Bush was elected by the electoral college while Al Gore won the popular vote. However, Gore won the popular vote by winning ONLY 13 STATES, DC, RI, NY, MA, MD, NJ, CT, HI, DE, IL, CA, MI, VT, PA, WA, ME – see a pattern? Bush, conversely won 33 states. Gore was awarded the electoral votes of an additional 5 states, however he did not win a majority 50% of the vote due to other candidates on the ballot in those states. Gore carried major metropolitan areas, but he most certainly did not win the majority of the country!
Again, this campaign is an effort to circumvent the Constitution of the United States, and as such, would very likely be challenged in the courts. Article I specifically requires Congressional approval of agreements between the states. Article 5 sets out the parameters of amending the Constitution. These Articles, separately but certainly collectively hold the Compact unconstitutional, however, there would first be an election, then a lawsuit, then a decision by the Supreme Court. It would certainly be an unprecedented disaster!
Imagine a situation where the nationwide popular vote is extremely close, how long would the recount take and at what cost? In 2000, it took over a month for the Florida recount of 6 million votes. How long would it take to recount 130 million?
The compact does not require a minimum percentage for a winner to be declared. It is possible for the President to be elected with only 30% of the vote with multiple candidates on the ballot, furthering the possibility that states may refuse participation without a true majority win, followed by litigation.
Should the NPVC become effective, our election process would become nationalized, and would surely bring with it national regulations. This, in itself is an issue of states sovereignty. Oklahoma requires voter ID, however most do not. States differ too, on crimes which restrict the right to vote. The compact would force states to recognize the validity of votes which would have been unlawful were they cast in that state, again infringing on the sovereignty of the states to regulate election law within their jurisdiction.
Further, because the compact allows as few as 11 states to determine the President, it shifts political power to those states in the compact and diminishes power of non-compacting states. This is why they need Oklahoma and other flyover states. Otherwise, the issues of the election will become entirely urban while issues which are important to rural areas will be ignored entirely.
The National Popular Vote Compact is not just simply a bad idea. That our State Senate would take actions to circumvent our Constitution as our Founders envisioned it is unacceptable. That they would consider ignoring the votes of the people of the State of Oklahoma in favor of those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles is WRONG. PERIOD.