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The NPVIC Is Just a Bad Idea

Okay, I've been getting a lot of heat online (not really, but I needed an excuse to write this article) for talking about ways to make the Electoral College actually work for the benefit of "We, the People." In my opinion (for whatever that might be worth), Republicans want to keep it the way that it is (especially the states' "winner-take-all" rule) because they believe it gives them an advantage over the populism of large cities, and the Democrats want to get rid of it because they think it gives an outsized influence to people who (to them) don't really matter.

"His world is under observation. We monitor his station under faces and the places where he traces points of view."

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here but it seems to me that (to paraphrase the collective thinking) the biggest reason people seem to hate my suggestions is that they seem fair to non-partisans, and thus fail to allow the winning party the satisfaction of crushing the losing party under the heels of their jackboots, and forcing the losing party to watch helplessly as the winning party inflicts their own brand of domestic terrorism on the nation and the world.

(Was that over the top? It's so hard to tell these days.)

"He picks up scraps of information, radio and radiation from the dancers and romancers with the answers, but no clue."

So, let's start with actual facts: to modify or eliminate the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment, which anyone with even the smallest understanding of American politics will tell you is not an easy thing to get. Sure, there's a way to bypass Congress to introduce a new constitutional amendment, but the next hurdle to consider is that three-quarters of the states, or 38 of 50, have to agree to it for it to take effect. And if you think, "that should be simple enough because it benefits everybody," try getting 38 states to agree on something else that should be relatively simple, like the cultivation of an 8,000-year-old agricultural crop.

So, common thinking is that if you can't remove or get over an obstacle, you have to find a way to get around it (while still giving yourself an advantage).

Enter the NPVIC (or National Popular Vote Interstate Compact), an agreement between various state legislatures that "we, as a state, agree to allocate our electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote." The benefit of this idea is that it doesn't require a constitutional amendment to succeed; just the approval of enough state legislatures to commit to it that they collectively represent 270 electoral votes. (At last report, they had the agreement of enough state legislatures to account for 160 electoral votes, mostly from blue states.)

"He'd love to spend the night in Zion. He's been a long, long while in Babylon. He'd like a lover's wings to fly on to a tropic isle of Avalon."

The biggest problem that I see, personally, with the NPVIC is that it won't work the way that its advocates think that it will. 

First, it disallows the sovereignty of each state. For instance, it doesn't include any provision for a nationwide recount of votes in the event that the vote tally falls into dispute. While each state has established its own criteria for requiring a recount in the event of a close or disputed tally within the state itself, it is entirely possible for a national vote to be close without there being a single state's result close enough to trigger a recount. In this event, all signatory states would be required to perform a recount even if the outcome in that state was not in dispute, and add the time (and possibly the cost) of such an effort could be prohibitive to the state.

"His world is under anesthetic, subdivided and synthetic. His reliance on the giants in the science of the day."

Then, there's the argument that the Compact requires that a state possibly award its electoral votes to the candidate that did not win the state's popular vote. An example that was shown to me was the 2004 Bush/Kerry election. Per the norm for the past several decades, California awarded all of its electoral votes (55 at the time) to Kerry, the Democratic candidate who won the state by a WIDE margin (Bush - 44.36%; Kerry - 54.31%, or almost 10% of the popular vote). But Bush, the Republican incumbent, won the popular vote by a narrow margin (Bush - 50.7%; Kerry - 48.3%, or less than 3% of the popular vote). According to the agreement of the NPVIC (had it been in effect at that time), California would have been REQUIRED to send all 55 of its electoral votes to Bush, the Republican candidate that the majority of California's citizens did not vote for and did not support. 

If you still believe that the NPVIC would work, consider the level of outrage shown in just the last 25 years about how the successful candidate's victory "did not reflect the will of the people". Now, can you imagine the uproar that would have been over the result had the NPVIC been in effect at that time?

"He picks up scraps of information. He's adept at adaptation because, for strangers and arrangers, constant change is here to stay."

Finally, just as it would if the Framers had allowed a purely popular vote to be enshrined in the Constitution, ideas like the NPVIC would likely shift the attention of presidential candidates to several of the largest cities leaving rural concerns unaddressed. The phrase most commonly used in political circles is that these areas are "flyover areas" meaning that that they are the areas that candidates 'fly over' on their way to more important places, like cities.

"He's got a force-field and a flexible plan. He's got a date with fate in a black sedan. He plays fast-forward just as long as he can but he won't need a bed, he's a digital man."

I don't agree with every aspect of the Electoral College, but as a representative at the state level, I can only work with what I have the ability to work with, but that's a topic for another article. I'm just going to re-state my idea that the Electoral College should not be eliminated or circumvented, but returned to its original concept - the concept envisioned by the Framers - that the candidate attaining the popular vote in each state's congressional district receive that district's electoral vote with that state's two "at large" votes being awarded to the candidate who wins that state's popular vote.


Committee to Elect Darren Hamilton
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