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The Electoral College

August 5, 2010

This uniquely American institution is under attack.

The Electoral College has always been difficult to teach and understand without the historical context; consequently, it has been targeted by demagogues who want to do away with it. At its base, however, it is the embodiment of a simple idea: the Founders designed a Republic with many checks and balances. They did not design a direct democracy.

When designing the Congress, there were two competing plans: the Virginia Plan, in which each state would be represented by population and the New Jersey Plan, which would give each state equal representation. The Connecticut Compromise consisted of a bicameral legislature as it now exists, with a senate having two senators of each state and a House of Representatives apportioned on the basis of population. Since the Senate represented the interests of the states, the senators were elected by the state legislature. The plan protected the small states from being overwhelmed by the large ones.

The federal government designed by the constitution was to be a union of independent states and it was assumed that the real power would be vested in the States and the People–confirmed in the 10th Amendment. It was never intended that the President and Vice President would be popularly elected. The People elected their representatives to the state legislatures and the House of Representatives. As representatives of the people, the state legislatures elected senators.

In Federalist No. 39, James Madison argued that the Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based government. Further, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10 that the system was designed to overcome the influence of “faction.” Faction meant

a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

So who would elect the President and Vice President? The states would, in proportion to the number of senators and representatives each has. Although different methods have been used over time, today the popular vote in a state give all the electoral votes from that state to the winner.

Advocates of direct democracy have never liked either the indirect election of senators or the electoral college. In the early 20th century, progressives succeeded in passing the 17th amendment–direct election of senators. This, combined with the 16th Amendment (income tax), formed the basis of the expansive growth of the federal government.

Now these same progressives are taking aim at the other bastion of republican government, the Electoral College. They are pushing the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,” a sort of mutual suicide pledge by states to cast their electoral votes not by the result of the popular vote in their state but by the national popular vote. In other words, you could vote for Candidate X and he could win the state, but that total would be over-ridden by the national total.

Why do I call it a mutual suicide pledge? Because by giving away their electors these states lose their influence over the election.  It throws away the Connecticut Compromise and gives all the power to eleven large states including California, Texas and New York. Wyoming, with only 3 electoral votes, would be totally ignored. Colorado, with 9, would probably be as well.

Six states have already passed the compact and Massachusetts has just made seven. All are liberal states, all were passed by Democrat-controlled legislatures; in Hawaii the legislature overrode the governor’s veto.

In Colorado, the bill to give away our electoral votes was narrowly defeated last year. The National Popular Vote site prominently features House Speaker Terrence Carroll (D-Den) in favor of it. Co-author of a book supporting the effort is Mark Grueskin, a Democrat lawyer who features prominently in The Blueprint, the plan to take over Colorado by four Democrat millionaires.

Which organizations support this? According to a National Popular Vote email:

The bill has been endorsed by organizations such as Common Cause, FairVote, Sierra Club, NAACP, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, ACLU, the National Latino Congreso, Asian American Action Fund, DEMOS, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

All progressive organizations. The left has been pushing for this because they didn’t like the result of the 2000 election and they probably believe they can more easily manipulate the people and win. They are trying to permanently change the rules of the game in their favor. Read again Madison’s quote from Federalist 10. NPV is a very bad idea once you understand it. The left hopes you won’t.

  1. August 5, 2010 12:46 pm

    Progressives are redistributing your weath, stealing your childrens futures, ignoring the Constitution and will with NPV disable your most power tool; the ballot box.

  2. August 5, 2010 6:40 pm

    Two hours after posting this blog piece, I received 5 emails supporting National Popular Vote, one per minute, from an anonymous hotmail account, each one longer than the post itself. They were all filled with numbers and statistics as if to overwhelm by volume.

    Can there be any doubt that this is a left-wing initiative? These are their tactics to silence the opposition.

    In the end it is not about stats, winners and losers: it is about our form of government. Aristotle warned about democracy, a bad form of government where the demagogues can sway the passions of the people. Look at who our president is and how he was sold to us.

    We have a Republic if, as Benjamin Franklin warned, we can keep it.

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