How should we elect the president of the United States? This was a settled question for most of American history, but today the system is under attack. A California-based campaign wants to throw out the old rules and replace them with a system that would benefit the biggest cities, dismiss small states like South Carolina and create new opportunities for stolen elections.
The American founders gave us the Electoral College. They based it on the same compromise that created Congress; each state gets as many electoral votes as it has U.S. representatives and senators. Each state’s legislature gets to decide how best to represent its own people. The purpose of the Electoral College is to elect the president state by state, with each state’s electoral votes representing the will of the people in that state.
The Electoral College allows states to keep control over their elections. The alternative to state-by-state elections would be a single national election, which would require a single set of national rules and a single agency put in charge. That could only be a federal agency, meaning "The Swamp" would wind up running presidential elections.
The founders created the Electoral College to keep a few big cities from ruling over everyone else. Requiring candidates to win states makes it impossible for a regional candidate to win. No political party can win a presidential campaign just by squeezing out more votes where it is already popular.
Today, a liberal lobbying group from California, called National Popular Vote, is trying to change all this. They want state legislatures to ignore their own voters. Instead, states would give away their electoral votes based on the nationwide popular vote. This would manipulate the Electoral College to work exactly the opposite way the founders intended.
How close is NPV to becoming a reality? Too close for comfort. So far, 15 blue states worth 196 electoral votes have passed NPV legislation. When the NPV compact of states reaches 270 electoral votes, those states believe they can take control with an electoral vote majority.
NPV is driven by liberal/progressive/Democrats who are upset about the 2016 election. They are not just looking backward, but also forward to 2020 and beyond. Without the Electoral College, the Democrats could win simply by maintaining their big lead in a few big cities, mostly in the Northeast and along the West Coast. With NPV, Democrats could avoid trying to win back voters in the Rust Belt, the Farm Belt or here in the South. They won’t need South Carolinians and your vote would be meaningless.
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Those promoting NPV are willing to make America an even more divided nation for the sake of winning presidential elections. This is partisan politics at its worst.
NPV would also allow political party machines in one-party states to try to stuff the national ballot box. The risks of election fraud are highest where one party has complete control. With the Electoral College, that risk is limited. NPV would create a temptation for certain partisans to try to steal elections, and leave voters in other states with no legal recourse.
Recently I attended a national legislative conference in Austin, Texas. I serve on the Federalism Task Force that supports a limited federal government rather than a one-size-fits-all federal government that disregards regional differences and local community needs. Our mission is to help restore the original balance of power between the states and the national government.
Liberty-loving legislators on that task force pushed back that recognizing NPV’s mission is to hijack our presidential elections by banning together enough states to give big blue cities the clout to elect their president every time. We debated NPV and voted overwhelmingly to support a policy statement rejecting the National Popular Vote. That sends a strong message to those states that may be considering joining the NPV compact.
The debate over the Electoral College has been around since the time of our founders. While I don’t date back to the founding, I have vivid memories from my eighth-grade speech class where I debated the Electoral College. I was assigned to be the proponent. I was then and I am now.
In sum, the Electoral College forces both parties to reach out beyond their strongholds. The system designed by our founders respects the role of states and keeps them in charge of their own elections. It also contains the risk of election fraud. NPV threatens to throw out all these benefits simply so a few big cities can have more power.
While two South Carolina Democrat legislators have filed bills proposing NPV, they will most assuredly be rejected by the General Assembly. I hope no other state will join this misguided campaign to do an end run around our Constitution.