A Terrible Idea Whose Time May Be Coming

Liberals are trying to do away with the Electoral College, since in recent cycles they have done better with the so-called popular vote. Of course they can’t amend the Constitution, but they don’t need to: instead, they are pushing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Briefly, the Compact says that each signatory state will cast its electoral votes for whatever presidential candidate gets the largest number of votes, nationwide.

That may seem like a goofy idea: why would any state, especially a smaller one, outsource its presidential votes to others? But getting rid of the Electoral College (in effect) is popular in liberal circles, and this is the way to do it.

By its terms the Compact goes into effect when states with 270 electoral votes–enough to elect a president– have signed it. If you haven’t been following the story, you may be surprised to learn that the Compact is close to going into effect. Michael Maibach of Save Our States emails:

Unfortunately, this week Maine became the 17th state in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV). Maine’s Gov. Janet Mills declined to sign the NPV bill but allowed it to become law without her signature. The measure passed the Maine House by one vote after the bill was brought up without notice while five House members who opposed NPV were not in the chamber (3 Republicans and 2 Democrats; 1 other Democrat whose position was unknown was also not there).

By such chicanery will, perhaps, our Constitution be fundamentally altered, possibly forever.

Now the focus will shift to Michigan—the only state left with an NPV bill before a state legislature. In June 2023 the Michigan House Elections Committee voted to advance the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact by a vote of 6-2. … A companion bill – Senate bill 126 – has been introduced in the other chamber but no action has been taken in committee yet. NPV lobbyists will push hard on Democrat and Republican legislators for the remainder of 2024. As of today, Michigan Republican House and Senate members are united in their opposition to NPV. Many House and Senate Democrats also oppose the measure. Many of those recognize the dangerous Constitutional crisis that the NPV Compact would bring to American politics on the evening of a future Presidential election if it ever takes effect. The NPC is triggered once the Compact has 270 Electoral votes. With Maine in the Compact they have 209 Electors.

With Michigan, there would be 224. A bill to join the Compact was introduced last year in my state, Minnesota, which has ten electoral votes, and nearly passed.

Some think the National Popular Vote Compact is unconstitutional, but I don’t know why it would be. It doesn’t actually abolish the Electoral College, it just changes how signatory states choose their electors. The Constitution gives the states broad discretion in this regard. You may assume that you have a constitutional right to vote for the president, but you don’t. The states have plenary authority to appoint presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” so a state could, for example, have its electors appointed by the state’s Senate. And I think a state could decide to cast its electoral votes for the candidate who got the most ballots (or alleged ballots) nationwide.

Others think that the Compact would not, in any given state, survive the first election in which that state’s electors are required to vote for the candidate who didn’t carry that state. (Which, of course, is the whole point.) I think that argument is more cogent, but withdrawing from the Compact won’t happen automatically, and a great deal of damage to our already fraying constitutional system may be done in the meantime.

I don’t suppose readers of this web site need to be told why the Compact is a bad idea, but for what it is worth, I set out the case against it, and in favor of the Electoral College, here.

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