The New York Times Has to Get Real About the Electoral College

Because I know that the New York Times isn’t going to publish it, here is my rebuttal to their truly stupid support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and/or a Constitutional Amendment Removing the Electoral College and instituting the direct election of the president.

Note that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an initiative designed to force the states that become members of the compact to award their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, regardless of whether that candidate actually won the popular vote in that specific state. Since the Compact would only go into effect once states with 270 electoral votes joined up, if it were to become effective, that would automatically decide presidential elections in favor of the winners of the popular vote.

Letter to the Editor:

Politicians and pundits who promote the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact are perpetrating a fraud upon the American people, who are seeking relief from the anti-democratic impact of the Electoral College on American politics. Politicians and pundits calling for an amendment to eliminate the Electoral College from the Constitution are just as ridiculous;

The Electoral College has awarded the presidency to a candidate who did not win the popular vote on five separate occasions. All five of those presidents were Republicans: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, a list the arguably includes five of our worst presidents. (Adams would have been a Republican had the Republicans existed when he was president.)

All 16 of the jurisdictions that have so far joined the NPV (15 states and the District of Columbia) are Democratic strongholds, which makes it even more obvious that the NPV is a Democratic initiative, not a bipartisan one.

In order for a state to join the Compact, a bill must be passed in both houses of the state legislature and signed by the governor of the state. In 15 of the 16 jurisdictions that have approved the NPV Interstate Compact, the Democratic party controlled both houses of the state legislature AND the governor’s office when the bill was passed. The exception was in Hawaii, where the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature overrode their Republican Governor’s veto.

In the remaining 35 states, there is only ONE state — Nevada — where both houses of the state legislature are controlled Democratic party. However, the state currently has a Republican governor and the Democrats lack the two-thirds majority to override a gubernatorial veto. Nevada will not be joining the Compact any time soon, not that it matters. The state has just six electoral votes.

In addition, one state that is currently a member of the Compact is facing a voter recall movement to overturn the state law that made Colorado a member of the Compact. While the governors’ offices in Colorado and Washington are currently occupied by Democrats, the legislatures are now controlled by the Republican party, but the Republicans do not enough votes to override vetos, so those states will probably remain in the Compact…for now.

It is a waste of time and energy to either promote or pursue the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact because it is statistically impossible for the Democrats to get states with 270 Electoral votes to join the Compact. This doesn’t even begin to address the numerous questions about the legality of the Compact, which could be challenged on several different grounds.

By the same token, it is utterly ridiculous to promote the idea of passing a Constitutional Amendment to change or eliminate the electoral College when the Democratic party does not have the two-thirds majority required in both the House and the Senate to send an amendment to the states. Even if the Democrats had sufficient votes in Congress to propose such an amendment, there is no chance that the amendment would ever pass since that requires 75% of the states to concur. At present, the Democrats control just 31.4% of the state legislatures.

For an opinion maker of the stature of the New York Times, it is ludicrous for you to publish articles and editorials calling for stop-gap measures that are absolutely not within the realm of possibility. I cannot believe that your analysts haven’t done the math and, therefore, to continue to promote the NPV or a Constitutional Amendment to remove the Electoral College from the presidential election process takes requires both chutzpah and hubris and an utter disregard for the seriousness of the Constitutional Crisis that we are now in.

Sincerely, etc. (Here ends the letter to the Editor.)

The really interesting thing about all of the possible challenges to the Electoral College process there is one — and, probably, only one — that might work, which would be a legal challenge on the grounds that the Electoral College violates the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. Passed in 1868, it guarantees equal protection to the citizens of each state, which means that the citizens of one state have the same rights as the citizens of any other state.

In this example, I am going to pick on Wyoming, the smallest state in the Union by population, with an estimated 2018 population of 577,737 and three Electoral College votes, or 192,579 citizens per electoral vote.

California, with a 2018 population of 39,557,045 and 55 electoral college votes, which works out to 719,219 per electoral vote.

Ergo, each voter in Wyoming has 3.75 more effective control over the selection of the president of the United States than a voter in California does.

This is an obvious inequity but with the current complexion of the Supreme Court, it would be highly unlikely that this Court would rule to change the representation formula.

A Constitutional Amendment wouldn’t work either, because the smaller states by population would never vote away their lopsided power in the Senate.

There are eight states that have just three electoral votes: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware, Vermont and the District of Columbia (which doesn’t actually get to vote on Amendments.) Five solid Republican states and two solid Democratic states.

There are five states with four electoral votes: Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Rhode Island. Two Republican states and three Democratic ones.

You see where the trend is going. You need three-quarters of the states — 38 states — to agree with you and therefore, any 13 states can block any amendment from passage. There are 15 solidly Republican states with seven or fewer electoral votes.

It would be political suicide for the state legislatures in any of those 15 Republican states to vote in favor of a Constitutional amendment that would forfeit the strategic advantage that has been enjoyed for so long by the smaller states. I’m not even sure the smaller Democratic states would vote in favor of such an amendment.

Alan is a poet, journalist, short story writer, editor, website developer, and political activist. He is the executive editor of BindleSnitch.com.

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