If you’re a conservative like me, your knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion of changing our presidential elections to a national popular vote isn’t just no, but…” Heck (or stronger), no!” After all, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton both won the popular vote but lost the elections under the current system, right?
But after attending a conference last weekend to learn more about the National Popular Vote Compact (NPVC), I’ve changed my position to… well, maybe. But to get there you need to get to the devil in the details.
The first detail actually comes from President Donald Trump himself, who wrote last November, “If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.”
Indeed, the only reason Gore and Clinton won the popular vote in 2000 and 2016 is because their GOP opponents didn’t worry about the popular vote. They were totally fixated on winning the election under the rules of the game at the time. If the rules had been different, they would have played the game differently.
Secondly, and I know this is a biggie for many conservatives, the NPVC does NOT do away with the electoral college system of electing our president. Here’s why…
First, the NPVC is not a constitutional amendment that changes our electoral system to a nationwide winner-take-all election. The key word is “compact.” It’s something each of the 50 states can voluntarily join or not join.
Secondly, according to Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, each individual state legislature has the power to decide how its electoral college delegates are awarded. So each state is free to decide whether to give its delegates to the candidate who wins the state popular vote or the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
Now here’s the potential payoff for Republicans…
There are 11 solidly “blue” states, including California, already signed up for the NPVC. Combined, they account for 165 electoral votes which today are virtually impossible for Republican presidential candidates to win individually.
Which is why so many GOP voters in those states stay home. Their vote really doesn’t matter. The winner is a foregone conclusion.
However, if Republican voters in those “blue” Hillary states had had a reason turn out and add to Trump’s national popular vote total and given him the majority, he would have won those 165 electoral votes. Which means he would have won a YUGE landslide of 471 electoral votes.
Now THAT’S a mandate!
So, yes, while I still have reservations as to whether or not “red” states should join the compact, I’m all in favor of “blue” states doing so since Republicans have virtually no chance whatsoever of winning those states under the current system.
I told you the devil was in the details.