Thursday, February 12, 2009

National Popular Vote in Iowa

Jochum has National Popular Vote Bill

Seems I spoke to soon on the National Popular Vote bill. The Reg says Pam Jochum is introducing it in the Senate this session, though the Legislature site doesn't have it posted yet.

The Republican bloggers are quickly opposing the idea and putting it in partisan light, though at least now they acknowledge what happened in 2000. David Chung at Hawkeye GOP:
Gronstal is suggesting and end run around the Constitution.

Of course all of this is in response to the 2000 election where George W. Bush lost the popular vote but became president after winning in the Electoral College. Not only does Gronstal not respect the Constitution — he also does not respect Iowans.

Electoral College reform was a nonstarter for eight years because it required admitting to at least part of the injustice of Bush taking office with fewer votes than Gore. It's too bad that what should be a neutral thing--whoever gets the most votes wins--is caught up in who supports it it rather than its merits. Gronstal spoke well of Jochum's bill, Gronstal is GOP Boogeyman Number One these days, therefore this reform is Officially Bad.

As for the merits, conservatives argue that Iowa joining up with National Popular Vote amounts to unilateral disarmament, as small states won't have a voice.

A couple things. First of all, National Popular Vote is an all-in or all-out thing. It only kicks in when states representing 270+ electors join. So this could become a fait accompli with or without Iowa's consent.

Personally, I'd rather do it right by amending the Constitution. What I think National Popular Vote is accomplishing now is getting some attention for the issue. It has to get to the noncontroversial, massive supermajority level of support before the Constitution can change, and residual partisanship about 2000 is a setback. I was hoping that Bush personally being gone would open up this issue; looks like I'm wrong.

The other thing is, Iowa's biggest national importance isn't our puny seven (six in 2012) electoral votes. It's the caucuses. In Flyover Country notes this and critiques Iowa's RNC members: "Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman (are) actively trashing in the press the man who holds the keys to our first-in-the-nation status," new party chair Michael Steele. (Since Iowa Dems and Repubs usually stick together to stay first, I think the Iowa-loving POTUS may also have some influence on the nomination calendar.)

In any case, that's more important than our electoral votes. I've been battling the Electoral College for 30 years and it's simple to me: you just can't justify a system in which the person with the most votes doesn't win.


mvymvy said...

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that needs to be changed in order to have a national popular vote for President. The winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes inside the state) is not in the U.S. Constitution. It is strictly a matter of state laws. The winner-take-all rule was not the choice of the Founding Fathers, as indicated by the fact that the winner-take-all rule was used by only 3 states in the nation's first presidential election in 1789. The fact that Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district is another reminder that the Constitution left the matter of awarding electoral votes to the states. All the U.S. Constitution says is "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." A federal constitutional amendment is not needed to change state laws.


John said...

The N.P.V. approach is legit, true. But I'd still rather see the electors eliminated entirely and have "the person with the most votes wins" locked in the Constitution.

mvymvy said...

I wouldn't hold your breath for a constitutional amendment. . .

A federal constitutional amendment favored by states containing 97% of the people of the U.S. could be blocked by states containing 3% of the people.

TheVirginiaHistorian said...

The state-made unit rule disenfranchises large minorities, politically and geographically.

The District Plan with one elector from each district and a two-elector bonus for the state majority allows diversity, and it counts the state by equal populations, not by the job performance of county registrars.

The ideal of national direct popular vote for president has been a serious proposal since James Wilson in the Constitutional Convention. It is not adopted because it cannot be administered equitably.

States are different in registration, voting machines, counting, fraud and appeals. If we had centralized voter registration, uniform voting rules and national election administration, the votes might be equal to one another. But npv proposals never go there.

Let the people of Iowa independently decide where their votes go. The nvp is Rousseau’s General Will gone wild. No one in Iowa will be able to say who they vote for until the national majority tells you how you voted.

Let there be individual differences and state diversity.