Electoral College in the Crosshairs

In the mailbox today was this note from John Ryder. Ryder, a Memphis attorney who is the Republican National Committeeman for Tennessee, writes

As you know, I have spoken and written on the subject of the electoral College—our constitutional system of assembling a majority for the presidency—the attached article from the Memphis Flyer sets my reasoning. There is a movement for direct popular election of the president: The National Popular Vote Compact. It is a bad idea. It undermines the balance between state and federal governments; it creates opportunities for massive vote fraud, it strips states in small media markets of any influence in the presidential election. It creates a real possibility of plurality presidents and minority government…Now our constitution is under attack. The Democrats in the House are moving a bill next week in the House State and Local government Committee which would bind Tennessee under the National Popular Vote Compact.

Ryder then included his rationale for opposing this compact, a variation of which recently appeared in the Washington Examiner.

Recently, some Tennesseans, including former Senator Fred Thompson, have proposed that our state join the National Popular Vote compact. This is a solution for a problem we don’t have that will lead to problems we don’t want.

The compact would subvert the Constitution by changing the way we elect our president. Instead of forthrightly seeking to amend the Constitution by abolishing the Electoral College, the proposal bypasses the Constitution by creating a compact among some states that would bind all states. Amending the Constitution requires the assent of 38 states; the compact can be adopted by as few as 12 states. But all 50 states would be bound by the result.

Under the plan, the electoral votes of a state would be committed to the candidate who is the “national popular vote winner” regardless of the vote within the state. Thus, in 2008, although John McCain won 57 percent of the vote in Tennessee, its 11 electoral votes would have gone to Barack Obama.

The Electoral College is part of an elaborate mechanism designed by the country’s founders to create interdependent centers of power, each balancing the excesses of the others. The Constitution balances the competing elements of our republic: The membership of the House of Representatives is based on population. The Senate is based on equal representation by state.

This design balances the interests of large and small states.

The Electoral College mirrors this arrangement by giving each state electoral votes equal to its membership in the House plus its two senators. California gets 55 electoral votes because of its large population, but no state, even Delaware, has fewer than three electoral votes. It reflects the founders’ compromise between large and small states and between electing the president by Congress and electing the president directly by the people.

Bypassing the Electoral College through the proposed compact undermines that balance by effectively erasing states’ boundaries and undercutting states’ sovereignty.

On a practical level, the Electoral College requires a successful candidate to assemble a winning coalition across a broad geographic spectrum, embracing both large and small states, rather than a narrow concentration of votes.

A popular vote, in contrast, does not require the candidate to have broad appeal. It would make it possible for a candidate to win without any majority but merely a plurality of the popular vote. The compact would require the states to determine the candidate with the “largest national popular vote” — not a majority. This encourages multiple candidates. In such a multi-candidate race, the largest national popular vote could be obtained by a regional candidate with just 35 percent or less of the popular vote.

Under the compact, presidential candidates would have no incentive to campaign anywhere except in the major media markets in a few states. The country would, in essence, cede its presidential elections to the largest metropolitan areas.

Our system has proved remarkably stable for more than 200 years. Ours is the world’s second-oldest written Constitution after Iceland’s. That is remarkably long for a governmental structure. Only the Civil War mars our record of political stability, but the breakdown in the system in 1861 did not occur because of the Electoral College.

The American Bar Association once called the Electoral College “archaic, undemocratic, complex, ambiguous, and dangerous.” These adjectives describe virtues of our constitutional system, not faults. It is archaic — not obsolete — and still serves us well. It is supposed to be undemocratic, to protect smaller states from tyranny by a few large states. We are a republic, not a democracy.

The complexity of the system prevents wild swings in popular sentiment from becoming wild swings in policy. It is ambiguous only in that it is subtle rather than simplistic. If it is dangerous, the alternative of a national public vote, with the voters of a few states binding the voters of the rest of the states, is much more dangerous.

The late New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said of an earlier proposal to do away with the Electoral College: “It is the most radical transformation in our constitutional system that has ever been considered.” Our constitutional method of electing presidents, balancing the state and federal governments, has served our nation well. It would be foolish and disingenuous to bypass the written Constitution, nominally keeping the Electoral College but nullifying its function.

Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation also added some caveats:

In Tennessee, a silent battle for the Constitution is shaping up. Ironically those who are most inclined to shred the Constitution are not liberals, but Republicans. Many of them do not even know what they are doing.

What is happening in the very red State of Tennessee?

The National Popular Vote has reared its ugly head.

The National Popular Vote initiative is a way to simply shred the Constitution without amending it.

If we were going to change the Constitution, there is a process for that. It is called amending the Constitution. The advocates of NPV do not want to do this.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the NPV is the potential for electoral fraud. With the current system, if you have massive vote fraud in Nevada, it is only going to affect Nevada. With the NPV, vote fraud affects the entire nation and could change the outcome of an election.

The Tennessee House of Representatives is now considering adding Tennessee to the National Popular Vote.

This is not just an issue for Tennessee. It is an issue for America. If a majority of states enact the NPV, it will go into effect and the Constitution will be destroyed.

We need help from all across the country.

The bill is currently being considered by the State and Local Subcommittee in the Tennessee House. If the bill is killed here, it will die and we can help protect the Constitution.

Here are the members of the State and Local Subcommittee:

Ryan Haynes (615) 741-2264
 
rep.ryan.haynes@capitol.tn.gov

Jim Cobb (615) 741-1450
Fax: rep.jim.cobb@capitol.tn.gov

Gerald McCormick (615) 741-2548
 
rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov

Bob Ramsey (615) 741-3560
rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov

Curry Todd (615) 741-1866
rep.curry.todd@capitol.tn.gov

Kent Williams (615) 741-7450 
rep.kent.williams@capitol.tn.gov

Call and email these Representatives, even if you do not live in Tennessee, because their votes will impact you, even if you live in Montana, Texas or Maine.

The Democrats will always resort to changing the process if they fear the results. I guess it’s part of that “transformation of the country” Obama talked about.

We’ll have to be vigilant to prevent this.

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