With the presidential election coming up this November, a movement is underway, instigated by the Democratic party, to circumvent Constitutional protections and implement the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters on a nationwide basis.
Out of lingering resentment over the disparity between Al Gore’s majority in the popular vote and the Electoral College win which gave the presidency to George Bush in 2000, the Democrats have found a way to end-run the Constitution and make the results of the election more closely resemble the popular vote. The problem is that they do this by disenfranchising voters on a state by state basis.
The way the Electoral College works, each state chooses a number of electors equal to the number of senators and representatives they have in Congress and sends them to vote for whichever candidate won their state in the general election. Some states do this on a winner-take-all basis and others do it by dividing the electors proportionally based on how the popular vote in that state was divided between the candidates. The benefit of this system is that the greater granularity makes results more definitive, with the winner usually holding a considerably larger majority in the Electoral College than in the popular vote. The catch is that in an extremely close election, winning the right states can result in the winner in the Electoral College actually having a minority of the popular vote. It is a system where each state election is essentially separate and the winner is picked based on who won the most and most valuable states.
It is a federalist idea designed to distance the final selection of the President from the direct vote of the public. In fact, as originally written, the Constitution had the electors selected by the State Legislatures not the popular vote at all. The founding fathers didn’t entirely trust the public and were concerned about demagoguery and mob rule and created systems like the Electoral College to provide checks and balances to prevent the majority from using the democratic process to oppress political minorities.
As a numerical majority the Democratic Party finds itself frustrated by this system which was essentially designed to stop any party from dominating national elections by pure force of numbers. Their solution is to use the power of Democrat dominated legislatures to change how states choose electors, throwing out the votes of those states citizens and instead selecting electors based on the results of the nationwide popular vote. So even if the citizens of a state voted with a huge majority for one candidate, that vote would no longer count and whichever candidate won the popular vote nationwide would get all of that state’s electors, even if it was the candidate rejected by that states voters.
The problem is that this version of populist democracy both disenfranchises voters and violates the Constitution which sets out specific rules for how electors are to be selected in Article II, Section 1 and as revised by the 12th Amendment. Voters are entitled to have the electors from their state vote for the candidate they selected, not for someone selected by the voters of other states, and for state legislatures to take away that right is clearly illegal under the Constitution.
This campaign is being spearheaded by a group of Democratic Party activists calling themselves the National Popular Vote movement and allied groups like The Center for Voting and Democracy with much support from the media and blogosphere. They have already succeeded in getting their disenfranchisement legislation passed and signed into law in Maryland and New Jersey plus it’s waiting on the signature of Governor Rod Blagojevich in Illinois. Blagojevich is a closet socialist with a history of political corruption who will almost certainly sign the bill. The legislation has also passed both houses of the Hawaii legislature and has been introduced in 47 states. Already millions of Americans’ votes for president have been rendered meaningless by Democrat dominated legislatures. In New Jersey, State Senator Joseph Kyrillos commented that “It is inexplicable to me that we would punt away our ability to have the people of New Jersey represented how they vote on the general election day.”
The way the legislation is currently structured, it would not go into effect until enough states passed the bill to produce a majority of the electoral college. Once that is achieved all of the electors of those states would automatically go to the candidate winning the nationwide popular vote. The result for voters in those states will be that their role in picking the president will be wiped away and their votes will be replaced by legislative fiat. Those voters will know what it means to be disenfranchised as much as being turned away at the polls because you are poor or ill-educated or have the wrong color skin.
There is an argument to be made for reforming the Electoral College, but this unconstitutional abuse of power isn’t the answer. A better method to achieve a similar result without disenfranchising voters would be for those states which currently give electors on a winner-take-all basis to switch to assigning electors proportionately, so that if a candidate won 60% of the vote in that state he’d get 60% of the electors. Right now only Maine and Nebraska assign electors proportionately, but other states could institute proportional assignment of electors as easily as they could this disenfranchisement plan.
All of this is worth being concerned about, but it’s still pretty unlikely that this legislation could pass the 20 or so additional legislatures it would need to go into action before November of this year. If that looks like a real possibility then it’s time to write your representatives and donate money to groups that are likely to challenge the constitutionality of this legislation in the courts. Until then the most important thing about this plan to disenfranchise you and me and most of America is that it’s a sign of how far some on the left and in positions of responsibility in the Democratic Party will go to win the White House by fair means or foul – in this case very foul.