Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Curious Conservative Case for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

During the 2017 General Session, I drafted a resolution supporting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  The resolution was intended to be a bi-partisan effort to bring attention to the problems afflicting our current presidential election process and to demonstrate Utah's leadership on the issue.  Unfortunately, the partisan rancor immediately following the election prevented us from moving forward as we have waited for passions and sentiment to temper.

It appears now that the the time has come to again address this issue and begin a conversation on this important subject.  So, let us begin.

WHAT IS THE NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE INTERSTATE COMPACT?

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is actually very simple in its premise.  The Compact is an agreement between states.  In this case, the agreement deals with how Electoral Votes from the Electoral College are awarded to presidential candidates based on how voters vote in the presidential race.  Presently, in most states, the Legislatures of the various states have directed all their Electoral Votes to be cast in favor of the candidate that receives the popular vote in that state (aka Winner-Take-All).  So, if a presidential candidate receives 51% of the popular vote, the candidate receives 100% of the Electoral Votes.  The NPVIC provides states with an alternative to this status quo by volunteering to assign their Electoral Votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the winner of the individual state.

WHY WOULD ANY STATE WANT TO BE A PART OF THE NPVIC?

The NPVIC is designed to address several problems that currently exist in our presidential election process.  The first is that our present presidential elections and campaigns are geared to battleground states.  The dominant Winner-Take-All practice means that, in most states, the Electoral Votes are easy to predict due to wide margins in the popular vote of those states.  However, for a handful of states, the margins are too close to call.  These states then become battleground states and the focus of campaigning and messaging.  Indeed, campaign promises and policy are crafted mostly by candidates efforts to woo voters in swing battle ground states.

This intense attention to battleground states means that the other states, like Utah, are left out of the discussion.  The campaign promises and policy nuances that may win over voters in battleground states may actually work to the disadvantage of the other states.  Also, after the election these battle ground states perennially receive preferential treatment due to their lopsided clout.  For instance, when it comes to public lands issues, Colorado is much more likely to have their grievances addressed than Utah.  When it comes to receiving Federal waivers, Florida is more likely to receive a waiver than Utah.

The bottom line is that the NPVIC would put every state on an equitable standing when it comes to crafting and honing policy at the presidential level.

HOW DOES THE NPVIC MAKE EVERY STATE A BATTLE GROUND STATE?

The NPVIC is designed to "go live" once enough states have joined the compact to constitute 270 Electoral Votes among them.  Until that time, nothing changes. Hence, the urgency in having states like Utah join the compact to reach the 270 threshold.  Once the threshold is reached and the compact's provisions are implemented, it will award the 270 electoral votes to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote.

Since 270 electoral votes are required to win the presidency, the states that joined the compact would effectively change the way presidential campaigns and races are run for every state, even those that did not join the compact. If a candidate needs at least 270 electoral votes to win, and those electoral votes are awarded based on the outcome of the national popular vote, then candidates have an incentive to obtain every vote from every state possible to achieve that goal.  Thus, every state becomes a battleground state.  Clearly, this would be a dramatic difference from how things are run today.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NPVIC?

  • Funds raised in the states for political purposes will stay in the states rather than being exported to current battle ground states.  
  • Voter participation would increase due to the importance of every single vote being cast to determine the winner.  
  • Presidential campaigns will have a presence in all states rather than just current battle ground states. 
  • Policy will be influenced by all states rather than just a few battle ground state.
  • Party nomination processes would seek candidates with the broadest appeal to Americans at large rather than candidates that merely play well to a battle ground state audience.  
  • and more!
For a great tutorial on this topic, this video does a great job explaining the concept:




Look for more information on this topic in the coming months.  The resolution is currently being drafted and will be presented for discussion in the 2018 General Session.  If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to me.

11 comments:

  1. Why wouldn't we just move to the popular vote instead of electoral? Every vote would count the same regardless of location.

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    1. That was my thought too... I'm guessing this is just a work around for the States because they can't make the popular vote happen any other way. I think it would take an act of Congress to officially move the country to the popular vote and that's never gonna happen in our current climate.

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    2. For the very reason that the Founding Fathers put the electoral college in place. To keep populous states from dominating the election. If you look at this past elections results, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote based on California and New York. I for one, am happy that the electoral college worked to allow small states the ability to elect a president that the majority of states voted for not just urban population cities.

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    3. Again, why would a Wyoming residents vote count more than a Colorado resident? The electoral college is just another way of gerrymandering. I am sure you would agree if the shoe was on the other foot. I am not sure though in the current environment this type of hypocrisy would diminish. Empathy is all but lost anymore.

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  2. My question as well. Why not just move to a popular vote, and not bother with the extra layer of the Electoral College?

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  3. I don't think every vote will count until we deal with the ridiculous gerrymandering situation in every state. If that could be overcome then this could be a step in the right direction.

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  4. After reading through the post, and watching the video, I see a lot of claims about how NPV will increase Utah's influence, and how "every state will become a battleground state." What evidence is there to support this claim? Seriously... why should I believe that the opposite won't happen?

    Looking at the numbers, it seems to me that this plan would backfire big time. Doing some back of the napkin math, here is the before and after impact of the weight of votes for three states:
    STATE......% IMPACT WITH EC....% IMPACT WITHOUT EC
    Utah..........................1.12%.................................0.92%
    Arizona.....................2.04%.................................2.11%
    California...............10.22%................................12.16%

    With the Electoral College, the gap between Utah and California is 9.11%. Go to a pure popular vote, and the gap widens to 11.24%. So, I lose 2.13% of my national influence as a Utahn, just compared against California.

    (Arizona gains a little bit, because it has grown to be on the "larger state" side of things, but still loses 1.87% when measured up against California's gain.)

    Looking at the numbers, Utah would matter even less that it did before. Instead, the focus would shift from "battleground states" to "big states." That still leaves Utah out in the cold.

    What seems like a much better, and equitable, idea is to have Utah lead the way in returning to the original way the electors were distributed. (Sort of lead, anyway. Maine and Nebraska already do this. However, we could lead a *return* to this approach.) How it works:

    1. Award one electoral vote to the candidate who received the most votes in each House district.
    2. Award two electoral votes to whoever won the most votes statewide.

    This would align the assignment of electoral votes the same way that the number of electoral votes are decided. States receive one vote for each House member, and one for each Senator.

    Doing this would allow a more representative mix of the will of the population of the state.

    If Utah is already ignored on the national stage (as the NPV folks claim), then it won't hurt us to at least set the example of the way things should be done. In any case, I'm convinced that NPV would only serve to further diminish Utah's influence, and would pass that influence on to large states, who already wield great power in Congress.

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    1. I agree, although I favor a slightly different plan for allocation. Rather than doing it by district, I would give out electors based on percentage of the total vote in each state (using the same formula Thomas Jefferson devised to give out seats in the House of Representatives). This would mean that EVERY state would have a battleground elector, with a pretty predictable amount going one way or the other and then one in the middle. I think that would make each state count.

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  5. Does this mean that the states would apportion their electors according to the votes that each candidate got? If so, why would a red state like Utah want to give some of it's votes to the democrats?

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  6. This is exactly what the large population centers want and plays right into the hands of liberal socialists. I would like to see electoral votes split based on percentages of votes in a state and not a winner take all. Other than that, leave the process alone after it had worked for almost 250 years...

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  7. I think the goals are noteworthy, but I think they can be met by simply getting states to eliminate the winner takes all mentality. The electoral college is actually very useful and makes Utah more relevant. It's the winner take all that has corrupted the system.

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Welcome! Your comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated. Criticism, insights, questions and queries are always welcome. However, please be civil and composed in your presentation.