As The Daily Wire has reported, state measures to join what is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV) have accelerated, of late. The NPV describes itself as an “interstate compact [that] would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
In many states that have adopted the NPV, support is dominated by Democrats. John Koza, a California-based computer scientist who is one of the leaders of NPV, is a longtime Democratic activist. More generally, Democratic disdain for the Electoral College is hardly an unexpected phenomenon. Republicans have only won one national presidential popular vote — George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 — since George H.W. Bush’s landslide victory over Michael Dukakis in 1988. In that time, Republicans have won two presidential elections — in 2000 and 2016 — while nonetheless losing the national presidential popular vote.
The Electoral College, in attempting to ensure that smaller, more rural states would not be politically overrun by parochial urban interests, was one means by which the Framers sought to “control[ the] effects” of faction [quoting The Federalist No. 10]. Other examples abound, and are woven into our constitutional structure: a bicameral legislature at the national level, a tripartite separation of powers framework borrowed from the French political theorist Montesquieu, and the uniquely American political innovation of a federalist system of genuine dual sovereignty.
The NPV is currently wending its way through both the Colorado and New Mexico state legislatures. Furthermore, calling for the abolition of the Electoral College is an increasingly ubiquitous stance among 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.
To learn more about efforts to stanch the NPV and save the Electoral College, The Daily Wire spoke this morning with Trent England, Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and director of OCPA’s pro-Electoral College “Save Our States” project.
According to England, who was once a Publius Fellow with the Claremont Institute, the NPV is truly a generally partisan endeavor for Democrats; the only state he has encountered where the NPV engenders decent Republican support is New York. “When we’ve been able to sit down with Republicans (and some Democrats) and explain how the Electoral College really benefits the country and the political system,” England explains, “usually NPV passes (if it passes) with only Democratic support and bipartisan opposition.”
England and his OCPA colleagues at Save Our States frequently travel to state legislatures to meet with lawmakers considering NPV proposals. He educates lawmakers — generally Republicans — both about the highly partisan money backing NPV, as well as the Founding-era political theory undergirding the Electoral College.
England is somewhat ambivalent about whether NPV would actually violate the black-letter Electoral College requirements stipulated by Article II of the U.S. Constitution. It would certainly violate the Framers’ intent, he said, but the question from a purely textualist perspective is murkier. After all, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution seems to provide that state legislatures have plenary power over allocation of their states’ electors: “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”
Because of the unclear nature of how the judiciary might rule on the constitutionality of the NPV, England and Save Our States would much rather counter the NPV’s insidious march on a state-by-state basis. Asked to summarize what he views as the overarching interest in maintaining the Electoral College, England says, “The Electoral College is part of our constitutional structure that helps to protect the integrity of presidential elections — and the idea that we can do away with that without serious unintended consequences is short-sighted at best.”
Constitutionalists ought to wish England success in his group’s endeavors.