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By: Mark Glennon*

You probably know that many on the left don’t like how the nation elects presidents and that they would like to eliminate the Electoral College system. The elections in 2000 and 2016 still sting, which gave the presidency to George W. Bush and Donald Trump even though they lost the popular vote.

But did you know Illinois was among the first states to pass legislation that may well effectively abolish the Electoral College?

That the legislation is getting very close to the trigger point needed to accomplish that goal?

And that it passed in Illinois with Republican sponsorship?

It’s part of something called the National Popular Vote initiative, or NPV, and over 70% of the states needed for the NPV to become effective have now joined Illinois with similar legislation.

Here’s the background:

Critics of the current system, primarily on the left, think the president should be chosen through simple, majority national vote. In the Electoral College, however, states are represented just as they are in the United States Congress – one elector for each member of the House, which is determined by population, and two for every state, irrespective of population, as in the Senate.

That means smaller, conservative-leaning states get disproportionately large representation, as critics see things, to the detriment of bigger, liberal states like California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.

NPV would override the current system by requiring all electors in the Electoral College from states that have joined NPV to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally. If Illinoisans, for example, voted one way but the national vote went to another candidate, Illinois’ electors would be required to vote for that other candidate, not whom Illinoisans chose.

However, NPV and the Illinois’ legislation do not become effective until the states that have joined are worth a total of 270 electoral votes. With that many states as members, NPV would hand an automatic victory to the national popular vote winner.

That threshold is approaching. Illinois joined NPV back in 2008. It was the third state to join. Colorado joined NPV last year, bringing membership to 16 states that hold a total of 196 electoral votes, or 73% of the 270 needed to become effective. The movement might suffer its first setback in November, however, when Colorado voters will consider whether to repeal its membership.

Status of NPV in each state is shown on NPV’s map below. It’s getting close.

Source: National Popular Vote

Interestingly, the Illinois legislation under which the state joined NPV included then-Senator Kirk Dillard, a Republican, who now chairs the Regional Transit Authority. Dillard’s thinking is summarized in a video here.

I won’t attempt to summarize the debate surrounding NPV. That debate has received extensive national attention, though almost none in Illinois. The arguments in favor are nicely summarized on NPV’s website.

From my perspective, however, subverting the Electoral College would be a historic blunder. It works precisely as the Founders intended by mitigating the risk of a nation controlled by a few large states. The Founders didn’t believe in simple majority rule. They created a republic, which subordinated democratic rule to a range of other rights and considerations. A Delaware delegate at the 1787 Constitutional Convention said this, which still applies to small states:

“I do not, gentlemen, trust you. If you possess the power, the abuse of it could not be checked; and what then would prevent you from exercising it to our destruction?”

Nor will I detail the legal challenges NPV would face if it reaches the threshold to make it active. Most important among them would be a claim that NPV would effectively delete the constitution’s provisions on the Electoral College without going through the proper amendment process. It would also effectively nullify the constitution’s stated method for resolving run-off elections, which the Constitution says are to be decided by the House of Representatives.

Other legal objections to NPV would be based on the constitutional prohibition of compacts among the states not authorized by Congress. NPV is such a compact. Some scholars have also argued that NPV would violate the Voting Rights Act.

However, the United States Supreme Court has been clear that states should be allowed very wide latitude in determining how their electors are chosen and how they must vote. So, the outcome of court challenges to NPV, if it goes into effect, would be uncertain.

************

Abolishing the Electoral College, one way or another, is a high priority for the left. FiveThirtyEight did an analysis last month listing it among the most consistently pursued policies in states dominated by Democrats. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin would go further than NPV, and has introduced a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College entirely. That effort, however, is far less likely to succeed than NPV.

Survival of the Electoral College depends on how remaining states will vote on NPV and what the courts would do with it.

UPDATE 1/17/00. The United States Supreme Court will take up a case, to be decided this Spring, on the issue of “faithless electors,” as described here. Though the case is not on NPV, the decision may shed light on the scope of states’ discretion to control electors.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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J Neville

Hmmm. Bill Clinton won 43% of the popular vote and 68% of the electoral college.

Freddy

Chicago’s motto. Vote Early and Vote Often!

SteveOh

Great article Mark !! Thank you for explaining it so well; I didn’t know that it won’t be “effective” until states adding to 270. What a travesty for “purplish” states like NV, AZ, OK, effectively neutering their voters !. This is just ONE MORE symptom of a very sick Democrat Party. They’ve been working on mucking up the voting process for YEARS, so much so that when Pelosi took charge 1/1/19 they immediately passed a monster-size Bill to change voting for the country, for all time. letting all federal prison inmates vote, and dozens of other travesties. McConnell deep-sixed the… Read more »

Mike

And the 2nd revolution will begin. We will be reduced to subjects of the ruling class on both coasts.

debtsor

That’s awfully naive. Which side owns virtually all the guns? Whose side are the police and military on? Do you really think the pansies in Silicon Valley will be the ruling class? Thousands of suburban and rural Virginians are flooding into the capital of Virginia to protest gun control. Thousands of armed and angry storming a capital city to show the politicians who is really is charge. It worked too, as the ‘assault weapons’ ban was dropped in a legislative committee and the gun control keeps getting watered down, despite all the rhetoric on both sides. Even the insane politicians… Read more »

Astonished

I’m not sure I agree. The zealots on the Left (and pretty much everyone in “the elite” belongs) are reading their own PR like it’s fact. They’re drinking their own kooky koolaid. From my perspective, theirs is a RELIGION. It is completely unaffected by facts or reality. What VA proves is that some of the clowns in their Soros-elected legislature see that if they pass a law and basically half the state flips them the bird, it will curtail all their other little pet projects. https://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2019/02/18/when-white-liberal-prophecy-fails-cognitive-dissonance-and-the-liberal-mind/ Yes, it’s a source many would reject on reflex, but the points still hold.… Read more »

joe blow

Also, the Nevada governor Veto’d the bill even though he’s a democrat and was passed by both legislation’s

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/446174-nevada-democratic-governor-vetoes-national-popular-vote-bill

joe blow

what these short sighted morons (liberals) don’t realize is that there is a HUGE swath of voters in the highest populated states like CA and IL that don’t even bother voting at all since it is all but certain the state will vote blue anyway.

Tom Paine's Ghost

Clearly this is unconstitutional.

Like most things that the Democrats spend the bulk of their time on, this is an absolutely pointless waste of time.

Jake

Finally, a way to run the country in the same way as Illinois… and Venezuela.

Steve and Susie Neuman

Sick Durbin is an idiot. Anything he’s for, I’m against. More crooked that the Mississippi River.

debtsor

Dick is a political hack who has been in Congress since … 1982. Yes, you read that right. That’s nearly as long as I’ve been alive, Dick has been roaming the halls of Congress. That’s two years longer than Mitch McConnell, who has only been in DC since 1984. Just listening to the both of these people talk is infuriating. Dick is a complete goof who thinks every issue has one side, the Democrat side, and he had TDS before it was even TDS, it was called Bush and Reagan Derangement Syndromes. Mitch too has been there too long, his… Read more »

Astonished

Most of those who vote straight D ticket couldn’t even name the three branches of government, much less explain a few basic differences between the House and Senate.

Voting is a joke, of the sick variety.

Astonished

Mark, taken to its logical conclusion, your observations reify the fact that people in the USA hold far too disparate beliefs (and political premises) to coexist under the same system. The Left wants to live the way people in Mexico live (only some kind of Utopian version of it), and they all vote democrat. The Right (and lots of independents) want to live the way things are described in BLACK LETTER ENGLISH in the US Constitution, but they have NO political representation (republicans are simply Leftist-Lite.) Angelo Codevilla (professor emeritus of international studies at Boston U) wrote a nice article… Read more »

Astonished

“Illinois Senator Dick Durbin would go further than NPV, and has introduced a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College entirely.” No doubt Tricky Dick would also support “repealing” the 2nd amendment, demonstrating the cognitive reasoning of a four-year-old. It seems that skool no longer even bothers to teach students (Dicky Durbin, too) that the first ten amendments to the document that lays out the operation of the USA’s government are NOT some kind of grant of privilege to citizens, but are IN FACT simply restatements of individual liberties ALL HUMANS ARE BORN WITH, and that any political… Read more »

Astonished

This assault on the Electoral College is just the latest. Here we are, 107 years after the 17th amendment (direct election of senators) and people still don’t get it. The whole point of state legislatures appointing senators was to prevent the central government from forcing states’ citizens into national-level fads and fashions. Progressives pushed the 17th because their purpose was to destroy the limited-government, federal (decentralized) system of the original constitution, in favor of using a united, ultra-powerful central government to FORCE citizens into the mold that Progressives sought (to institute the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.) As decades passed,… Read more »

riverbender

The Electoral College was designed to allow all Americans a vote on election day and provides a mechanism that prevents heavily populated cities from imposing their will upon low density large land mass area in our country. Everyone deserves to be heard on election day and not just the electorate in New York and California who have little understanding of the daily complexities faced by the heartland citizenry.

Astonished

Urban/Rural. North/South. East/West/Central. There are simply too many differences between people (and their situations) to have a single set of rules, created almost entirely by urban elite lunatics, govern all. No country this geographically large and populous can be governed together, once the government starts trying to dictate life’s little things. That’s why we originally had STATES. For a century, the central government was weak and did relatively little “one-size-must-fit-all” ruling. This changed (for the worse) in 1865, and then a century after that, the central government went COMPLETELY off the rails, vomiting out one legislative assault after another on… Read more »

MikeH

I would posit that it only took 43 years with the election of that racist buffoon Woodrow Wilson for the central government to go off the rails, but derail it indeed did.

Astonished

Students of history could name any number of inflection points for when the governance of this country went off the rails. The 1787 constitution was a literal coup d’etat against the form of government for which the colonists fought and died. Lincoln repudiated the voluntary nature of states’ participation in the federal system. 1913 witnessed the excrescences of the Income Tax, the establishment of the Central Bank (a private consortium, that is) and eviscerated any state veto over national legislation. Along came open violations of one constitutional provision after another (not least of which is separating of powers, made a… Read more »

jeff

Terrible idea among many in the Democratic Party. They don’t understand history. They have embraced the Bill Ayers ideas and are starting to put them into practice.

Astonished

The Left thinks they’re in the vanguard like Lenin’s Bolsheviks. You see this with Antifa and the mayors of Lunatic-Left strongholds like Portland, Baltimore, Chicago, etc. I think they misunderstand history. As someone put it, history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. Often things invert when the story replays. If we see the Left try to go Full Bolshevik (and in some quarters they already are), I think in the USA it’s more likely that a Rightist dictatorship emerges (more like Chile’s Pinochet) and the Lunatic Leftists will get helicopter rides…. Should that happen, I’ll be sitting in my lawn… Read more »

debtsor

The abolish of the electoral college is based on the faulty belief of the left that the right will never win the popular vote again because both Bush and Trump lost the popular vote but won the electoral college. However, this is a very dangerous and ignorant belief. Trump will win the popular vote handily against Bernie (or even Biden, if he’s still in the race). Especially vs. Bernie, where Trump in polls (if you believe them) has a 6 point lead on a hypothetical presidential race vs. Bernie. Virginia going red for Trump? That’s crazy if you ask me.… Read more »

Hank Scorpio

Agreed. They should be careful what they wish for. Democrats have moved far left while Republicans seem to be broadening with a move towards center (at least that’s what it seems like to me). And when they lose the popular vote they will just ironically blame voter fraud.