Electoral College’s extinction 

The National Popular Vote organization wants state legislatures to pass anti-Electoral College legislation that they have proposed, yet they have not answered questions about the logistical complications of the solution they devised.

NPV’s aim is to create a multistate compact that would require participating states to give their entire slates of presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. Usually, electors are awarded to the winner of states’ popular votes, without regard to the outcome in other states. The compact would go into effect when states holding 270 electoral votes (enough to win the presidency) agreed to the plan. If this were to happen, the Electoral College would essentially be eliminated.

Five states have already approved the compact, and Massachusetts is on the verge of becoming the sixth. It also was approved by the New York Senate and is pending in the Assembly.

This path should be rejected. The compact has at least one fundamental flaw that should bother even those who are otherwise opposed to the Electoral College: It does nothing to address the 51 sets of currently existing state election codes (all states plus Washington, D.C.). These codes will remain in place and cause confusion and litigation after the bill is enacted.

Today, each state conducts its own presidential election in partial reliance on its own set of local election laws. These laws may differ from those of sister states, but the differences are irrelevant at the national level. At the end of the day, voters in Massachusetts don’t care about the laws governing California’s election. They are voting with (or against) other Massachusetts voters in a contest for Massachusetts’ electors. Similarly, California will hold its own contest. NPV changes this practice. It continues to rely on 51 existing sets of local laws, but it pretends that it can cram all these differing processes into one coherent national outcome. It can’t. The result will be utter chaos.

As one small example, NPV could prevent full recounts from being held. No recount could be conducted, for instance, if no individual state statute was triggered — even if only a few hundred votes separate the top two contenders. Or perhaps a few states could conduct recounts while the rest of the states watch from the sideline. Recounting states may not agree on logistics, such as how to tally a hanging chad. NPV claims that it’s trying to make “every vote equal.” It will not achieve that goal by throwing voters into one pool for election purposes, then allowing their votes to be tallied differently.

When asked about side effects of the plan, the NPV organization brushes the issue off. For instance, NPV’s architects simply state that “the personnel and procedures for a nationwide recount are already in place because every state is always prepared to conduct a statewide recount after any election.”

During debate about NPV in Massachusetts, I pressed one of its defenders, Common Cause of Massachusetts, to explain the logistical problems. Common Cause replied that if such problems arise, “[they] can be addressed.”

Apparently, supporters assume that further statutory corrections will be necessary once the plan is enacted.

Setting aside the discussion about where the boundary lies between state and federal authority to regulate the elections of presidential electors, such laws could not be enacted without the compliance of legislators from the majority of states who didn’t see fit to enact NPV in the first place. NPV creates a ton of logistical problems, with little or no warning. The rest of us are then forced to swallow federal laws that we never needed or wanted, simply to clean up NPV’s mess.

Tara Ross is the author of “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.” This article appeared in The Weekly Standard.

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