By KrisAnne Hall, JD
The State of Oregon House passed legislation (HB 2927) that would make Oregon award its Electoral College votes only to presidential candidates who win the national popular vote. According to National Popular Vote, this kind of legislation has already been passed by 11 States, (CA, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA). Now, we have federal House Representatives proposing legislation to amend the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College system alltogether.
To be clear, Oregon and these other 11 States are not abolishing the Electoral College but altering it. Article 2 section 2 clauses 2 and 3 and the Twelfth Amendment of the US Constitution require States to establish electors that will choose the president and vice president of the United States. These States are not eliminating their electoral college, they are eliminating the voice of their citizens and eliminating the legitimacy and relevance of their State’s involvement in the political process. However, now members of Congress are creating bills to actually dissolve the Electoral Colllege. Either way, altering or abolishing, these changes will result in the disenfranchising the vote of every State. This infectious disease of ignorance must be stopped. The only cure is knowledge so here are some facts that we must not only consider, but educate others.
The process of the electoral college was established for a specific reason. Because we have failed, for generations, to teach an accurate application of the Constitution, many people like Oregon Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer believe that the electoral college is “flawed and outdated.” Rep. Keny-Guyer told Oregon Live, “The Electoral College does not fit the ‘We The People’ and ‘One person, one vote’ style of government. Rep. Keny-Guyer and those who believe as she does simply do not understand why the electoral college was established and how that process protects her individual liberty and the sovereignty of her State. She also doesn’t understand that neither Oregon nor America are democracies, but instead are Constitutional Republics. The incessant push toward being ruled by majority opinion is supposed to be antithetical to the American character, unfortunately the dearth of real education in America has created an equal scarcity of understanding about America’s fundamental principles.
The process of the electoral college was established to ensure that the person elected to be president of these United States would accurately represent the union as a whole, not favoring certain States while ignoring others. The office of president, contrary to popular belief, was never designed to be a representative of individual citizens, but rather a representative of the collective interests of the States. A survey of the powers delegated to the president via Article 2 of the Constitution makes the role of the president quite clear. He is not the “leader of America,” he is the leader of the military upon declaration of war by Congress. He is part of the treaty process that makes contractual agreements with foreign governments and the States. Most everything that the president is to do, he does only with the consent of the Senate (the voice of the States). Together, the President and the Senate ensure that each State’s interests are represented equally in matters of war, peace, and foreign commerce. The office of the president was established to be the voice to foreign countries on behalf of the collective States. Because he is the representative of the States, the electors of the State are to choose their president based upon the person they believe will best represent the principles and interests of their State.
There is no power delegated by the Constitution to the president that authorizes him to directly affect the lives of the people. The only power held by the president to touch lives individually would be that of the power to grant reprieves or pardons for federal crimes and that was established to be a check and balance upon the judiciary, not a system of personal favors to individuals. Because the president’s role in government is to be an ambassador on behalf of the States, the States must choose their representative. The popular vote for president that takes place within the State ensures that the principles and the interests of the people of that State guide and direct the electors in their choice of president. These subtle distinctions are hard for Americans to grasp since we perceive our nation to be a unitary whole where the states provide support to the central government that directs them. We have forgotten that our republic is a collection of independent sovereign States who created D.C. to represent their interests.
However, the national popular vote movement takes us even farther away from our Constitutional structure by further removing the independence of the States, and eliminating the voice of the people within those states. This legislation proposes that once a popular vote is complete across the nation, each elector of the State must choose the person elected by popular vote regardless of the collective choice of his fellow State citizens. This legislation mandates that each State submit to the popular choice, regardless of whether that candidate best represents the interests and principles of the people of that State. Through popular vote, the individual States would become completely irrelevant in the processes of the federal government. The president would no longer be required to ensure all States’ interests were represented in matters of foreign affairs. The president’s only concern, throughout the entire four years of his terms, would be to make sure the select few States, with the greatest voting population, were happy and pleased with the execution of his power. It would be like Georgia surrendering all its voice to New York and legislating themselves out of the political process or like Connecticut asking Texas to decide what is in the best interest of Connecticut.
Future presidents could then ignore all but a few states. All treaties could be focused upon the prosperity and growth of a select few States, at best ignoring the rest, at worst requiring the lesser populated States to enrich the other States via treaties and regulations. All wars could be conducted in the interest of a few States and all peace could be negotiated to benefit the few over the whole. Cabinet members and supreme Court justices could be chosen from persons of those few States because there would be no reason to make an equitable search. Every State that did not hold the majority voting population could be relegated to being a spectator in the entire political process.
Charles Cotesworth Pickney, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, summed up what was not only the popular belief of the delegates, but would also become the controlling belief in establishing Article 2 section 1 clauses 2 and 3 of the Constitution. He classified a national popular vote of the president to be “liable to the most obvious & striking objections.” He said if the people were to elect the president by popular vote, “They will be led by a few active & designing men. The most populous States by combining in favor of the same individual will be able to carry their points.”
Not only will the States be silenced in their political affairs nationally and in foreign negotiations, the national popular vote would ensure that the people themselves would be silenced. What would be the point in voting if you didn’t live in New York, Texas, California, or Florida, where the majority of the voting population resides? Every presidential election would be chosen by these few States and these few States would grow and maintain their voting power, because the national popular vote system would ensure the enrichment of these States over every other State. A national popular vote, is in fact an oxymoron, as it would only reflect the voice of the majority, denying every person in their State a voice in the presidential election.
Those who cry for a national popular vote, do so out of ignorance, yet maddening on to their own destruction. Oregon and States like her will not achieve a greater voice with the elimination of the Constitutional process of the electoral college, they will ensure their political irrelevance from this day forward.