Thursday, July 22, 2010

Votes to Note: National Popular Vote (H.4156)

On Thursday, July 15th the Senate debated and voted to engross H.4156, which would seek to create a system where the president of the United States is elected through a national popular vote rather than through the current method of the Electoral College.

While the U.S. Constitution clearly establishes the procedure for making such a change, the proponents of H.4156 are seeking to circumvent that process by securing an agreement (compact) among several states to cast their Electoral College votes according to the national popular vote for president. This could well result in the members of the Electoral College (electors) representing Massachusetts being forced to cast their votes for someone other than the candidate that the majority of Massachusetts voters actually voted for. Among other problems with this bill are:

 The proposed compact has no mechanism for a nationwide recount, and given the disjointed nature of the compact, states may have a perverse incentive NOT to recount a close vote if their preferred candidate is currently winning.
 States can withdraw from the compact as late as July 20 of the election year, meaning that three months before the election occurs, individual states or groups of states can completely change the method by which we elect a president.
 The bill does nothing to change the primary system, meaning under its provisions the country would select two candidates with a state-by-state method and then pick between them with a totally different system.
 The compact, pursuant to Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution, requires the consent of Congress, making the attempt by this legislation to circumvent the constitutional amendment process ultimately futile.
 Because of legal standing issues, any court challenge to this compact can only occur when someone is harmed – in other words, once the compact has affected an election. The Supreme Court will then have to hear this case directly following the contested election. This could lead to chaos similar to that which occurred in the case of Bush v. Gore.

An editorial published in the Salem Evening News and the Newburyport Daily News highlights the problems with this legislation. You can read it in the posting below. The actual votes of Senators on this bill can be viewed by clicking on “Read more.”

Newburyport News Don't Shut Down the Electoral System

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