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About Paul R. Hollrah
Paul R. Hollrah is a freelance writer. He is a member of the Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni at the University of Missouri - Columbia and a Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Heritage Institute. He currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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The National Popular Vote
Paul R. Hollrah
August 16, 2011
On Monday, August 8, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would award all of California's 55 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections. The bill was promoted by a group called National Popular Vote, Inc., established following the 2000 General Election when Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W. Bush based on a two-vote plurality in the Electoral College.

Liberals and Democrats are determined not to ever let that happen again. However, knowing Democrats as we do, we can safely predict that, if a Republican candidate were ever to win the national popular vote, while losing the Electoral College vote to a Democratic opponent, we would be overrun with liberals and Democrats waving the Electoral College in our faces. So let’s not be too quick to cloak them with any degree of fairness or sincerity. They were unable to steal a close election in Florida and they’re still hopping mad about it...eleven years later.

In November 2000, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman won the nationwide popular vote by 50,999,897 to 50,456,002 over George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. A switch of 271,948 votes, just over one-fourth of one percent, would have given Bush and Cheney a slim popular vote victory, along with a 271 to 266 vote victory where it really counts, in the Electoral College.

California now joins Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, in adopting the rule, bringing 132 of the needed 270 electoral votes under the popular vote rule. If and when states representing 270 electoral votes have joined the popular vote movement, then and only then will those states be able to control a simple majority in the Electoral College.

But is it possible that the eight blue states that have now been suckered into the National Popular Vote movement are merely shooting themselves in the foot? Let’s play a little “what if,” using the results from the 2000 election. What if the U.S. Supreme Court had failed to intervene in Florida and the Democrat-dominated Florida Supreme Court had been allowed to proceed with recounts in only the four most heavily Democratic counties in the state, opening the process to massive fraud and throwing Florida’s 25 electoral votes to the Democrats? The final Electoral College vote would have been 292 to 246 in favor of Gore-Lieberman.

But what if, at the same time, Bush and Cheney had been able to win 271,948 more votes out of the 101,455,900 votes cast...just one out of every 373 win a narrow victory in the national popular vote? What would have been the impact on the outcome of election?

With the eight blue states and the District of Columbia throwing their 132 electoral votes to the winners of the national popular vote, i.e. Bush-Cheney, instead of a 292 to 246 victory for Gore-Lieberman in the Electoral College, the final electoral count would have been 378 to 160, Bush-Cheney over Electoral College victory of landslide proportions. It is not the Electoral College that creates unfairness in our electoral system; there are far worse problems that demand our attention.

In his introduction to the book, Every Vote Counts: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote, the bible of the national popular vote movement, former Republican congressman and presidential candidate John B. Anderson had this to say: “I believe the occupant of the nation’s highest office should be determined by a nationwide popular vote by legally registered voters. The current system...can trump the national popular vote. The system is not based on majority rule, and it fails to provide political equality.”

What Anderson is suggesting would horrify baseball fans. What he is suggesting, in baseball terms, is that if the Yankees and the Phillies were to meet in a seven-game World Series, where the Yankees won three games, 5-3, 6-1, and 3-2, while the Phillies won four, 5-2, 6-5, 5-4, and 2-1, the Yankees should be declared World Champions because they scored 26 runs in the seven games while the Phillies scored only 24. It doesn’t work that way in major league baseball and it certainly doesn’t work that way when fifty sovereign states vote to select a national leader. The concept of selecting a president and vice president by nationwide popular vote would clearly violate the intent of the Framers and may very well be unconstitutional.

However, most Americans will agree with Anderson that the occupant of the nation’s highest office should be determined by legally registered voters. For many years, but particularly in the years since the advent of “motor voter,” “postcard,” “roving registrar,” and “same day” voter registration, Democrats have used those systems to register hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deceased people, illegal aliens, household pets, cartoon characters, and other ineligible entities as registered voters.

Aside from their insistence that the members of the House of Representatives be elected by direct vote of the people; that the members of the Senate be elected by the political leadership of the various states, i.e. the state legislatures (later overturned by the 17th Amendment); and that the president and vice president be elected by the states, the primary concern of the Founders was that a foreign power might one day attempt to achieve through corruption and political intrigue, that which they could not achieve on the battlefield.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68, “These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, etc.)” might come from many quarters, “but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

With that thought in mind, is it even remotely possible that, just five years and eleven months
after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the Founders would have presented to the states for ratification a Constitution that would allow an individual with divided loyalties – i.e. a person with dual US-British citizenship, dual US-French citizenship, etc. – to serve as president or vice president of the United States? To think they would have done so requires a willing suspension of reason. Instead, the Founding Fathers insisted that “No Person except a natural born Citizen” should ever serve as president or vice president of the United States.

Our experience of recent years tells us that the Electoral College and the potential for electing a president and vice president with less than a majority of the popular vote is the least of our worries. What should concern us all is the fact that the Electoral College has on occasion failed to perform as the Founders intended and is ripe for reform.

On two occasions...the election of Republican Chester A. Arthur as vice president in 1880, and the election of Democrat Barack Obama as president in 2008...the parties have nominated, the Electoral College has elected, and the Congress has certified, individuals who failed to meet the clear standard of a “natural born Citizen.” With a current population of more than 320 million, there is no reason why the American people should be forced to consider men and women of questionable qualifications for president and vice president.

Nor was the idea of a foreign power purchasing the cooperation or the acquiescence of a U.S. president a major concern – until 1996 and 2008. In 1996, Bill Clinton and Al Gore received hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars from agents of the Peoples Republic of China...illegal contributions that were not disclosed until well after they were reelected. Would Democratic electors...particularly war veterans...have withheld their electoral votes had they known beforehand that Clinton and Gore had such a cozy relationship with a foreign power? It makes for very interesting speculation. However, in 2008, when Barack Obama and Joe Biden accepted more than 66,383 contributions from foreign sources, Democratic electors were made aware of the wrongdoing before the Electoral College voted, but chose to ignore the evidence.

The members of the Electoral College have a solemn duty to elect the best qualified candidates. In addition to establishing a clear definition of the term “natural born,” the Congress should also impose penalties on members of the Electoral College who violate their oath of office by failing to exercise due diligence in the performance of their duties. And if Mr. Anderson is serious about having elections determined only by legally registered voters, he should demand that the Congress and the state legislatures impose heavy fines and mandatory prison sentences on those who would vote illegally, and on those who would abet and/or facilitate illegal voting.

Anderson tells us that, “The Framers distrusted democracy.” Yes they did, and for good reason. Their objective was to give us a republic, not a democracy, because they knew that the history of pure democracies was not a good one. Yet, in spite of that, those in the national popular vote movement would have us believe that pure democracy in the selection of a president and vice president is somehow a good idea.

The national popular vote is an idea that appeals primarily to liberals, which would lead one to believe that it would most likely be the blue states that would adopt the popular vote rule. If they will do a bit of simple arithmetic they might think twice about joining that movement. With the long term outlook favoring Republican presidential candidates, they may be setting themselves up to provide Republicans with some massive presidential landslides.

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