Day out of touch with voters in opposing popular vote compact
The editorial, “Connecticut should withdraw from flawed, foolish popular vote compact” does a disservice to your readers. It bases its opposition on a series of falsehoods, anti-democratic thinking and name-calling, starting with the pejorative description of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact as a “contrivance.” An electoral reform that makes every vote matter, and has been favored by more than 3,000 state legislators across the nation, cannot be dismissed as a contrivance.
The compact would make every vote matter. In the 2016 election, 673,215 Connecticut citizens voted for Donald Trump. Because we use winner-take-all, their votes made no difference to the outcome. They could have all stayed home and the Electoral College count for Trump would have been the same. For the past 30 years not a single vote cast for a Republican presidential candidate in Connecticut had any impact on the outcome.
In a strange take on the democratic process, you believe Connecticut should back out of the compact. As polled by Make Every Vote Count, a substantial majority of Connecticut voters across party lines (78 percent) agree that the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide should become president.
Last year a majority of legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly heeded the will of the people and voted to join the compact. You criticize the Democratic leadership because it is unlikely to give Rep. Vail’s bill (to withdraw from the compact) a hearing. Apparently the hearings in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 — during which hundreds of citizens voiced their support or opposition — count for nothing.
It is untrue that the “right way” to achieve a direct popular vote election for the presidency is to amend the Constitution. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution explicitly and exclusively leaves it to the states to determine how to assign their Electoral College votes. The compact does nothing more than exercise that responsibility so the presidential candidate with the most votes nationwide wins.
You applaud that, on its face, small states have greater voting power than large states — an outcome of allocating Electoral College votes according to congressional representation. But in reality what determines whether a vote matters is whether it was cast in one of the dozen battleground states. Candidates ignore voters who live in reliably red or blue states, including Connecticut. In the 2016 election, 94 percent of general election campaign events were held in just 12 states — the battleground states. Except for New Hampshire, none of the battleground states is small.
The editorial incorrectly concludes that the design of the Electoral College was to give small states “comparable standing” as larger states. It was not; it was to give slave-owning states (that were mostly smaller) more power. The scheme worked; slave owners from Virginia won the presidency in eight of the nine elections following ratification of the Constitution.
Your editorial alleges problems with the compact that have no basis in fact. It asks, what happens if a state pulls out of the compact in a tight election? Article IV of the compact prohibits withdrawal less than six months prior to the end of the president’s term. Secretaries of the State are not known to violate their states’ laws.
The board raises the specter of “chaos” should the national vote be too close to call. That scenario is highly improbable. According to FairVote, “Only once since the 19th century has a national popular vote been decided by less than a half million votes — and even then the margin was 120,000 votes, far outside what might change in a recount.”
The concern is misplaced; it’s more likely to happen under winner-take-all. We recall an instance not so long ago when the presidency was decided by 537 votes in one state. A good word to describe the 2000 Bush v. Gore recount effort in Florida: “chaotic.”
The editorial makes a final Hail Mary by questioning the constitutionality of the compact. The board cites the Constitution’s Article I, Section 10 prohibition on states entering into agreements with other states, but it ignores the 1893 Supreme Court decision in Virginia v. Tennessee that determined that the Compact Clause is limited to agreements "which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States."
Since the Constitution gives states plenary power to award their electors, legal experts have concluded the compact does not violate the Constitution or require congressional approval.
We’ll conclude by noting that on the very day the Connecticut House of Representatives passed H.B. 5421, to join the compact, President Trump told Fox & Friends, “I would rather have the popular vote.”
Jonathan Perloe is the state coordinator for National Popular Vote CT. He lives in Cos Cob.