DALLAS—One political controversy that came up repeatedly during the meeting of Republican state chairmen here May 15 to 17 was the latest effort by liberals nationwide to scrap the Electoral College in favor of popular election of the President. Almost to a person, GOP party leaders are adamantly opposed to the proposed change and, in fact, several of them told HUMAN EVENTS they hope to put the party on record in its opposition at the next meeting of the Republican National Committee in the spring.
The cause of amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College and instead adopt election of the President by popular vote is an old one. Clearly believing that they can turn out voters in their historic bastions in greater numbers than their political opponents, liberals have pushed this change for several generations. Conservatives, respecting both tradition and the rights of states, have historically supported maintaining the form of electing Presidents crafted by the Founding Fathers.
But what is unique about the latest assault on the Electoral College is that, instead of attempting to abolish it through a constitutional amendment, supporters of the popular vote scheme are instead pursuing what California’s GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steel dubbed “a liberal attempt to end-run the Constitution.”
Under this scheme, state legislatures would pass legislation that would bind them to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote—even if the candidate that got the most votes nationally did not carry that individual state. In short, this would be a de facto popular vote for President—and done without amending the Constitution.
So far, seven states and the District of Columbia (with a combined 77 electoral votes) have enacted laws that do precisely this. Should similar laws be enacted in states with an additional 193 electoral votes, de facto popular election of the President will be achieved.
The California legislature, firmly in Democratic hands, was poised to pass similar legislation this week, but with opponents raising fierce objections, the vote was delayed. In Delaware, newly elected state GOP Chairman John Sigler told us, “Liberal Democrats in the state legislature have offered HB 55, and all the Republicans are against it. Republicans here are strongly opposed because it would repeal the Electoral College by implication. And in basically writing off many states, rural areas, and people, it would lead to rule by tyranny.”
“Enactment of this proposal would be disastrous for California and disastrous for the country,” California State GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told HUMAN EVENTS during the Dallas meeting. Del Beccaro, who has spoken and written vigorously against the change, pointed out that “with Los Angeles County as large as 42 states in terms of population, Democrats would simply have to pour money and workers in there to drive up their popular vote. When they do the same in New York or Chicago or San Francisco, and this ‘compact’ of the states on electoral votes is law, you could easily have a Democratic ‘lock’ on the presidency.”
What Steel, Del Beccaro, Sigler and other Republican foes of this measure find especially upsetting is that several Republicans have bought into this concept. As Steel told us, “In states like Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota, Republican legislators are carrying the NPV [national popular vote] ball. In the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature, the Republican-sponsored NPV bill has passed the state house of representatives and recently cleared a key state Senate committee.”
Steel blames this seemingly strange GOP backing for a measure backed in large part by Democratic leftists on Tom Golisano, a New York billionaire who is funding the National Popular Vote campaign with his own vast wealth. Golisano is best known for waging losing bids for governor of the Empire State three times on the ticket of the Independence Party. His combined expenditures in all three races totaled nearly $100 million.
“And now Golisano is paying lobbyists and Republican operatives to win over votes in key states,” added Steel. “I’m not sure he has considered the constitutional question. Article One, Section 10, bans states from entering into compacts or agreements with other states unless Congress gives its consent.”
Hence, the strong effort at the Dallas meeting among GOP leaders to alert other Republicans to stay away from a growing movement that sharply contradicts what the Founders wanted—and does so by questionable legal means. As Sigler put it, “The Founding Fathers got it right the first time.”