Stung by the 2000 presidential election that saw George W. Bush win a majority in the Electoral College despite losing the national popular vote to Vice President Al Gore, liberals nationwide have embarked on a largely unnoticed campaign to bypass the constitutional method of electing the President. The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote is the brainchild of John R. Koza, a computer scientist, former Stanford University professor and co-founder of Scientific Games Corporation. The agreement pledges the electoral votes from each adopting state to the winner of the national popular vote, irrespective of the results of the popular vote in each state.
National Popular Vote Inc., the nonprofit advocating for the agreement, describes the effort as a “reform” of the Electoral College. However, New Jersey assemblywoman Alison McHose is leading an effort to repeal the measure in her state and shed light on the movement she says would disenfranchise individual states and their voters.
“The bill would reform the Electoral College so that the Electoral College reflects the choice of the nation’s voters for President of the United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election,” a statement on the group’s website reads.
The belief behind the agreement holds that a given state’s voters are disenfranchised if that state’s electoral votes do not go to the winner of the popular vote nationwide in the presidential contest. It also aims to rectify the fact that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of voters in states in which the candidate has little chance of winning its popular vote, and therefore its electoral votes. The group believes that the National Popular Vote movement will result in truly inclusive national campaigns in which it would be to a candidate’s advantage to maximize the number of votes he could attain in every state.
The agreement has been adopted in nine jurisdictions: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Collectively, the adopting states hold 132 electoral votes, roughly half of the total of 270 needed to win the presidency. The agreement would take effect in each adopting state in any presidential election year in which states representing a majority of the Electoral College have adopted it.
New Jersey became the second state to pass the agreement early in 2008, following Maryland’s lead. Democrats in control of the assembly and senate passed the bill and sent it to Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine for his signature. But Republican assemblywoman McHose is trying to change that. She has introduced a bill in the assembly to repeal New Jersey’s participation in the agreement and award the state’s electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the state.
The declarative statement accompanying the bill calls the agreement “a radical departure” from the historical method of assigning electors, and argues that participation in the popular vote movement would actually devalue, not enhance, the state’s voters. “By requiring that the State’s electoral votes be allocated to the national popular vote winner instead of the candidate who won in New Jersey, the national popular vote agreement disenfranchises New Jersey voters and arguably amounts to the circumvention of the United States Constitution,” the statement reads.
In an e-mail to HUMAN EVENTS, McHose defended the Electoral College. “The Electoral College gives two of the great sovereigns that make up our country, the people and the States, the fair opportunity to choose our President, and I will continue to support it,” she said.
McHose took issue with National Popular Vote Inc.’s characterization of the agreement as reform in the name of fairness.
“This agreement is a back-door attempt to change the way we elect our President. The liberals who want to do away with the Electoral College know they could not get a constitutional amendment through both houses of Congress and then ratified by the States, so they concocted this agreement,” she said. “They would love big cities and their corrupt urban Democrat machines, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., etc., to go unchecked and become where presidential elections are won and lost.”
Last, McHose said her bill restores equal decision-making clout to rural districts such as hers. “Small rural and suburban communities, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and the ones I represent in New Jersey, have importance to our national elections as well as big cities. Our Founding Fathers understood preserving this balance.”
With Democrats controlling both houses of the New Jersey’s legislature, the outlook for McHose’s bill is not bright.
McHose, who has been mentioned in Republican circles as a potential 2012 challenger to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, could use the issue to raise her already high profile even further with New Jersey conservatives.
It is unlikely that the National Popular Vote Agreement will win passage in enough states to actually affect the way the nation elects Presidents. Perhaps its greatest asset to date is that the effort has largely flown under the radar. McHose’s bill, and other well-placed conservative attempts across the country, could help stem the agreement’s momentum before it really begins to gather steam.