Detroit News runs Anuzis, SOS articles

2010/04/16
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This year has been quite a flop for NPV, but it looks like they’re taking a gasp for air in Michigan where recent lobbying efforts appear to have paid off. A few weeks ago former chairman of the Michigan GOP Saul Anuzis announced (on his blog) his endorsement of NPV. Last week, the Detroit News published an editorial by Anuzis. Being a native Michigander, I felt compelled to respond. The Detroit News ran my editorial this morning in their online edition.

The article covers several reasons why NPV is a bad plan, but there are many more. Let’s take a look at three.

The National Popular Vote plan would enable a candidate to win the presidency with a small plurality of votes. Consider what would happen if five competitive candidates ran. If each candidate got even a moderate fraction of the national popular vote, the winner could be elected with a mere 25 percent—or less.

Supporters of NPV will respond that candidates can win without a majority under the current Electoral College system, too. They’re right. But the Electoral College legitimizes that candidate’s win. Take, for example, the presidential election of 1992. Ross Perot drew nearly 19 percent of the national popular vote, George Bush, Sr. had 37%, and Bill Clinton won with a plurality of 43%. But take a look at the Electoral College numbers. Perot failed to win any electoral votes, Bush had 168, and Clinton came out with 370. If there was any doubt who the nation wanted as their president, the Electoral College made it clear.

The National Popular Vote would promote radical fringe parties. Now let’s go back to our five candidates. Some might consider the likelihood of five viable candidates too much of a long shot. Under NPV, it wouldn’t be.

As I pointed out in my article, the Electoral College forces candidates to build broad, national coalitions. Only a moderate candidate with broad support in enough states can even get a campaign underway, let alone compete nationally.

Under NPV, national coalitions wouldn’t matter. Numbers—regardless of distribution—would be the ticket. This means parties wouldn’t have to appeal to people on the other side of the aisle; they could simply target high concentrations of like-minded voters. Radical parties—like anti-immigration parties, white-supremacists, etc.—who would never make it off the ground under the current system, could actually become viable players.

The National Popular Vote plan would allow candidates to win the electoral votes of states where they weren’t even on the ballot. Each state has its own presidential election procedures—including who can vote and who makes it onto the ballot. Candidates have to register to be on each ballot.

Consider this scenario under NPV. If a candidate based in San Francisco knew he could win a plurality of votes by targeting densely populated urban areas on the West Coast and a few other corners, what incentive would he have for going to the trouble of getting on the ballot in Alaska, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Utah, or Idaho? The NPV bill gives the national popular vote winner the power to appoint slates of electors to represent states where he wasn’t on the ballot. What’s more, those appointees wouldn’t have to be residents of those states.  If he won the national popular vote, our San Francisco-based candidate could appoint Californians to be electors for Alaska, Wyoming, New Hampshire, etc. in the Electoral College, casting electoral votes that supposedly represent those individual states.

Again, Electoral College detractors might point out that a candidate can win the presidency without being on every state’s ballot now. And again, this is true. A candidate cannot, however, claim any electoral votes from a state in which he wasn’t on the ballot. Thus, it’s in a candidate’s best interest to be registered. Let’s look back at our San Francisco candidate. If he did manage to win the requisite 270 electoral votes, the nine states where he wasn’t on the ballot would still cast their electoral votes for the candidate who was most popular in their state. Voters in each state determine how that state should cast its electoral votes on Election Day—not the rest of the country.

The list of flaws goes on and on.

As an aside, some will look at this site, read about the issue, and notice that Washington, where I currently live, passed the NPV bill. Note that legislators made this move despite many appeals from citizens. The state’s newspapers afterward criticized the legislature for making such a monumental decision under the radar of the general public and encouraged other states to consider the issue more carefully. A year after the bill passed, another piece of legislation was introduced that would restore Washington’s say in how it casts its electoral votes.

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