Massachusetts Senate Ignores JFK’s Advice
Late last week, the Massachusetts state senate voted to approve the National Popular Vote bill. The house had already approved the measure in June. These votes mean that Massachusetts is almost certain to become the sixth state to approve NPV. But, as they say, it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. There is still a chance (however small) that NPV will die in Massachusetts this year.
Massachusetts’s legislative procedure requires that NPV be approved one more time in each chamber. The initial votes are to “engross” the bill. The second round of voting is to “enact” it. This Texan has taken a crash course in Massachusetts’s legislative procedure this month. From what I gather, the second round of voting is a bit of a formality that is almost certain to happen. On the other hand, NPV failed at this juncture in 2008. Although both chambers had engrossed the bill, they did not complete enactment before the legislative session ended on July 31.
As Massachusetts contemplated NPV’s scheme in 2008, I argued that the state should heed the advice of one of its heroes, John F. Kennedy. I offer the same advice to the state’s legislature today. Kennedy was a defender of the Electoral College and understood the benefits that it delivers to Americans. Speaking from the floor of the U.S. Senate, Kennedy stated:
“[I]t is not only the unit vote for the Presidency we are talking about, but a whole solar system of governmental power. If it is proposed to change the balance of power of one of the elements of the solar system, it is necessary to consider all the others.”
Kennedy understood a basic principle that seems to have escaped most Massachusetts legislators: Ripping the Electoral College out of our political system will have a domino effect. Some of the ramifications of such an action may be far more severe than we anticipate. I have argued elsewhere that such an action would severely undermine our two-party system, fracture the American electorate, and magnify the impact of fraud in our presidential elections. Worse, this particular manner of eliminating the Electoral College has its own special logistical dangers and legal problems.
Massachusetts’s senators should be paying more attention to President Kennedy and less attention to the appealing—but unrealistic—sound bites offered by NPV supporters. It is a hard battle at this point, but voters in Massachusetts still have time to call their senators and representatives. Tell them that successful constitutional institutions should not be so quickly and so casually eliminated. Many unforeseen consequences are certain to follow from such a decision.