NPV Moves in N.Y, Mass.
Big money pays off for NPV in Albany
Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation, part of the attempt to unravel the Electoral College without amending the Constitution. Yesterday, the New York State Senate passed the same bill. In each state, the measure moves to the other legislative chamber for consideration.
So far this year NPV has failed to be enacted in any state. The legislation seeks to create an interstate compact–an agreement among the states–that would take effect if passed by states representing a majority of votes in the Electoral College (270 out of 538). It would direct states to ignore the will of their own voters and instead cast all of the states electoral votes for the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. This would leave the Electoral College process in place, but manipulate it to ‘rubber stamp’ the raw national vote winner.
NPV’s last success came over a year ago when Washington became the fifth state to enact NPV legislation. However, some constitutional scholars are concerned that NPV might argue that governor’s vetoes do not matter, because the Constitution gives state legislatures power over state electoral votes. Governors in California, Rhode Island, and Vermont have vetoed the bill. Including those states, if NPV passes in Massachusetts and New York it would have gained 166 electoral votes worth of states.
I have talked with several legislative staff in both New York and Massachusetts this year, and NPV”s success in those states is perhaps not surprising. In both states, legislative staff (who reflect their bosses) were disinterested, seemingly unwilling or perhaps unable to understand the scope and importance of the question: how should we elect the President of the United States. State politics is less thoughtful, more a party- and lobbyist-driven machine. The San Francisco-based National Popular Vote organization spends vast sums on lobbying. The most recent records from New York show that NPV spent $67,500 on paid lobbyists there during 2009.