National Popular Vote versus Wisconsin

2010/02/22
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AB 751 gets the fast track in Madison

Mid-morning on Tuesday, two emails alerted me that Wisconsin’s NPV bill (AB 751) had suddenly been introduced and scheduled for a hearing before the Assembly Elections Committee—on Wednesday afternoon, the very next day. Could I come to Madison, one legislator asked, and help educate citizens and other lawmakers and perhaps testify at the hearing?

Barely 12 hours later I was driving to SeaTac Airport for a red-eye flight to Minneapolis and then a commuter flight to Madison. (Thankfully, even with just a few hours notice I found inexpensive airfare.) A taxi dropped me at Wisconsin’s massive Capitol building at 8:30 a.m.

Wisconsin State Capitol BuildingI found the friendly legislator’s office and talked with his staff. They were splendidly well organized and in contact with various media outlets and other groups. I recorded two radio interviews before I set out to talk with legislators and drop off information.

My basic strategy is to find legislators who understand (and support) our basic constitutional framework, including Federalism. I do very little actual lobbying (our direct lobbying is limited by IRS regulations; we always stay far below the threshold). And frankly, those legislators who don’t support our American system probably should support NPV and other schemes to create political instability and precipitate a national crisis. There are plenty of both kinds of legislators in Madison.

I was glad, though, to find a number of legislators and staff who really understood what this issue is about and why it matters. The Electoral College is part of the frameworks of our politics. It creates a set of incentives that help to nationalize (and thus unify) and moderate American politics. And it enforces a system of geographic balance and state-by-state checks on election shenanigans.

There were also some talk radio hosts who got it and spread the word to their listeners. Even as I walked around, legislator’s offices were taking calls from constituents against the NPV bill.

The hearing was held in the North Hearing Room, a vast cube with marble walls in the classical style. The ceiling far above was decorated with murals depicting America’s westward expansion. A flock of NPV lobbyists were there. The committee was assembling. They heard testimony first on a bill to allow local governments to develop their own campaign and ethics rules. Everyone I heard testify was in favor, gushing about how cities and towns should be allowed to serve as “laboratories of democracy.”

Next, NPV sponsor and committee member Representative Kelda Helen Roys presented AB 751. Miss Roys is 30, an attorney, and former executive director of Wisconsin’s chapter of the pro-abortion group NARAL. She repeated NPV’s talking points and fielded a few questions from other committee members. Next, Chairman Jeff Smith called on me. As it turned out, the man who scheduled the hearing on less than two-day’s notice would also make all the opponents go first and give NPV’s lobbyists and other advocates the last word.

I explained to the Committee how the Electoral College quietly balances our political system, refuted many of NPV’s claims, and pointed out how many assumptions and unanswered questions surround NPV. Indeed one of my favorite moments was exposing NPV’s absurd statistic that, if you arbitrarily throw out presidential elections that weren’t “close,” 1 in 7 elections resulted in the person with less popular votes winning the Electoral College. In statistics, you don’t get to move around the denominator to suit your case. And besides, two of the supposed four instances are doubtful.

You can watch or listen to the entire hearing via WisconsinEye.

Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Elections – video, part 1
Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Elections – video, part 2
Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Elections – audio, part 1
Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Elections – audio, part 2

I’m up in part 1, from 1:11:50 to 1:46:28. Representative Roys is immediately before me and First Freedoms Foundation attorney Michael Dean is next with a number of particular legal concerns. Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action follows, on part 2 starting at about 15 minutes.

After the hearing, I was interviewed on Vicki McKenna’s afternoon show, recorded a short video, and said good bye to my new friends in Madison. I was back at SeaTac airport 23 hours after I’d left.

You can read more at the Wisconsin Family Voice blog and Kyle Prast’s Practically Speaking or watch the WISN story. And look for for more on the debate over NPV in Wisconsin and around the country here at SaveOurStates.com.

UPDATE: The Senate companion bill, SB 549, was introduced on Tuesday, February 23 (hat tip: VCY Homefront Wisconsin)

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2 Responses to National Popular Vote versus Wisconsin

  1. [...] But the NPV crew had bit off more than they could chew. The lack of notice only helped rile up a public rightly skeptical of a process designed to represent California more than Wisconsin. Calls and emails poured into the Capitol. Several people, myself included, showed up to testify about the serious flaws and risks of NPV’s plan. [...]

  2. [...] and Juneau Last week, the Save Our States Project testified at legislative hearings in person in Madison, Wisconsin, and by phone in Juneau, Alaska. Both hearings were on National Popular Vote legislation that would [...]

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