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Hey, Don’t Forget Us!

by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 8, 2013 9:29 am

(24) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Politics, Presidential Campaign, Campaign 2012

As the 2012 campaign raced to a finish, presidential and vice-presidential candidates visited Ohio a whopping 73 times. They set foot in Connecticut exactly zero times. New Haven’s Board of Aldermen aims to change that in the future—and make the Nutmeg State more like a swing state.

The city’s lawmakers can’t force presidential candidates to come here. But this week they passed a resolution calling on the Connecticut General Assembly to enact a National Popular Vote Bill. That bill is designed to put all states in play during presidential elections, by doing an end run around the Electoral College.

The bill would add Connecticut to a list of states that share a compact to effectively nullify the Electoral College by having all their electors cast their votes for whoever wins the national popular vote.

The aldermen’s vote, of course, is advisory. The state’s lawmakers can heed it or ignore it. State Sen. Martin Looney said the idea is worth discussing but cautioned that it could diminish Connecticut election power, since the state has a greater share of the Electoral College than of the national voting population.

Thomas MacMillan Photo Monday night’s resolution was submitted by Yale Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson (pictured), with a large number of other aldermen signing on as sponsors. She said the measure would bring “greater attention to non-swing states,” and increase voter engagement and turnout in Connecticut.

Under the current Electoral College system, each state is apportioned a number of electors equal to its number of U.S. representatives, plus its two U.S. senators. Nearly every state casts all of its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

As a result of this system, elections are most often decided by a small group of swing states. The battle for the presidency is waged in states like Ohio and Florida, with the majority of states looking on as bystanders. This is unacceptable to proponents of a popular vote system and people who call for abolishing the Electoral College.

To do away with the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment. Leaving it in place and simply circumventing its power could be easier.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is designed to do just that. Under the compact, states agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. The compact would go into effect only when an electoral majority of states have signed onto the deal. Under the plan, although the Electoral College would continue to exist, the president would effectively be elected by a national majority of regular voters.

Proponents say this would be a more equitable system. Candidates would be forced to campaign in more states, and to speak to issues relevant not just to Ohio farmers and Florida retirees. Voters would feel more engaged in the election and could be more likely to vote.

Opponents say a national popular vote system might mean candidates focus more on urban population centers and less on rural areas.

State Sen. Looney said an analysis by former state budget director William Cibes showed that Connecticut has greater election-year clout under the Electoral College than it would under a popular vote system. “Connecticut casts a higher percentage of electoral votes than it would in a popular vote,” Looney said. The Electoral College tends to give smaller states a boost, since they benefit more proportionally from the two-vote ante that all states receive.

“I think it is more complex than it has been presented to be,” Looney said. “There is a reason” why we have the current structure. “It deals with the concept of federalism. We are a nation made up of 50 states.”

Looney also warned that having a popular vote system in 2004 would have meant Connecticut would have cast its electoral votes for Republican George W. Bush, who won the popular vote over Democrat John Kerry. That’s a result that most people in the state would not have been happy with, Looney said.

On the other hand, if some Republican states follow through with talk of apportioning their electoral votes by congressional district, with two-vote bonus for the winner of the state popular vote, then “all bets are off,” Looney said. If that happened, then the country should switch to a popular vote system, he said.

“I think it’s work considering and evaluating in all its aspects,” Looney said of the popular vote plan.

Nine states—all blue—have passed laws agreeing to join the popular vote compact. A law passed the Connecticut House in 2009, and has been stalled in a senate committee since. Looney said the matter is likely to be considered by the Government Administrations and Elections Committee. He said he doesn’t know when that might happen.

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posted by: robn on March 8, 2013  10:14am

Thanks Alderwoman Eidelson,

Oh by the way, New Haven residents will have less political power if you do this.

If, instead of promoting a weak, symbolic gesture that will hurt us, you want an effective way to balance power, work for a federal law aligning all party primaries on the same day. The dishevelled order of primaries (most notably Iowa and New Hampshire first) is the biggest determinant of campaign bias and dramatically reduces the choice of later primarying states.

posted by: DingDong on March 8, 2013  11:08am

Senator Looney isn’t making much sense.  Yes, in theory Connecticut gets a slightly more clout under the current system by having two more electoral votes, but of course everyone knows that Connecticut is just taken for granted because all its electoral votes will go to the Democrats.  So, no the current system does not actually benefit Connecticut.

As for his claim that federalism is the reason we have the current system, what better honors principles of federalism than for the states to get together in a compact to decide how to divide votes.  States and citizens working together: that’s federalism.

As a more general point, I don’t understand why people are so fond of the status quo, when the status quo is obviously broken.

posted by: Threefifths on March 8, 2013  11:22am

How about a bill for Term Limits.

posted by: robn on March 8, 2013  12:15pm

DD,

You’re conflating “clout” with the math of electoral college power. Sen Looney is not theorizing about the math, he’s stating a fact. We have more voting power under the existing system.

Either way, our “clout” as you put it, won’t change because CT will likely remain a democratic leaning state and will still be taken for granted.

posted by: DavidK on March 8, 2013  12:17pm

Hey! How about Connecticut voting for Republicans.

posted by: Curious on March 8, 2013  12:34pm

“but of course everyone knows that Connecticut is just taken for granted because all its electoral votes will go to the Democrats.  So, no the current system does not actually benefit Connecticut.”

...exactly what I was thinking.

Ahh, and there’s 3/5ths with the term limits comment.  Now we just need someone to talk about how CT would have more say in national politics if New Haven had a tram, and we’re all set!

posted by: Wooster Squared on March 8, 2013  12:36pm

Have to agree with DingDong on this one. Sen Looney’s defense of the current system is completely incoherent. It’s basically a muddled version of “We’ve always done it this way”.

Thank you Alderwoman Eidelson for the common-sense proposal.

posted by: robn on March 8, 2013  12:53pm

US pop = 313,914,040
CT pop = 3,590,347
CT% of popular vote = 1.15%

US electoral college votes = 538
CT electoral college votes = 7
CT% of electoral college votes = 1.30%

CT has about 12% more vote power under the electoral college system than it would in a popular vote system.

Just sayin guys…its math.

posted by: DingDong on March 8, 2013  12:59pm

Robn,

I don’t understand your comment.  In a national popular vote system, it mostly does not matter which way a state leans.  I say “mostly” because it’s true that areas with more swing voters or with more base voters will get more attention than areas without them.  But no matter what, any state (like Connecticut, or, for that matter Texas or Wyoming) that is taken for granted under the current system would get more attention under a national popular vote system.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on March 8, 2013  1:18pm

Senator Looney’s ability to sound like a true dinosaur always amazes me. I mean since when did “one person, one vote” become a quaint concept, as compared to the archaic Electoral College?

And fwiw it’s worth, if this reform had been enacted, Connecticut wouldn’t have given it’s electoral votes to Bush in 2004. That’s because GWB would never have been President, seeing as how Al Gore received over half a million more votes in 2000. (http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=2000)

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  1:27pm

Connecticut voters have no political clout under the current system.  That is why we are ignored by presidential candidates after the conventions.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, will not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 10 of the original 13 states are considered ignored now. Four out of five Americans were ignored in the 2012 presidential election.  After being nominated, Obama visited just eight closely divided battleground states, and Romney visited only 10. These 10 states accounted for 98% of the $940 million spent on campaign advertising. They decided the election. None of the 10 most rural states mattered, as usual. About 80% of the country was ignored—including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. It was more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That’s more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.
     
The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  1:31pm

A survey of Connecticut voters showed 74% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states. Voters were asked:

“How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?”

Support for a national popular vote, by political affiliation, was 80% among Democrats, 67% among Republicans, and 71% among others.
By gender, support was 81% among women and 66% among men.
By age, support was 82% among 18-29 year olds, 69% among 30-45 year olds, 75% among 46-65 year olds, and 72% for those older than 65.

Then, voters asked a second question that emphasized that Connecticut’s electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states, not Connecticut, vote. In this second question, 68% of Connecticut voters favored a national popular vote.

“Do you think it more important that Connecticut’s electoral votes be cast for the presidential candidate who receives the most popular vote in Connecticut, or is it more important to guarantee that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states becomes president?”

Support for a national popular vote, by political affiliation, was 74% among Democrats, 62% among Republicans, and 63% among others.
By gender, support was 75% among women and 59% among men.
By age, support was 75% among 18-29 year olds, 57% among 30-45 year olds, 68% among 46-65 year olds, and 70% for those older than 65.

Most Americans don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate.  Most Americans think it’s wrong for the candidate with the most popular votes to lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

NationalPopularVote

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  1:40pm

In 2008, of the 25 smallest states (with a total of 155 electoral votes), 18 received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions.  Of the 7 smallest states with any post-convention visits, Only 4 of the smallest states - NH (12 events), NM (8), NV (12), and IA (7) -  got the outsized attention of 39 of the 43 total events in the 25 smallest states.  In contrast, Ohio (with only 20 electoral votes) was lavishly wooed with 62 of the total 300 post-convention campaign events in the whole country.
 
In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state. They are ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

Support for a national popular vote in rural states: VT–75%, ME–77%, WV–81%, MS–77%, SD–75%, AR–80%, MT–72%, KY–80%, NH–69%, IA–75%,SC–71%, NC–74%, TN–83%, WY–69%, OK–81%, AK–70%, ID–77%, WI–71%, MO–70%, and NE–74%.

Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don’t matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.
 
Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group.  Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE—75%, ID -77%, ME - 77%, MT- 72%,  NE - 74%, NH—69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%,  SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%,  and WY- 69%.
     
Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  1:46pm

With the Electoral College and federalism, the Founding Fathers meant to empower the states to pursue their own interests within the confines of the Constitution. The National Popular Vote is an exercise of that power, not an attack upon it.

The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists who vote as rubberstamps for their party’s presidential candidate. That is not what the Founders intended.
 
During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win.  They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected.  Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.  It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College. 

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

States have the responsibility and power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond.

Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution—“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .”  The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”
     
Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government.  The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government.  The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

posted by: jayfairhaven on March 8, 2013  1:49pm

i’ve heard the popular vote compared to two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for dinner, and i think that’s about right.

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  2:08pm

jayfairhaven -
The National Popular Vote bill ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.
 
Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the needed 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. 

National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state.  Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.
 
And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don’t matter to candidates. 
     
With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast.

Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

When and where voters matter, then so do the issues they care about most.

The National Popular Vote bill would end the disproportionate attention and influence of the “mob” in the current handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, while the “mobs” of the vast majority of states are ignored.

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party. The electors now are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

posted by: mvymvy on March 8, 2013  2:12pm

The Republican legislators who want to split state electoral votes, are in control in states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections.  Republican legislators do not want to split electoral votes in states that recently voted Republican in presidential elections.

Ian Millhiser of Think Progress recently reported: “Thanks To Gerrymandering, Democrats Would Need To Win The Popular Vote By Over 7 Percent To Take Back The House.”
Congressional district “Partisan gerrymanders, like the one . . . now all but locks the GOP majority in place” - Jan 2, 2013

Because of gerrymandered congressional districts in 2012 (that stay in effect until after the 2020 elections), Republicans retained control of the U.S. House despite a nationwide 1.4-million vote majority for Democrats in congressional races.
An example of congressional district gerrymandering effects, in 2012, is that Virginia Republicans got 51% of U.S. House of Representatives vote, but won 73% of seats.

Now some Republicans want to gerrymander the presidential vote. 

Obvious partisan machinations like these should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, is needed now more than ever.

posted by: jayfairhaven on March 8, 2013  5:11pm

this is an interesting, and you clearly have a lot say about it mvymvy.

since you mentioned virginia, their gerrymandering is fascinating because in their state senate races of 2011, republicans got 43% more votes but ended up with a 50% of the seats. so if the GOP is the party of gerrymandering, they stink at it.

i think if the national popular vote were in place in 2000, where the margin was ~500,000 votes out of 100 million we would have had florida’s debacle x 50. lawyers, recounts in every state etc… 

electoral votes are winner take all, and disputes localized, while national popular votes would require a national popular recount, so for a practical purpose, i think it’s a bad idea.

from what i can tell, the electoral college is anti-democratic by design, as our government is a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

posted by: local 35 steward on March 9, 2013  10:31am

it would be nice to see what the rest of the board have to say about this.

posted by: mvymvy on March 9, 2013  1:53pm

The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.
 
The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.
 
The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.
 
We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
 
Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the NPV. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.
     
The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.  With both the current system and the NPV, all counting, recounting,, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the EC’s meeting.

posted by: mvymvy on March 9, 2013  1:54pm

Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution—“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .”  The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.  It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.  The candidate with the most votes would win, as in virtually every other election in the country.

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

The Republic is not in any danger from National Popular Vote.
National Popular Vote has nothing to do with pure democracy. Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. With National Popular Vote, the United States would still be a republic, in which citizens continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government in the periods between elections.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 11, 2013  1:20am

Ironically, if we had a popular vote contest I’d probably have been far less inclined to vote for Jill Stein in the last election. One of the benefits of being in a solid state no one cares about is being able to vote your conscious. However, that’s no reason to keep up the archaic charade of a national vote that is the electoral college though. I mean for god’s sake they came up with it in a time when a good deal of people would never leave the county they were born in and there was no election day. Elections went on for months as every state and town voted when they felt like it. Also, we are not any more special in CT than anyone else in the CT, we don’t deserve some kind of extra representation because of how the electoral college works out. Would people be singing that tune if you lived in California or Texas and had less representation than you should?(while also being ignored like CT)

posted by: TheMadcap on March 11, 2013  5:30pm

“Our government is a republic, not a democracy” is the most nonsensical thing ever and is usually only ever uttered as a mantra to try to defend a terribly unpopular and logically indefinable position. We are to a democracy. Do you even know what Republic means? It essentially means not a monarchy minus a few exceptions. The US is a republic, Germany is a republic, the Soviet Union was a republic, China is a republic, Kazakhstan is a republic and even Iran with its theocracy is a republic, heck, even North Korea is technically a republic along with South Korea. Whether a nation is a republic or not has no bearing on whether it’s a democracy. Vietnam is a republic, it’s in no way a democracy. The US is a republic, and it is a democracy. The Netherlands are not a republic, they are a constitutional monarchy yet they are also a democracy.

posted by: Tom Burns on March 13, 2013  10:49pm

Who cares if we don’t get attention—think for a moment—I don’t care if I see a presidential candidate in my state—and with a popular vote vs. electoral we will never see them and we will never have the juice to get any benefits from the federal govt—because—If I were running for President I would favor all the big states (tell them they don’t have to pay federal taxes or grease them in some other way_ so California, Texas, New York, Florida and any other populous states would get preferential treatment—please understand that—and that is why the founding fathers put this system into place with supposed checks and balances (2 senators per state)—its a pretty well thought out system—we don’t need to change it—but we do need to stop Republican Governors and legislatures from changing election rules/laws to favor their candidates—this is just unfair and shows the lack of moral compass and integrity that these phonies in power stand for—chickenshits basically—they want to play on an uneven playing field for they certainly couldn’t win if it was a fair game—embarrassing and cowardly—sickening but they don’t care as long as it benefits them—Tom

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