Elm City Shoe Leather Pays Off At Capitol

Thomas Breen photoAaron Goode traveled to the state Capitol five times and sent hundreds of emails to try to convince legislators to have Connecticut join a national movement to bypass the electoral college in choosing a president. Those years of lobbying by him and other New Haven pro-democracy activists have now borne results.

On Saturday the State Senate voted 21 to 14 to approve House Bill 5421, which would have Connecticut join an interstate compact to elect the United States president by national popular vote. The State House passed the bill 77 to 73 on April 26.

In an unrelated local visit Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he plans to sign the bill.

The president and vice president are currently elected indirectly through the electoral college system, established by the 12th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which appoints 538 electors (corresponding to the 435 U.S. congressional representatives, the 100 U.S. senators, and three additional electors representing Washington D.C.,) who then cast their votes based on the popular vote of each state. Whichever presidential candidate gets to 270 electoral college votes first wins the election.

H.B. 5421 would commit Connecticut’s seven electoral college votes to the candidate who wins the most individual votes cast across the country, or the “national popular vote,” during any given presidential election.

The bill would go into effect only when states representing 270 or more electoral college votes sign onto the interstate compact. Connecticut will be the 12th state (plus Washington D.C.) to join, thus bringing the electoral count for participating states up to 172. That leaves 98 electoral college to go.

Goode, a co-founder of the group New Haven Votes, and Prospect Hill/Newhallville Alder Steve Winter have been two of the most outspoken advocates in recent years for Connecticut to join the national popular vote interstate compact. On Monday afternoon, both said the State Senate represented a satisfying culmination of a decade’s worth of activism around making presidential elections more direct and equitable.

“It’s a delayed gratification,” Goode said as he stood outside of the Hall of Records at 200 Orange St. (which is the polling place for Downtown voters. “But delayed gratification is a beautiful thing.”

Goode, who is also on the executive committee of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, said that he recognized the importance of a national popular vote in the mid-2000s after reading Slate essays by Yale law professor Akhil Amar and after reading Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote by John Koza.

Goode said that the first email he ever sent to a state legislator about the issue went then-New Haven State Rep. Cam Staples back in 2007.

“The winner-take-all college system is an anachronism designed by 18th century slaveholders as an accoutrement to the 3/5ths compromise,” he said. “It has not place in a 21st century democracy.”

Goode was registering young people to vote in Newhallville this weekend at a New Haven Bike Month event. He said an important part of his voter registration pitch is that residents should know that each of their voices matter and contribute to a functional civil and political society. He said that the state’s imminent adoption of national popular vote legislation makes that statement more accurate than under the current electoral college system.

On the second floor of the Hall of Records, Winter lauded the strength of grassroots enthusiasm for the national popular vote as critical to pushing state legislators to vote for the bill this session.

He said that, through his work with the group National Popular Vote Connecticut, he has seen hundreds of residents over the past decade contact legislators directly via email and phone; knock doors and make calls in districts represented by legislators uncertain about the bill; and travel up to Hartford themselves to testify before the General Assembly about the importance of direct elections. He said around 50 Connecticut residents traveled to Hartford this year to testify during the state congressional hearing on H.B. 5421. Last year saw around 100 Nutmeggers travel to Hartford to share their concerns on a similar bill.

Winter identified two primary reasons he has spent so much time and effort advocating for the national popular vote since first hearing about it in a Yale constitutional law course, taught by Akhil Amar, back in 2007. “The simple equity of having every person’s vote counted equally,” he said, “and the way presidential candidates campaign currently benefits a handful of swing states.”

He said that presidential candidates (including those who eventually win office) give preferential financial and policy treatment to a small number of states with critical electoral college votes, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

“Regardless of what you think about President Trump’s steel tariffs,” he said, “that policy clearly benefits a very specific constituency.”

Markeshia Ricks PhotoNew Haven State Rep. Roland Lemar, one of the chief sponsors and supporters of the House bill.

“All voters should be valued equally,” Lemar wrote in an email, “no matter if they live in a small town in Ohio, or our town here in Connecticut. Our current Electoral College system, grounded in state laws which allocate electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, leads presidential candidates to concentrate their resources on voters in a handful of swing states, relegating the vast majority of the country to spectator status. Our state, and urban issues across the country, are often ignored at the expense of a few votes in a few towns in a few states. We can do better and the NPV compact will ensure that we are all viewed equally in the eyes of our future leaders.”

Proponents of the electoral college argue it forces candidates to visit and listen to voters throughout the country rather than in the most densely populated pockets.

Goode and Winter also stressed that the national popular vote is a strictly nonpartisan issue, beneficial to any candidate from either party who has faith in the broad appeal of their proposals.

“If you think conservative ideas have genuine popular support,” Goode said, addressing state and national Republicans who are wary of the national popular vote, “you have nothing to be afraid of.”

The bill passed the state House last week with one Republican voting for it and three Democrats voting against. The bill passed the State Senate with a bit more bipartisan support, with three Republicans and all 18 Democrats voting in favor.

“This is a nonpartisan issue,” Winter said, noting that political figures ranging from Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump on the right to Keith Ellison on the left have come out in support of the national popular vote. “It’s about whichever candidate gets the most votes.”

He pointed out that, although the past two examples of presidents winning the electoral college without winning the popular vote have been Republicans, Democratic candidate John Kerry very nearly did the same in 2004 if not for a 100,000 vote margin in Ohio.

Winter said that the next national popular vote movement now needs to focus on states that are close to passing similar legislation, like Oregon and Delaware, and states like Colorado, which have a popular initiative process. Goode said the next breakthrough needs to happen with some big Republican-leaning states getting on board.

“This is just one battle in a longer fight,” he said. He said that getting 0 electoral votes to 172 in support of a national popular vote was an incredible accomplishment, but that getting from 172 to 270 would be much harder.

“Some of us have been fighting in the trenches for a very long time for this,” he said, “and we will continue to fight.”

The 2018 Agenda

Bill #StatusSummarySponsors
HB 5001In Committee
Died on the Floor
To impose a fee on transactions involving virtual currency.Pat Dillon
HB 5031
SB 4
In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Passed
Gov. Signed
To allow students to have equal access to institutional financial aid.Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee
HB 5082In Committee
Committee Approved
Died on the Floor
To provide state funds to assist hurricane victims from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who are living in Connecticut.Juan Candelaria
HB 5126In Committee
Died on the Floor
To increase funding to boards of education and family resource centers that provide assistance to students and families from Puerto Rico.Juan Candelaria
HB 5112In Committee
Sent to the Floor
Died on the Floor
To permit the retail sale of marijuana and tax such sale to raise revenue for the General Fund and to fund substance abuse treatment, prevention, education and awareness programs.Juan R. Candelaria, Angel Arce, Josh Elliott, Steven J. Stafstrom, Jeff Currey, Susan M. Johnson, Chris Soto, Patricia A. Dillon, Roland J. Lemar, James M. Albis, Christopher Rosario, Kim Rose, Robyn A. Porter, Edwin Vargas, Matthew Lesser, Gregory Haddad, Joshua Malik Hall, Ezequiel Santiago, Diana S. Urban, Toni E. Walker, Robert Sanchez, Alphonse Paolillo
SB 1In Committee
Died on the Floor
To expand the sick leave program to provide earned family and medical leave to certain individuals employed in this state.Martin M. Looney, Bob Duff, Timothy D. Larson, Steve Cassano, Beth Bye, Terry B. Gerratana, Gary A. Winfield, Ted Kennedy, Catherine A. Osten, Marilyn V. Moore, Edwin A. Gomes, Mae Flexer
SB 62In Committee
Died on the Floor
To provide tuition-free community college for Connecticut residents.Martin M. Looney
HB 5182In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Died on the Floor
To require building officials in certain municipalities to establish and assess a fee for the commencement of certain work without a necessary permit.Planning and Development Committee
HB 5210In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Passed
To (1) mandate insurance coverage of essential health benefits, (2) expand mandated health benefits for women, children and adolescents, and (3) expand mandated contraception benefits.Insurance and Real Estate Committee
HB 5084In Committee
Died on the Floor
To encourage the recycling of nip bottles that otherwise frequently litter urban areas.Roland J. Lemar and Juan R. Candelaria
HB 5350
HB 5537
In Committee
Committee Denied
Sent to the Floor
Died on the Floor
To create a pilot program for shared solar facilities at municipal airports. The bill also would delete the provision that dictates the length of Tweed Airport’s runway.Energy and Technology Committee
HB 5475In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Passed
To amend statutory provisions concerning a police officer’s viewing of a recording from body-worn recording equipment under certain circumstances.Judiciary Committee
HB 5515 In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Passed
To permit a zoning commission to regulate the brightness and illumination of advertising signs and billboards.Judiciary Committee
HB 5540In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Died on the Floor
To ban guns without serial numbers and regulate those which are sold in a form requiring the purchaser to finish assembly or that are homemade and to permit local authorities to interview immediate family members as part of a determination of an applicant's suitability.Judiciary Committee
HB 5542In Committee
Committee Approved
Sent to the Floor
Passed
To ban the sale or transfer, possession, manufacturing or use of bump stocks or other accessories to increase the rate of fire of a firearm.Judiciary Committee

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 7, 2018  3:50pm

We also need this.

Election Recall

Term Limits

Ballot Access

Open Primary

Be able to pay A Fee to get on the ballot.

Proportional representation

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 7, 2018  4:28pm

Kudos to Goode and everyone else who helped to get this measure passed!

One would have thought this would have been a no-brainer six or seven years ago, when Malloy first took office with significant Dem majorities.

In any case, it would be great if every Connecticut vote, both Republican and Democratic, counted on the margin.

posted by: robn on May 8, 2018  6:02am

I agree with this. Thank you Mr Goode and Alderman Winter. The compact could conceivably happen before the next presidential election and prevent yet another screw job, notably two we’ve seen just within the past few elections.
This, the slow moving reform of Gerrymandering, elimination of obnoxious vote blocking efforts like voter ID laws, and reintroduction of palate validation to all electronic vote systems, are the four most critical aspects of vote reform.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 8, 2018  6:10am

NPV is fair, and I support it. But it is implausible to label it “nonpartisan”. In modern history, when the popular vote has diverged from the Electoral College vote, the current system has benefitted Republicans. For NPV to go into effect, Republican legislators in states that voted for Trump would have to support it. I’ve known Republican state legislators from across the country. Most are decent people; few are likely to vote against their own interests.

posted by: JCFremont on May 8, 2018  7:20am

Going by popular vote would not increase democracy it would make the executive branch stronger than it already has. The Electoral College was set up to give smaller states a voice but today The Senate has become a House of Lords the Congress likes to hide under the table when things get tough. Yes I know it all comes down to slavery and states rights are code, but it is ironic sesetionists in California are using the same words that where used in Virginia in the 19th century. I’m sure the CT democrats would be great now but you don’t think CA and NY are just going to divey up the spoils and throw nothing but CT a few crumbs. Presidential elections seem to be the only place in the voting booth where they actually cross party lines the fact that party loyalists continue to ignore for fear of losing status.

posted by: ebw1957 on May 8, 2018  8:39am

If the country’s largest populations centers were in say Texas, Alabama or Oklahoma where the majority vote would be Republican instead of liberal LA or NYC, these morons would run away from anything to do with majority takes all.

posted by: robn on May 8, 2018  9:55am

EBW,

The electoral college is a system set up by the founders because they considered voters too uneducated to make the right choice. I tend to think that voters make stupid decisions based upon high intensity marketing (often misleading and always powered by special interest cash). The cure for that isn’t denying individuals votes, but reforming campaign finance law (nullifying the Citizens United decision with well written law).

posted by: William Kurtz on May 8, 2018  10:20am

“The Electoral College was set up to give smaller states a voice “

I’m unsure why a ‘state’ should have a ‘voice’ to begin with. Individual people should have voices, yes, but ‘states’ are arbitrary political entities.

Right now, opposite party members in solidly Republican or Democratic states can complain that they don’t have a meaningful voice. Let presidential candidates work for every vote, not just the ones in Ohio and Florida.

posted by: mvymvy on May 8, 2018  10:49am

Support is nonpartisan.

Supporters include Bob Barr (Libertarian- GA),  Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN),

Newt Gingrich summarized his support for the National Popular Vote bill by saying: “No one should become president of the United States without speaking to the needs and hopes of Americans in all 50 states.  … America would be better served with a presidential election process that treated citizens across the country equally.  The National Popular Vote bill accomplishes this in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with our fundamental democratic principles.” 

The National Popular Vote bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).

Eight former national chairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have endorsed the bill

The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).

In 2016 the Arizona House of Representatives passed the bill 40-16-4.
Two-thirds of the Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives sponsored the bill.
In January 2016, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate sponsored the bill.

In 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the bill by a 28–18 margin.
 
Since 2006, the bill has passed 36 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia, Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), Oklahoma (7), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California, Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico (5), New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

NationalPopularVote

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 8, 2018  12:20pm

Mvymvy, I trust everything you note is accurate. But to date, all of the states that have actually enacted NPV have been those that supported Clinton, in most cases by substantial margins. Even in states where one party has control of the government, bills routinely pass in one chamber but die in the other. I would be pleased to see red/purple states adopt NPV, I just don’t see it happening.

posted by: TheMadcap on May 8, 2018  12:56pm

“In say Texas”

Texas is the second most populated state and Trump had near a million net votes over Clinton in it

posted by: JCFremont on May 8, 2018  1:42pm

Question? Is this NPV stating that all states electorates must vote for the countries popular vote, no matter how the state voters chose? If so why have the circus of a state legislature vote. If this is to just to verify the legislature confirming the state choice codifying the winner take all making revel votes illegal even though that was what Hillary supporters wanted. With a popular vote how would CT gain any more importance in campaigns? If you want an All powerful presidency than here’s away to save some money, get rid of state governments and the entire legislative branch of government. The judicial will become the “enforcing” branch.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 8, 2018  1:58pm

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 8, 2018 1:20pm

Mvymvy, I trust everything you note is accurate. But to date, all of the states that have actually enacted NPV have been those that supported Clinton, in most cases by substantial margins. Even in states where one party has control of the government, bills routinely pass in one chamber but die in the other. I would be pleased to see red/purple states adopt NPV, I just don’t see it happening.

You are correct when you say.But to date, all of the states that have actually enacted NPV have been those that supported Clinton, in most cases by substantial margins. NPV is a waste of time.For NPV to work you need all 50 states and you are not going to get that.

posted by: robn on May 8, 2018  2:37pm

JC,

Because most states allocate electors on a winner-take-all basis, candidates ignore states that they’re guaranteed to either win or lose, focusing their time instead upon swing states. If states with more than 50% of total electors decide to respect the popular vote, candidates will need to restrategize and appeal to voters everywhere.

posted by: Stephanie1 on May 8, 2018  7:34pm

Thank you, Aaron!!!!!!

posted by: Perspective on May 9, 2018  8:14am

“All voters should be valued equally,” Lemar wrote in an email, “no matter if they live in a small town in Ohio, or our town here in Connecticut. Our current Electoral College system, grounded in state laws which allocate electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, leads presidential candidates to concentrate their resources on voters in a handful of swing states, relegating the vast majority of the country to spectator status.

So how does this prevent candidates from making promises that may only benefit larger, populous states and thus gaining their ‘popular vote’. Wasn’t the electoral college enacted to ensure a balance amongst the states due to size/population differences?

posted by: robn on May 9, 2018  8:32am

PERSP,

The founding fathers didn’t have the internet to connect to rural voters.

posted by: mvymvy on May 9, 2018  11:17am

The big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country.

Voters in the biggest cities in the US are almost exactly balanced out by rural areas in terms of population and partisan composition.

The political reality is that the 11 largest states, with a majority of the U.S. population and electoral votes, rarely agree on any political candidate.  In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have included 7 states that have voted Republican(Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia) and 4 states have voted Democratic (California, New York, Illinois,  and New Jersey). 

California and New York together would not dominate the choice of President under National Popular Vote because there is an equally populous group of Republican states (with 58 million people) that gave Trump a similar percentage of their vote (60%) and a similar popular-vote margin (6 million).

In 2016, New York state and California Democrats together cast 9.7% of the total national popular vote.

California & New York state account for 16.7% of the voting-eligible population

Alone, they could not determine the presidency.

In total New York state and California cast 16% of the total national popular vote

In total, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania cast 18% of the total national popular vote.
Trump won those states.

The vote margin in California and New York wouldn’t have put Clinton over the top in the popular vote total without the additional 60 million votes she received in other states.

New York state and California together cast 15.7% of the national popular vote in 2012.
About 62% Democratic in CA, and 64% in NY.

New York and California have 15.6% of Electoral College votes. Now that proportion is all reliably Democratic.

Under a popular-vote system CA, TX, FL, PA, and NY would have less weight than under the current system because their popular votes would be diluted among candidates.

posted by: mvymvy on May 9, 2018  11:23am

For NPV to work we do NOT need all 50 states to enact it.       
The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538. 
All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.
             
Then all voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population
       
Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable winner states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

We can limit the power and influence of the current few battleground states in order to better serve our nation.

We can limit the election’s vulnerability. The current system makes it easier to determine the winner of the Electoral College by microtargeting in one of the dozen battleground states.

“The reality is: Given our Electoral College and our current politics, national elections are decided in this country in a few precincts, in a few key swing states,” former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
The current secretary of DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen, echoed those comments– 3/21/18

posted by: mvymvy on May 9, 2018  11:27am

Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .
 
WI Gov. Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
“The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,”
“The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

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.

With the end of the primaries, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

A successful nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.  In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.
     
The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked.

posted by: mvymvy on May 10, 2018  12:53pm

Now, a presidential candidate could lose despite winning 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with less than 22% of the nation’s votes!

But the political reality is that the 11 largest states, with a majority of the U.S. population and electoral votes, rarely agree on any political candidate.  In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have included 7 states that have voted Republican(Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia) and 4 states have voted Democratic (California, New York, Illinois,  and New Jersey).  The big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country.