California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that allows California to join seven other states in awarding all the state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide in a general election. Currently, all 55 of California’s electoral votes are awarded to the ticket that receives the most votes in the state.
The change will occur only if it is adopted by states with a majority of the electoral votes in the country. The other seven states who have already enacted the change are, with their number of electoral votes: Vermont (3), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), Maryland (10), Illinois (20), Washington (12), Hawaii (4) and the District of Columbia (3), for a total of 132 of the 270 needed electoral votes before the measure will take effect. Proponents of this multi-state compact are hoping to have enough states adopt the measure in time to have it effective for the 2016 election.
Governor Brown said the action was aimed at giving California more influence in presidential elections. Having more electoral votes than any other state was apparently not enough influence. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who sponsored the bill, said, “For too long, presidential candidates have ignored California and our issues while pandering exclusively to the battleground states.”
This is another step in the drive to eliminate the Electoral College and transition to a national popular vote election. The election of 2000, in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore with electoral votes, but lost the national popular vote, intensified the movement in this direction. A multi-state compact that awards electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote is an end run around the requirement for a constitutional amendment to change the Constitution and remove the Electoral College system. Congress has rejected hundreds of constitutional amendments that would have changed or eliminated the Electoral College.
The national popular vote is a misguided movement that ignores the original intent of the Founders when they drafted the Constitution. The federal coalition of the United States was designed with the intent that the states, not the direct vote of the people, would select the President. In Federalist Paper 39, James Madison wrote that “the immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.” The United States was created as a republic; not a democracy.
Should enough states adopt this popular vote system to make it effective, I would sincerely hope there would be a constitutional challenge. Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution prohibits states from entering “into any Agreement or Compact with another State” without the consent of Congress. Jefferson’s principles of federalism have maintained this country more than two centuries. To ignore and undo the republican ideals in favor of direct democracy would have detrimental consequences for the future of our nation.