Editorial: Connecticut should join the National Popular Vote compact
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 21:03
Some Americans will tell you that their one vote doesn’t matter. While we disagree, they do have a point. Technically speaking, it’s members of the Electoral College – not the voting public – who actually choose the president. And since most states grant their electors on a winner-take-all basis, most voters can know with near certainty which candidate their state’s electors will go to.
This is just one of the many problems with the Electoral College. However, as it’s enshrined in the Constitution, most people take its existence as an unavoidable part of American presidential elections. Yet there is a small but growing movement to change this system and switch to selecting the president by a national popular vote. A bill to do just that has been introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly and we fully support its passage.
The bill, SB 432, would not single-handedly fix the Electoral College. Rather, it would have Connecticut join the National Popular Vote Compact, an agreement between states to give all of their electors to whoever wins the most votes nationwide. This is allowed by the Constitution, which grants states the ability to decide how to distribute their own electors. The agreement would not immediately take effect and would only kick in once enough states join to decide the election. Nine states have already signed on, for a total of 132 electors – nearly halfway to the 270 required to obtain a majority.
We actually feel that this solution is preferable to changing the US Constitution, since it would be much easier to reverse. If changing to a national popular vote turns out to have unforeseen consequences, individual states could back out of the agreement and switch back to the old method (or an entirely new one). Changing the Constitution, on the other hand, would require another arduous amendment process that could take many years.
One of the most obvious reasons for the change is to avoid electing a president who lost the popular vote, which has happened four times in America’s history, most recently in 2000. However, a national popular vote would have many other positive effects. Currently, presidential candidates focus their campaigns on swing states, completely ignoring safe states like California, Texas, or Connecticut. This not only means that they make more campaign stops in those states, but that their policy stances are actually geared towards voters in these hotly contested areas. It’s also been shown that swing states receive a disproportionate amount of federal funding, perhaps an attempt by incumbent politicians to sway their voters in future elections.
Connecticut voters recognize the problems with the Electoral College and are demanding change. In a 2009 poll by Public Policy Polling, 74 percent of Connecticut voters stated that the president should be chosen by the national popular vote, not the Electoral College. It’s difficult to get majority support for any issue, so when nearly three-quarters of the voting public supports a change, politicians should listen.
A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 2009, but never reached a vote in the Senate. Let’s not let that happen again. If enough citizens reach out to their legislators, this can become law this year, and we will be one step closer to reforming the ineffective Electoral College.