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Panel approves new approach to electing presidents

Rep. JD Mesnard, R-Chandler.

Rep. JD Mesnard, R-Chandler.

A House panel on Monday approved a measure, that, had it been in effect in 2000, would have meant Al Gore would have been president.

The legislation is designed to do an end-run around the Electoral College system that has been in place since the United States was formed.

That system assigns electoral votes to each state based on the number of House and Senate seats. More to the point, the president is elected only when a candidate gets at least half of the 538 votes, regardless of who got more popular votes nationwide.

Nothing in HB2456 would change that.

Instead, the proposal by Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, would require Arizona to enter into deals with other states: Once there is agreement by states totaling 270 electoral votes, each would require its electors to cast their vote for whoever wins the national popular vote.

Put simply, at that point it would no longer matter if Arizonans supported the Republican candidate for president. Its electors would have to vote for the Democrat if he or she got more votes nationwide.

The move came over the sharp objections of a series of speakers who feared what would happen.

“It’s a direct attack on our republic and will lead us down the path to what is known as direct democracy, that is, direct government ruled by the majority, often referred to as mob rule,” said Robert Hathorne.

That theme was echoed by former state Rep. Barbara Blewster.

She said the Founding Fathers set up the electoral system so that residents of states voted for electors, people who were more learned on the issues of the day. Then the electors would go to Washington and decide who would make the best president.

But Mesnard said that’s not the system we have now. Instead, Arizona law requires all 11 electors to cast their ballots for whoever wins the statewide popular vote.

That, he said, makes Arizona irrelevant in the national election as candidates spend their time and money in swing states with a large number of electoral votes.

“So what happens is we get ignored,” Mesnard said, making Arizona a “flyover” state as presidential hopefuls cater to voters in places like Ohio and Florida. By contrast, if a candidate has to get more popular votes than any foe, that makes each and every popular vote matter — even those from Arizonans.

He conceded that would have made Democrat Al Gore the president in 2000. He got 50,996,582 votes according to the Federal Register, against 50,456,026 for George W. Bush. But Bush tallied 271 electoral votes, versus 266 for Gore.

That also would have made Gore the president the day terrorists hijacked planes and attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and put him in charge of determining the proper response.

Mesnard said that’s a “matter of speculation.” Anyway, he said, future elections could just as easily go the other way, with a Republican outpolling a Democrat for the popular vote.

“But that’s not really the point,” he said. “The point is what’s good for Arizona.”

That’s also the assessment of Patrick Rosenstiel who runs a political consulting firm in Minnesota who came to testify to the committee.

“Unless you live in one of 11 battleground states you are not overly relevant to the presidential campaigns,” he told lawmakers.

For example, he said in 2012 presidential candidates from both parties spent more than $175 million in Florida. Rosentiel said total in-state spending by candidates in Arizona was $40,350.

But he said it’s not just about money. He said the candidates spent more time trying to cater to the issues of Florida voters than those here.

And he said once a president gets elected, the issues in those battleground states are likely to get more attention than those elsewhere.

Only Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, voted against the measure, saying she wants to study it more before it goes to the full House.

 

9 comments

  1. The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
    “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.”

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in them, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

  2. Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes would not make us a pure democracy.

    Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

    Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

    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.

  3. The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in them, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The electors did not and would not go to Washington to decide who would make the best president. The electors are and will be dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in their state in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

  4. A survey of Arizona voters showed 67% overall support for the idea that the President should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . 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 equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  5. Political consultants who stand to benefit, are exercising their influence over Legislators. Constantine Querard, Coleman and Dahm, DC London, and Kyle Moyer have some influence over the Republicans that are siding with the Democrats on this.

  6. A survey of Arizona voters showed 78% overall support for the idea that the President 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?”

    By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote for President was 76% among Republicans, 82% among Democrats, and 75% among independents/others.

    By gender, support was 85% among women and 70% among men.

    By age, support was 95% among 18-29 year olds, 73% among 30-45 year olds, 78% among 46-65 year olds, and 77% for those older than 65.

    By race, support was 79% among whites, 73% among Hispanics, 67% among African-Americans (representing 3% of all respondents), and 78% among others (representing 5% of all respondents).

    NationalPopularVote.com

  7. Oh boy, I can’t wait for the recount. We can throw our electoral votes in with Calf. Our legislators are going for this but not a constitutional convention? We have many other issues on voting other that the electoral college. How about taking care of those first.

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

    No recount, much less a nationwide recount, would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

    The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
    “It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

    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 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.

    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 National Popular Vote. 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.

    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 National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.

  9. The U.S. Constitution says “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.”

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in them, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

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