Democrats and Good Government Advocates Call for National Popular Vote to Elect the President
State Democratic lawmakers Wednesday stood with good government advocates to add their voices to a growing coalition of people calling for an end to the Electoral College and replacing it with the direct election of the president by national popular vote.
The coalition spoke in favor of Senate Bill 9, “An Act Entering Connecticut into the National Popular Vote Compact,” as well as House Bills 5205, 5434 and 5435. The effect of each of these bills is to enter Connecticut into the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote (the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact”), which would make Connecticut the 12th state to become a member.
“I fully reject the notion that the citizens of America, in the year 2017, cannot be trusted to directly elect their president,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Instead, I believe that the direct election of the president by popular vote—that the winner of the presidency is the candidate who gets the most votes in the election—is now critical to the essence of our democracy.”
“It is critically important that we honor the will of the American people and the will of Connecticut’s citizens and create a system that elects a president that is the winner of the national popular vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “By joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, we can move our nation one step closer to truly honoring the will of the voters.”
Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), co-chair of the Government Administration & Elections Committee that is holding a public hearing today on the National Popular Vote bills, said changing the Electoral College system at the state level has been discussed long before the latest presidential election. “This is an issue that has been important to many people in our state for quite a long time, and perhaps the recent presidential election has raised the tenor of this issue, but it still has been an important issue, not just in our state but across the country,” said Winfield. “The Electoral College was designed to give people in small states power that they didn’t have. It was designed in some ways to give power to small states that owned slaves. It’s the reason why we had presidents that came from Virginia for a very long time. So for a person like me, this has been an issue that is particularly important, because it has something to do with a part of our history that I think we have done a lot to move away from. I think what Connecticut is looking to do with the national popular vote closes that loop. So let’s not think of this as just a response to the presidential election that we had, but as dealing with some parts of our history that are particularly important.”
“Since last November’s election, my office has received scores of emails from constituents in support of electing our president by national popular vote,” said state Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson). “I agree with them, and I believe strongly that we need to move beyond the antiquated and unfair Electoral College system and entrust the election of our president to our people. Every vote in this country should have equal weight. The Electoral College is a relic of a bygone era, and we need to change that.”
“My support for the National Popular Vote is indicative of the equity that is inherent in this policy,” said state Representative James Albis (D-East Haven). “Studies have shown that swing states and battleground states get more federal dollars than other states. Connecticut is at a disadvantage there, and this bill would help level that playing field. The National Popular Vote also creates equity for a person’s vote. A vote in Connecticut counts less than a vote in Ohio right now.”
“I am thrilled to introduce one of the bills that address this critical issue, and I am very happy to be partnering with Senator Looney,” said state Representative Matthew Lesser (D-Middletown) said. “The National Popular Vote is about basic democracy and respect for our Constitution and the original intent of its framers.”
The purpose of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is simple: its enactment would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally.
Under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, once it goes into effect the states therein choose to allocate their electoral votes to the candidate who garners the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact takes effect only when enough states sign on to guarantee that the national popular vote winner wins the presidency. This means that states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes—a majority of the Electoral College—must join the compact for it to take effect.
To date, 11 American states possessing 165 electoral votes have approved the interstate compact, which represent 61 percent of the 270 electoral votes necessary to activate it. Connecticut’s neighboring states—New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island—have passed this bill.
The 11 states which have already enacted this legislation are physically, politically and geographically diverse: they include four small jurisdictions, three medium-size states, and four large states. The bill has passed—often with broad, bipartisan support—in a total of 35 legislative chambers in 24 different states. The state-by-state, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not set out in the United States Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention, nor was it discussed in the Federalist Papers. The Founding Fathers did not design the system of allocating electoral votes currently used in most states. Rather, the Founding Fathers established the Electoral College without any instructions on how states should use it. The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (all of which abandoned it by 1800).
A study of the evolution of the Electoral College notes that, during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the delegates said they “distrusted the passions of the people,” and particularly distrusted the ability of average voters to choose a president in a national election. The result was the creation of the Electoral College, a system that at that time gave each state a number of electors based on the size of its Congressional delegation. Because there were no political parties back then, it was assumed that electors would use their best judgment to select a president. The concept was that the electors would filter the “passions of the people” and provide a check on the public in case they made a poor choice for president.
“For the second time in the last five elections, we’ve elected a president who lost the popular vote,” said Common Cause in Connecticut Executive Director Cheri Quickmire. “And every year, voters in all but a few battleground states don’t have a real say in picking our president. It’s time to make a change to the winner-take-all Electoral College system that led to this anti-democratic outcome so that voters in all 50 states have a voice in our presidential election.”
“The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an elegant way to ensure that every vote cast for president matters equally, without having to abolish the Electoral College,” said Jonathan Perloe, a communications strategist living in Greenwich and member of the National Popular Vote Connecticut Working Group.
“National Popular Vote will make a vote in Connecticut as important as any other voter’s in any other state,” said Andrea Levien, a New Haven resident and Yale Law School student. “I am so excited that the General Assembly is considering this step to protect our interest in a meaningful vote.”