GOP Meddling With the Electoral College, Part 18: The National Popular Vote?

While I can’t speak specifically for my seven colleagues, I will anyway: I sense that the official LGM position on the Electoral College is “it sucks”. Yet we’re also a pragmatic enough bunch to recognize that the probability of the requisite constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College passing both houses and receiving support of 75% of the states is vanishingly small. This results in any reform necessarily retaining the underlying logic of the EC. We’ve discussed the problems with the Congressional district system at some length here recently. While we haven’t really touched on a pure state-level PR distribution, we did show some data that suggests a decent (e.g. Perot, Wallace) or even modest (Nader), third party challenge can throw the election to the House, and nobody wants that. Well, nobody here wants that.

This leaves the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Here is the one example of “if you can’t win outright, change the rules” schemes I can get behind lacking a constitutional amendment. It is not without its problems; the comments to this post leads of with an engaging game theoretic discussion on how state legislatures might back out at the last minute and swing the election. Indeed, I’m not even sure I’m entirely sold on it. But RNC committee member Saul Anuzis is:

“I think there’s a growing consensus that the winner-take-all system we’re currently under is a problem, that it’s not representative, that only a small number of states benefit, and that it needs to be changed”

All well and good, but if I’m a Republican and I’m trying to find the most efficacious means to rig the rules in the favor of the GOP, this is not necessarily the route I’d suggest. The Democratic candidate has won the plurality of the vote in five of the past six elections, and unless the Republicans shift their (now stereotyped) pitch as the party of middle and upper middle class white males, they’re operating at a disadvantage in the next couple cycles (a disadvantage that is not necessarily insurmountable, but a disadvantage nonetheless). However, if the RNC was to follow the lead of Anuzis and get behind this proposal, it shouldn’t be too difficult to enact.

Currently, eight states (HI, WA, CA, IL, VT, MA, NJ, MD) plus DC have the Compact on their legislative books for 132 EC votes. Incidentally, those nine “states” have gone for the Democrat 100% of the time in the past six elections and 92% of the time back to and including 1988 (CA, IL, VT, NJ, and MD were not part of the ‘Dukakis Ten’). If the six Red / Blue states (PA, WI, VA, OH, MI, FL) can be convinced to get behind it, that brings the EV total to 238, leaving only 32 votes required to make it law in the states that have adopted it. That’s Texas, with change to spare. I don’t see Texas adopting a law that could be argued to disenfranchise its solid Republican support in years a Democrat has the temerity to win, so perhaps NC, IN, and WV would be more likely. WV has a recent history of voting for Democrats and Republicans (though the foreseeable future it seems to be solid red), NC is now a legitimate swing state, and IN did vote for Obama in 2008 somehow. Those three are not enough; an extra EC vote found between couch cushions or the Dakotas somewhere. But it’s doable, and public opinion appears to be on side:

That said, there is polling evidence that GOP voters are become more interested in a national popular vote as 2000 fades into the distance and Democrats expand their reach into more swing states. A Gallup poll this month found 63 percent of respondents supported replacing the Electoral College with a national vote. But the big news was that 61 percent of Republicans now favor the change, a huge shift in support since 2000, when only 41 percent said they were were pro-popular vote. Even in 2011, only a slight majority of GOPers wanted to ditch the current system.

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