National Popular Vote

The national popular vote proposal is an interesting approach to changing the 222 year old way we elect US Presidents.The idea is to have a compact between states totally more than 50% of the electoral college. We would all agree that we would allocate all of our electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It’s implemented in SB 5599. Bill details here.

There is concern from many people that small states have disproportionate impact on the election of the president, and that some states (the “swing” states) are the only places that are paid attention to. For example a lot of sugar cane is grown in Florida and we consequently have import quotas on sugar cane. This causes us to use a lot of high fructose corn syrup in products in America instead of sugar, because it’s cheaper only due to the quotas.

These are real concerns. The proposal lays out a scheme that I believe would actually work to elect the president by direct popular vote. Nevertheless, I’m really concerned about changing something that has worked for 222 years. Winston Churchill spoke (more generally) about democracy by saying “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Speech in the House of Commons (194711-11)

I think we should be very, very careful about changing a system that, even with occasional hiccups, has done an amazing job of providing a stable government. America is an experiment in self government that worked.

The full experiment of a government democratical, but representative, was and is still reserved for us.” — Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1816

We have to think about the “representative” part. With the electoral college we are representative of small states. This was the great bargain between the small states and the large, the North and the South, the manufacturing and the agricultural. America is a very different place than it was 222 years ago, but I am not voting for this proposal yet. I may be more comfortable with the idea as more people think about it and write deep analysis of it, but for now I’m not comfortable enough to change something this fundamental in the American electoral system.