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It's a lesson to look at the presidential election map of 2004, that clamorous and nearly comic election year. Remember John Kerry walking into a hunting supply store: "Is this where I get me a huntin' license?" The Boston Brahmin goes all Mississippi when the cameras are on during a campaign.

But look at the map of that election, and the county-by-county vote. A body could drive from one end of the country to the other, and never go through a county that voted for John Kerry. And it doesn't matter where you start. You can drive from Maryland to Oregon. Or Florida to California. Or Texas to North Dakota. And you can stay in a red county the whole way. From ocean to ocean, from the Gulf to Canada.

John Kerry's counties? Impossible. You can't even drive down the coast of California and stay in all-blue counties. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.

John Kerry won the larger urban areas--just as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did. But the incumbent, George W. Bush, won three million more votes that year.

And that means that California's electoral votes would have gone to President Bush in 2004, if this National Popular Vote project was in effect.

Imagine that. A Republican taking California. Or a Democrat taking a deep-red state in Dixie. Not for winning the state, mind you, but because of this new-ish scheme to get around the Electoral College.

There's an effort on to skirt around the 232-year-old American way of electing presidents. The plan is to get states to require their electoral voters fall in line behind the candidate who gets the most votes nationally. In effect, the winner of the popular vote would win the Electoral College every time. Thus, President Al Gore in 2000, President Hillary Clinton in 2016. Funny, but the scheme would seem to help only Democrats on the national level. Also, it would make certain small states have less influence in presidential elections.

Nevada is the latest of these several states to send such a bill to its governor. And it's said the governor, with a "D" after his name, will indeed sign it. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. It would seem the Electoral College helps states exactly like Nevada, which would be ignored if it weren't a swing state. No accounting for taste. Or political savvy.

The mandate of giving all of a state's electoral voters to the national popular vote winner doesn't take effect until the number of states doing so reaches the magic 270 number. But more and more states are signing on. Dispatches say California, New York and Illinois are already onboard. Which means this effort should be taken seriously. That is, the opposition had better get serious.

This NPV scheme is a bad idea for a number of reasons. And not just because smaller states like Arkansas (and Nevada) would be overlooked if the popular vote was all that mattered.

Without an Electoral College, a number of people in multiple parties would be encouraged to run for president. The two-party system in place now would resemble more a European model. Smaller parties with no chance of gaining a national audience could campaign only in a few large cities, hammer a few urban issues, and gain a significant percentage of the vote. Even win! You think the current system has problems, imagine somebody with 25 percent of the vote becoming president after beating a field of 10. It's not un-American, it's not anti-American, it's French.

Candidates campaigning in LA and NYC, and maybe Chicago and San Francisco, might not have to have positions on, say, agriculture. Or hospital closings. Or the lack of high-speed Internet or access to public transportation or other issues that affect more rural precincts.

And if you thought the recount of 2000 was chaos, imagine if it hadn't been limited to Florida, but every state had its own recount. On second thought, don't imagine that. It might interfere with digestion.

The Founders wanted states to mean something. It's not a perfect system, but a better one hasn't been proposed.

When this idea was first proposed, way back in 2006, Pete Du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. In it, he noted: "In 2000, Al Gore won 677 counties and George W. Bush 2,434, but Mr. Gore received more total votes. Circumvent the Electoral College and move to a direct national vote, and those 677 largely urban counties would become the focus of presidential campaigns."

We can't stop larger states from trying to boost their influence. We can't even stop smaller states from helping them. But a warning to Arkansas' political establishment:

Just because Nevada jumps off a bridge, doesn't mean you have to follow.

Mama's old advice remains relevant.

Editorial on 05/23/2019

Print Headline: Bush takes California!

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Comments

  • 23cal
    May 23, 2019 at 8:33 a.m.

    "Counties"?
    Who cares about "counties"?
    Idiot editor puts the importance of "counties" above the will of the most people. You know, the majority of the citizens who are being governed.
    *
    How sad he would publicly push such specious reasoning; sadder yet there are people gullible enough to buy it.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:13 a.m.

    With the National Popular Vote bill, when every popular vote counts and matters to the candidates equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Pennsylvania and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn't be about winning a handful of battleground states.

    Fourteen of the 15 smallest states by population are ignored, like medium and big states where the statewide winner is predictable, because they’re not swing states. Small states are safe states. Only New Hampshire gets significant attention.

    Support for a national popular vote has been strong in every smallest state surveyed in polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

    Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 5 jurisdictions.

    Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 70-80% of states and voters are ignored by presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

    In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

    In 2012, 24 of the nation's 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

    The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

    Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

    Voters in states, of all sizes, that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:14 a.m.

    Winning counties, with wildly different population numbers, is not the basis for electoral victory

    "The reality is: Given our Electoral College and our current politics, national elections are decided in this country in a few precincts, in a few key swing states," former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
    The former secretary of DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen, echoed those comments– 3/21/18

    According to Tony Fabrizio, pollster for the Trump campaign, the president’s narrow victory was due to 5 counties in 2 states (not CA or NY).

    In 2012, under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), voters in just 60 counties and DC could have won in states with 270 electoral votes to elect the president in 2012 – even though they represented just 26.3% of voters.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:15 a.m.

    Anyone who supports the current presidential election system, believing it is what the Founders intended and that it is in the Constitution, is mistaken. The current presidential election system does not function, at all, the way that the Founders thought that it would.

    Supporters of National Popular Vote find it hard to believe the Founding Fathers would endorse the current electoral system where 38+ states and voters now are completely politically irrelevant.
    10 of the original 13 states are politically irrelevant now.

    Policies important to the citizens of the 38 non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    “Battleground” states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

    The Founders created the Electoral College, but 48 states eventually enacted state winner-take-all laws.

    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."

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:16 a.m.

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

    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 states where there was a popular vote, 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 1880s after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state. The Founders had been dead for decades

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

    States have the responsibility and constitutional power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond. Now, 38 states, of all sizes, and their voters, because they vote predictably, are politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:17 a.m.

    Why would someone assume the bill would seem to help only Democrats on the national level? There's no chance Republicans would have a candidate and policies that appeal to more American voters?

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.

    Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

    Almost all small and medium-sized states and almost all western, southern, and northeastern states are totally ignored after the conventions.

    Our presidential selection system has cut out 4 of every 5 people living in America from the decision. Presidential elections shrink the sphere of public debate to only a few thousand swing voters in a few states.

    The only states that have received any campaign events and any significant ad money have been where the outcome was between 45% and 51% Republican.

    Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:19 a.m.

    Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . . Now Blue Nevada is not expected to be a battleground state in the 2020 presidential general election campaign.

    Almost all small and medium-sized states and almost all western, southern, and northeastern states are totally ignored after the conventions.

    George Soros’ PAC as of Feb. 21, 2019 will invest $100 million in four 2020 swing states - Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

    A Trump supporting America First Action super PAC, as of May 9, 2019 is preparing to pour $250 Million into 6 states with expensive media markets and high numbers of electoral votes -- Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia, none of which has fewer than 15 electoral votes. The group’s leaders believe a Trump victory is virtually guaranteed in 2020 if he wins all six.

    Rasmussen Reports, 2/28/19 – believes only 46 electoral votes are in the Toss-up category- four states — Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, plus one congressional district, Nebraska’s Second (Omaha). The omissions that readers may find most surprising are Florida and Michigan. Much of the electoral map is easy to allocate far in advance: About 70% of the total electoral votes come from states and districts that have voted for the same party in at least the last five presidential elections.

    The Cook Political Report, as of Jan. 10, 2019, believes “There are just five toss up states, representing 86 electoral votes: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

    The Columbus Dispatch, as of Jan. 9, 2019, believes there will be “just seven states [with 105 electoral votes, where the winner is not predictable already] to allocate. Trump will be 66 electoral votes shy of re-election and the Democratic ticket will need 41 electoral votes to win back the presidency. The seven states are Arizona (11), Florida (29), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10).”

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
    "The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,"
    “The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

    Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

    Almost all small and medium-sized states and almost all western, southern, and northeastern states are totally ignored after the conventions.

    In the 2016 general election campaign
    Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

    Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country's population).

    In the 2012 general election campaign

    38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

    More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states.

    Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

    In the 2008 campaign, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA).

    In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

  • toto
    May 23, 2019 at 9:22 a.m.

    With the current system of electing the President, none of the states requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state's or district’s electoral votes.

    Since 1828, one in six states have cast their Electoral College votes for a candidate who failed to win the support of 50 percent of voters in their state

    If the current Electoral College type of arrangement were essential for avoiding a proliferation of candidates and people being elected with low percentages of the vote, we should see evidence of these conjectured outcomes in elections that do not employ such an arrangement. In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

    Since 1824 there have been 17 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.-- including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912 and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), Clinton (1992 and 1996), and Trump.

    Americans, generally, do not view the absence of run-offs in the current system as a major problem. If, at some time in the future, the public demands run-offs, that change can be implemented at that time.

    And, FYI, with the current system of awarding electoral votes by state winner-take-all (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with less than 22% of the nation's votes.

    A presidential candidate could lose with 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

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