Silly reaction to Bush v. Gore [UPDATED]

Having taken part of July off, I am now back in the swing of things and anticipate more blogging in the weeks ahead !

Many voters, especially Democrats, were bothered that George W. Bush became President in 2000 despite Al Gore winning the popular vote (never mind that both candidates knew the rules and presumably geared their campaigns to win the electoral college vote, not the popular vote). Massachusetts is poised to join a group of states that have passed laws stating that their electoral vote will go to the popular vote winner, with legislation awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The national popular vote movement is one in a long line of attempts to change the electoral college system, and is set to take effect only when states with a majority of electoral votes have passed an enabling law. Currently, states with 61 of the required 270 electoral votes have passed such a law.

I think this is in direct opposition to the system set up by the Constitution, where each state is assigned a number of electoral votes equal to the number of Congressmen (Senators plus Representatives) and makes its own rules to select electors who vote in the electoral college that elects the President. As nearly all states have a winner-takes-all system where the popular vote winner in a state gets all of its electoral votes, this system limits the ability of a few very populous states with a large fraction of the population from dominating the Presidency.

A national popular vote law would have several delicious ironies for Massachusetts. Under the law, Massachusett’s votes could go to a Republican who wins the popular vote, even if Massachusetts stays true blue! Another was highlighted in my recent letter to the editor of the Boston Globe:

GOVERNOR PATRICK is poised to sign a law requiring that Massachusetts’ electoral votes for president will go to the nationwide popular vote winner.

How ironic is that? This law was passed by the Legislature, not by a popular vote.


Well, I certainly didn’t expect more comments on this post than any other, to date ! They come from one poster, mvymvy, who has a lot to say about the national popular vote movement. I deleted some of his comments since I prefer posts and comments with some originality. You can follow the link to see more of his views.

The merits of a national popular vote (NPV) compared to our current system are debatable. Here are two articles against NPV from and James Taranto (Best of the Web). The NPV website makes its own case.

What is not debatable is that this movement started in response to the 2000 presidential election. What is also not debatable is that NPV makes an end run around the plain notion that a state controls how its presidential votes are apportioned. Whether that is constitutional or not, it certainly subverts the federalist spirit of the US government as laid out by the Founding Fathers. It could enable the tyranny of the majority that our system of checks and balances (mostly) avoids.

As big a change to our government as NPV should be the subject of a constitutional amendment, which requires more than a simple majority to enact. The artifice employed by NPV that would only require passage by states with a simple majority of electoral votes is antithetical to our system of government. It is one of a piece with legislative tactics that seek to ram legislation through on partisan votes with no respect for the minority view.


2 Responses to “Silly reaction to Bush v. Gore [UPDATED]”

  1. mvymvy Says:

    A survey of 800 Massachusetts voters conducted on May 23-24, 2010 showed 72% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States 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 was 86% among Democrats, 54% among Republicans, and 68% among others. By gender, support was 85% among women and 60% among men. By age, support was 85% among 18-29 year olds, 75% among 30-45 year olds, 69% among 46-65 year olds, and 72% for those older than 65.

    Massachusetts voters were also asked a 3-way question:

    Do you prefer a system where the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states on a nationwide basis is elected President, or one like the one used in Nebraska and Maine where electoral voters are dispensed by Congressional district, or one in which all of the states electoral votes would be given to the statewide winner?

    The results of this three-way question were that 68% favored a national popular vote, 16% favored awarding its electoral votes by congressional district, and 16% favored the existing statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of a states electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).


    With National Popular Vote, votes cast in Massachusetts for the Republican presidential candidate will be counted towards his or her national total. Republican votes for president will matter and be counted in blue states and Democratic votes will matter and be counted in red states.

    Most voters don’t 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 counted and mattered to their candidate.

  2. mvymvy Says:

    State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes were eventually enacted by 48 states AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, .

    The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 60 ballots for choosing a method): “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.”

    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 rule) 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, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

    In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all rule to award electoral votes.

    There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all rule.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the 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 rule is used by 48 of the 50 states.

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