Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rep. Jones: Changing the Electoral College Should Only Be Done After Careful Consideration

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) was recently asked to weigh in on the question of whether the U.S. President should be elected by national popular vote, rather than the Electoral College. This column ran in the Globe North section of the Boston Globe on Sunday.

Altering something as important as the way we elect a president should rightfully be done through a Constitutional amendment. The Electoral College has served the country well since its inception. If we are to make any changes to it — and jettisoning it ought not be one of those — we should do so only after careful consideration.

National popular vote advocates have been trying to circumvent this process by getting states to join a multi-state compact. Since 2007, 10 states and the District of Columbia have joined, pledging to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who carries the national popular vote. Together, they account for 165 electoral votes, 105 short of the 270 needed for the compact to be implemented.

When Massachusetts joined the movement in 2010, proponents claimed it would make the state more relevant during presidential elections. Choosing the president by national popular vote would not necessarily increase Massachusetts’s clout during a presidential campaign. In fact, an argument could be made that it would actually disenfranchise many voters.

In his 2008 Cato Institute analysis, “A Critique of the National Popular Vote Plan for Electing the President,” author John Samples warned of such a scenario, noting that “[National popular vote] will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidates will continue to be ignored under NPV.”

There could be other unintended consequences for Massachusetts. Let’s say Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. On Election Night 2016, Clinton could carry Massachusetts by a wide margin, but if Trump wins the national vote he would receive all of Massachusetts’ 11 electoral votes.

The United States is a geographically diverse country, and the Electoral College reflects that by allocating two electoral votes to each state, and the remaining electoral votes based on population. This helps to ensure that all states – large and small – have a role in the process.

As an alternative to the national popular vote compact, we should do what Nebraska and Maine do and award two electoral votes to the popular vote winner, and our remaining electoral votes to the winner in each of the state’s Congressional districts. Such a change could encourage more competitive races without undermining the Electoral College and while respecting our Constitutional process.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rep. Dooley: Nebraska and Maine’s Hybrid Model for Electing President a ‘Reasonable Solution’

Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) wrote the attached column for the Boston Globe in support of creating a hybrid model for electing the President similar to what Nebraska and Maine already use. This column ran in the Globe West edition on Sunday.

For the past few years there has been a movement afoot to do away with the Electoral College in favor of electing our president simply by popular vote.

At face value, this might seem to create a simple and streamlined approach to electing our president, but in reality it will serve to minimize the voice of residents in lower-population states such as Massachusetts.

By oversimplifying the electoral process, candidates would concentrate their time and resources on the most populous states.

A more reasonable solution, not requiring a constitutional amendment, would be to revamp the Electoral College and create a hybrid model similar to the versions Nebraska and Maine have installed in recent years.

This hybrid method takes into account the popular vote by automatically awarding the overall state winner the two electoral votes the state gets from having two senators.

More importantly, this model increases the importance of congressional districts by having their electoral votes go to the top vote-getters in those districts, as opposed to the statewide winner-take-all method utilized in 48 states. Switching to it might put some of Massachusetts’ nine other electoral votes in play.

This hybrid method would have a very positive effect for a diverse state such as Massachusetts.

Currently we are considered a safe state for the Democratic Party, so neither candidate spends much time trying to garner support among average voters. Campaign stops in Massachusetts are done solely to fill the candidate’s coffers by meeting with the ├╝ber rich rather than to hear the concerns and hopes of the majority of voters.

In addition, I believe this will help spur debate and participation in the electoral process. Instead of the nightly news calling Massachusetts 30 seconds after the polls close, the votes will need to be counted. If a candidate’s message is able to resonate with a particular region, he or she would have the ability to win the vote of that particular congressional district. Citizens would no longer feel hopeless and disenfranchised because their votes did not matter.

The goal is for more people to become engaged and active in our political process. Having presidential candidates spend time and resources in the Commonwealth will enhance the political process and make Massachusetts more relevant in the presidential election.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rep. DeCoste: Repeal the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact for Presidential Elections

Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell) wrote the attached column for the Boston Globe in support of retaining the Electoral College system for U.S. Presidential elections and repealing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This column ran in the Globe South edition on Sunday.

In August 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation making Massachusetts the sixth state to sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact is designed such that once the combined electoral votes of the signatory states reaches 270, those states pledge their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. As of today, 10 states plus the District of Columbia with a combined 165 electoral votes have passed legislation supporting the compact.

In 2000, the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore, halting a recount in Florida that had Bush leading by a 537-vote margin. That marked the fourth election in US history in which the eventual winner failed to win the popular vote. Nationwide, Gore received 543,895 more votes than Bush.

In 2004, fewer than 60,000 voters in Ohio could have carried that state for John Kerry over George W. Bush, sending Kerry to the White House despite losing the national popular vote. If the compact was in force, electors from Massachusetts would have voted for the winner of the nationwide popular vote, George W. Bush, despite 62 percent of the Massachusetts vote supporting Kerry.

The compact guarantees a legal challenge. The Constitution prohibits agreements among states without the consent of Congress. A losing candidate would appeal, initiating another election result decided by a Supreme Court majority.

Are these the outcomes Massachusetts citizens want?

The intent of the Founding Founders in constructing the electoral framework was to insure that urban voters in a few states would not control presidential elections.

Although I would not support it, I believe citizens who seek to elect the president by popular vote should go the route of seeking a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College. Should they instead effect the interstate compact, we would have a hybrid system in which the compact states’ votes would be based entirely on the countrywide popular vote while non-compact states would vote as they do today.

I believe the presidential votes of our state should reflect the votes of our citizens. I support repeal of the compact legislation.