Monday, May 20, 2019

OCPA column: There’s good reason for Oklahomans to like the Electoral College


There’s good reason for Oklahomans to like the Electoral College
by Jonathan Small

If you think the problem with presidential elections is that too much importance is put on the opinions of people in places like Oklahoma, and not enough weight placed on the views of people in San Francisco, then liberal activists have a deal for you: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV).

Under the Electoral College established in the U.S. Constitution to determine the winner of presidential elections, each state has as many electoral votes as it has senators and representatives. The Constitution allows state legislatures to figure out how to select the electors who cast electoral votes. In Oklahoma and 47 other states, electors are chosen by statewide elections. In Maine and Nebraska, one is elected from each house district and the remaining two are elected statewide.

Under this system, if you run up margins in a handful of high-population states, but fare much worse across the rest of the country, you can “win” more raw votes nationwide but lose the Electoral College.

That’s what happened to Hillary Clinton. She received an outright majority in just 13 states, yet received nearly 2.9 million more votes nationally than did Donald Trump while losing the Electoral College. But Clinton won California by 4.2 million votes, which accounts for the entirety of her popular vote “win.”

Should doing well in one very liberal state negate the votes of citizens everywhere else? Some liberal activists think so and are pushing the NPV compact, which would require states to give their electoral votes to whoever receives the most votes nationally, regardless of state election results. Thus, the plan would nullify the Electoral College without changing the Constitution.

The Electoral College protects Middle America by containing elections at the state level and promoting geographic balance. And there are many problems with the NPV. Eliminating or nullifying the Electoral College would encourage splinter parties and spoiler candidates. It would reward states for having weak election laws, and create new opportunities for big-city vote fraud to influence presidential elections. (In 2017, the Election Integrity Project of Judicial Watch analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data. The results indicated 462 counties nationwide had voter registration rates that exceeded 100 percent of the adult population.) Most important for Oklahomans, it would shift political power toward the biggest cities and the population-dense coasts.

We can be thankful the U.S. Constitution sets a higher bar to win the presidency than just a raw vote plurality. The danger of regional politics and the benefits of decentralized elections are both real. The Framers of the Constitution designed a system that makes it hard for a party to win the White House based on support from just one region.

In other words, when Hillary Clinton lost, the system worked, and Oklahomans have good reason to defend it.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).

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