Senator Sylvia Allen on National Popular Vote

Senator Sylvia Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I am getting a lot of email about the National Popular vote asking me to change the way the electoral college works in our state.  How the Electoral votes are appropriated is only one of two of the powers the state Legislators have been given in the US Constitution.  The other is Article V which allows the states to propose amendments to the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote debate is picking up steam since Trump does not have a majority of the total national vote when adding up all votes cast in each state.  Some of the argument is that voters feel their vote does not count and that if your state is not part of the battleground states you are at a disadvantage.  One email said, “I’m tired of hearing that Ohio and Florida are the only states that matter in presidential elections.  What about Arizona?  Our votes should count too…”

I took a very hard look at this issue last session.  I read the National Popular Vote manual and had many discussions with legislators and my constituents.  Here is how I reasoned it out in my mind from the discussions that were held last year, from what I studied and read, and from my understanding of our government.

This national government was created by the states.  Sovereignty is held by the states.  The way to look at the Electoral College is that it is the States electing the president by the majority vote of the people who live in each state.  As in every election cycle, the President is elected by a majority of each state’s electoral votes, which means the majority vote cast by the people in their respective states elected the President by their electoral votes going for that candidate.  When you think about it, this is the way we preserve Federalism.  Looking at the map in any election you will see that the majority of the states, by the majority vote of their citizens, did elect the President.  Arizona did elect the president by the majority vote of our citizens, which means Arizona does count.

A true popular vote will only mean that highly populated states would prevail and the smaller states would not have a voice in the election which would mean that the citizens in those states would be at a disadvantage.

This nation was founded as a Republic using democratic processes to elect our leaders, but we are not a true Democracy.  We are a nation ruled by law the federal and state constitutions. Educating our citizens on the founding principles is so important, as our Founders said, that without it we will not remain free.

Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen serves as President Pro Tempore in the Arizona State Senate. She is a native Arizonan representing Arizona’s 5th Legislative District.


Comments

  1. Excellent argument in favor of leaving the Electoral Collage in place for the very reasons our founding fathers intended. This last election should make it very clear to those thinking that a National Popular Vote is a good thing as Hillary would have been elected by New York, Illinois and California and the rest of us would be blocked out.

    • Susan Anthony says:

      Now, a presidential candidate could lose despite winning 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

      With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only 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!

      But the political reality is that the 11 largest states, with a majority of the U.S. population and electoral votes, rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have included five “red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

      In 2004, among the 11 most populous states, in the seven non-battleground states, % of winning party, and margin of “wasted” popular votes, from among the total 122 Million votes cast nationally:
      * Texas (62% Republican), 1,691,267
      * New York (59% Democratic), 1,192,436
      * Georgia (58% Republican), 544,634
      * North Carolina (56% Republican), 426,778
      * California (55% Democratic), 1,023,560
      * Illinois (55% Democratic), 513,342
      * New Jersey (53% Democratic), 211,826

      To put these numbers in perspective,
      Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes).
      Utah (5 electoral votes) generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004.
      8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfm6O1Fm14w

    • Susan Anthony says:

      Under National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would matter in the state counts and national count.

      The bill would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
      All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

      The bill would give a voice to the minority party voters for president in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the presidential candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

      In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

      And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state, are wasted and don’t matter to presidential candidates.
      Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004.
      Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes).
      8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

  2. Susan Anthony says:

    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.”

    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 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    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, including Arizona, and their voters are politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

  3. Susan Anthony says:

    A survey of Arizona voters showed 78% overall support for the idea that the President should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    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

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    In Gallup polls since they started asking in 1944 until this election, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states) (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote for President has been strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    The National Popular Vote bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to choose how they award their electoral votes for President, in any way they want. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

  4. Randy Pullen says:

    I agree with Sylvia Allen. We live in a republic and not a democracy. The founders recognized at the time that each state had a choice to make and would not agree to join if the more populous rural states dominating the new government. Why we have 2 senators per state and two houses in congress. Trump won 31 states and Clinton 18 states and the District of Columbia, with Maine splitting between the two candidates. This was an overwhelming win by President elect Trump. Maybe if Hillary had spent more time on the campaign trail and visited Wisconsin, Michigan ,Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida she might have had a different result.

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