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Like many people, I've been thinking a lot about the Electoral College, and more specifically the "National Popular Vote" movement, and a disturbing/terrifying idea occurred to me.…
For those who don't know, there is an ongoing effort to getting states to agree to allocate their electors to the winner of the national popular vote provided that enough other states agree to ensure the NPV winner would get the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
I like the approach of hacking the Electoral College, since actually eliminating it would require a constitutional amendment that would be much more difficult to pass. But it is probably doomed to failure since there is not a good incentive for enough states to sign on.
The 196 EVs in the states that have already signed on are solidly blue states with large populations - precisely those whose voters are most disenfranchised by the electoral college. While bills are pending in states with another 64 EVs, it's hard to see how they reach 270.
The problem is that solidly red states - at least with the current state political alignments - like the electoral college since it favors their preferred candidates.
And the purple swing states (PA, WI, MI, AZ, MN, VA) - who might be more politically inclined to support the measure - have the most to lose, since in effect presidential elections are already decided by their voters alone. So I got to wondering how one might persuade them.
Here's an idea: what if blue states w/225 electoral votes said they were creating a new compact that would award its elector votes not to the national popular vote winner but to the winner of the vote in those states alone?
If states thought there was any chance that this effort might succeed they'd have a huge incentive to join in, since the alternative would be having your votes for president rendered completely irrelevant.
I don't see how this violates the Constitution - according to my lawyer friends states have broad latitude to allocate their electors how they see fit. If California wants to award electors based on how Rhode Island votes, it is within their purview.
But of course if the blue states started doing this, I'm sure the red states would follow, and they'd then be competing to lure states in to their group - maybe with even bolder incentives than just being in the group that picks the next president.
Maybe the blue states could say to PA, MI and WI that their votes would could twice for a few elections or red states could just let Florida pick the winner (they basically do anyway).
This may seem farfetched. But why? There's actually a fair amount of support for the National Popular Vote Compact, and my idea - lets call it the 270 Compact - is better for all the states that participate since it increases the value of everyone involved's vote.
I find the idea of truly hacking the Electoral College in this way terrifying. If anyone actually succeeded in doing it - or even came close - it would lead to a massive political crisis. It's impossible to imagine that the excluded states would let this stand in any way.
I don't know if they'd have legal recourse - it seems constitutional to me - but they'd be sure to cause political chaos, the only possibly resolutions to which would be secession ... or actually abolishing the Electoral College.
Of course the situation I've described where states conspire in advance to give themselves exclusive power to elect the President isn't that far off from what actually happens with the Electoral College today - and people tolerate this.
But I suspect that launching an organized, explicit, legally binding effort to formally hack the Electoral College would clarify its intrinsic problems for people, and, who knows, maybe it would lead to reform.
Of course it might also lead to one of the biggest political crisis we've ever faced -- but we're already in the middle of a full-on political crisis brought on by the Electoral College, so I think it's worth a shot.
So, let's do this. Let's start a campaign for the 270 Compact - the first 270 EVs that commit are in, and everyone else has to watch us choose presidents from here on.
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