NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE COMPACT WILL ENSURE EVERY VOTE COUNTS

HOUSE BILL NO. 270

To my valued constituents,

I have decided after some deliberation to co-sponsor House Bill No. 270, and support Pennsylvania’s membership in the National Popular Vote Compact. I believe this is a necessary step on the way to ensuring a national election system that fairly and truly represents all Americans. As Americans, we hold the principle of one person, one vote to be one of our highest ideals of governance, and it is time we once again take a meaningful and confident step in the direction of realizing this ideal, just as we did with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and before then with passage of the 19th amendment. For too long, our presidential elections have been decided by a system that systematically disenfranchises intra-state minorities and determines a national election, in which all Americans should have an equal voice, on a state-by-state basis, in which the voices of political minorities within a state count for nothing.

          However, I recognize that some constituents will disagree and contend that the electoral college is a just system. So, I will try to address some of the arguments here.

          The first argument often proposed for the electoral college is that it empowers small states that would otherwise be overlooked by presidential candidates. However, if this was the aim of the current electoral system, it has failed miserably. Small states are still by and large overlooked by presidential candidates, who often focus their efforts on a small number of relatively large and competitive states. Barack Obama visited only eight states on the campaign trail in 2012, Mitt Romney only 10.

          The second and related argument is that the current implementation of the Electoral College protects rural minorities who would be disenfranchised by the popular vote. But the opposite is actually true. No state is a monolith of either rural or urban people, and voters from all different walks of life are present in any given state. For example, rural voters in California’s central valley, who often vote Republican, effectively count for absolutely nothing under the current system in which all 55 of California’s electoral votes go to whichever candidate gets a simple majority, which is usually the Democratic one. By contrast, under a popular vote system, the votes of these people would count for exactly the same as anyone else’s. Regardless of your race, lifestyle or state of residence, under a popular vote system, your vote will count for exactly the same amount as anyone else’s and will contribute directly to determining the final outcome.

The current system collapses this diversity of political interests within states and assumes in some ways that each state is a monolith, as all of a state’s electoral votes go to whichever candidate gets a simple majority, and the candidate who receives a minority of votes get none of them. The Electoral College does not prevent the problem of the “tyranny of the majority;” it just devolves this problem to the states and in many ways exacerbates it. I believe this is an injustice, and the best way to accommodate the diversity of the American electorate is to ensure that everyone’s vote counts equally.

          We are, at the end of the day, a country of individuals, and individuals should be the basis of our electoral system, not states. Arguments for the current system always rely on using states as the base unit for analysis instead of individuals. For this reason, I think the current electoral system is fundamentally indefensible.

          The third argument against the National Popular Vote Compact is a procedural one and does not purport to defend the current system. It is the argument that the Electoral College should be abolished through a constitutional amendment rather than changed through a compact between states. And while I find this argument valid, and would support such an amendment if it were proposed, states have it well within their constitutional power to decide how electoral votes will be apportioned. I believe the National Popular Vote Compact is our best chance at achieving an equitable system that accurately represents the will of the people, and I am proud to co-sponsor House Bill No. 270 for this reason. I also thank Representative Chris Rabb for being the primary sponsor and proponent of this legislation.

Representative Dianne Herrin

156th Legislative District