Popularity contest

Nevada Democrats spent much of last year crowing about their influence in the national presidential sweepstakes.

Then on Tuesday, Assembly Democrats inexplicably voted en masse to pass a proposal that would ensure they never achieve that level of importance again.

In January 2008, Nevada voters flocked to presidential caucuses, the first opportunity for a Western state to have an early say on White House hopefuls. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney et al spent plenty of time dropping in and out of the little Silver State, which drew unprecedented attention from the candidates and the national media. The caucus was preceded in November 2007 by a nationally televised Democratic Party debate at UNLV.

“By any measure, Nevada is significant,” crowed Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who headed Mrs. Clinton’s Nevada campaign.

So what in the world were Assembly Democrats doing this week when they all voted for AB413, which would award the state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the candidate who carries Nevada?

AB413 is part of a national effort to undermine the Electoral College. It won’t kick in until states with a total of 270 electoral votes are on board, ensuring that the winner of the popular vote also earns the electoral vote.

But it runs counter to Nevada’s interests. Say what you want about the Electoral College. It was devised by the founders to both shield the country from the dangers of a direct democracy — the whims of the mob, etc. — and to protect the interests of smaller states, who benefit slightly from the formula for awarding electors.

If the process envisioned by supporters of AB413 becomes reality, candidates will have little incentive to campaign outside the nation’s large population centers. Mr. Obama grinning and shaking hands in Elko? Forget about it.

It appears some Assembly Democrats are more interested in getting even for the 2000 election than in ensuring Nevada has some relevance in future presidential races. If you want to get rid of the Electoral College, amend the Constitution. Don’t push some back-door effort designed to appease those still gnashing their teeth over the election of George W. Bush.

Let’s hope common sense prevails in the state Senate and AB413 is taken out and shot.

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