On a party-line vote, the Democrat-dominated Nevada Assembly on Tuesday backed a bill designed to neuter the 538-member Electoral College, guaranteeing the presidential candidate who wins the national popular plurality will always be declared president.
The purpose of Assembly Bill 413 is to see to it that Nevada’s five electoral votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of which candidates carries the majority of Nevadans.
The scheme, being promoted by an outfit called the National Popular Vote, offers a way for states to circumvent the constitutionally required Electoral College, without going to the trouble of actually amending the Constitution.
National Popular Vote contends their plan would not go into effect until states with more than half the national electoral votes approve its provisions. So far, four states with 23 percent of the 270 electors needed to select the president have adopted the scheme.
What this is really all about, of course, is Democratic anger over the fact that, in 2000, George W. Bush won the presidency by capturing the majority of Electoral College votes, which are awarded state by state, even though Democrat Al Gore won more popular votes by sweeping the mendicant classes of inner-city New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Americans think they vote for a presidential candidate every four years. They actually vote for a slate of electors — the number equalling the size of their state’s delegation in Washington, slightly favoring smaller states.
Most states award their electors “winner take all,” though they don’t have to. Should California and New York award their electoral votes by congressional district, for instance (with only the final two chosen by statewide vote — the way Maine and Nebraska currently do it), those predictably solid blocs of Democratic electoral votes, now so dominated by Los Angeles and Manhattan, would fragment, throwing much of the Golden and Empire states back into play.
I wonder why the Democrats don’t do that.
In Carson City on Tuesday, ignoring such limited potential reforms, all 27 Democrats backed Assembly Bill 413, while all 14 Republicans opposed it. (Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, was absent.)
Imagine: some dangerous leftist who manages to sweep the gun-grabbing, welfare-addicted single moms of the nation’s eight or 10 largest cities would receive all Nevada’s votes, even if Nevada voters had rejected the guy 3-to-1 — providing even less reason for people in smaller states to go to the polls.
The proposed new law stipulates that Nevada’s chief election official would select as Nevada’s delegation those five electors selected by the nationally victorious party, in advance, as willing to vote for their candidate. The law stipulates no penalty for any elector who decides, as a matter of conscience, to cast a vote other than that to which he or she is “pledged.”
In 1972, for example, lawyer and television producer Roger MacBride became an elector from the state of Virginia, because he had put his name forward as a member of the slate of electors committed to vote in the Electoral College for the Republican ticket of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
But elector MacBride did not cast his vote for Nixon and Agnew. He cast his vote for the Libertarian Party ticket of USC philosophy professor John Hospers and Oregon radio and television producer Theodora Nathalia “Tonie” Nathan, who thus became the first woman (and a Jewish woman, at that) ever to receive an Electoral College vote.
Far from being fined or imprisoned, Roger MacBride himself became the presidential nominee of the fledgling Libertarian Party in 1976.
“If this measure passes, then there is no use for states like Nevada,” warned Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, last week. “New York, California, Texas and Florida will elect the president.”
But Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, a retired high school teacher from Northern Nevada, said he is troubled by the Electoral College.
“The Electoral College is not working and has not worked for some time,” said Anderson, D-Sparks. “We are no longer riding around on horses. All the people of the United States should vote for the president.”
In fact, the Electoral College seems useless today simply because no one has bothered to use it.
The Nevada Legislature, for instance, would be well within its rights to place on Nevada presidential ballots a slate of five distinguished senior statesmen listed as “noncommitted” electors. Should the majority of Nevada voters support this slate, and should the presidential election fall within a five-vote margin, our electors could then meet with the major parties, agreeing to deliver the presidency to that party which would agree to turn over all federal lands in Nevada to state control, or to pay every Nevadan a healthy annuity (plus a lifetime waiver of any requirement to file or pay personal income taxes) in exchange for the state’s acceptance of the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Or both.
This would be no different from the way horse-trading congressional Democrats delivered the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes in the toss-up election of 1876, in exchange for a Republican promise to end Southern “Reconstruction.”
Meantime, Mr. Anderson’s “no longer riding around on horses” line has become standard enough that it may finally be due a closer look.What else has been around “since we were riding around on horses” and thus — by Assemblyman Anderson’s lights — needs to be eliminated?
Our guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, association, and the press, in the First Amendment? How about our Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, and our Sixth Amendment right to be free of fines and imprisonment unless we’re unanimously convicted by a randomly selected jury of our peers?
Those all date from 1791, brothers. No motorcars or aeroplanes around back then. Everyone who could afford one was still “riding around on horses,” so I guess schoolteacher Anderson would raise no objection to ditching all those.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the books “The Ballad of Carl Drega” and “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com/ and http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/vin/