National Popular Vote and the Company State

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Yesterday, Dan Yorke had Providence College Political Science Professor Joseph Cammarano on his 630AM/99.7FM WPRO show, discussing a variety of topics.  When I first tuned in, a caller was growing angry that the professor wouldn’t say for whom he intended to vote, and over the next hour or so of sporadic listening, I came to see how Cammarano might have inspired that response.  His bias came through, most notably in his drive for equivalence with Republicans whenever a caller brought up Democrats’ malfeasance.

One question that came out of nowhere was the professor’s opinion of the electoral college, and he clearly supports the efforts of states, including Rhode Island, to work around the Constitution with the national-popular vote movement.  In not so many words, he that it makes no sense — given our increasingly national culture — to have a system in which we think of states as states, regardless of their population.  That is, he thinks it’s obvious that states don’t have an equal standing of themselves, as political entities, necessitating that the votes of people in low-population states are weighted to give them greater balance against the national votes of people in high-population states.

When this topic came up a few years ago, I mainly thought of it in terms of politics and the calculation for Rhode Island.  After all, Democrats tend to do better in urban areas, so the General Assembly’s signing on to the national popular vote compact was a partisan act, not a representative one (as in advocating for the people whom one actually represents).  The reason Rhode Island gets no attention in national politics isn’t that we’re small; it’s that we’re one-sided.  Republicans have no chance, and Democrats don’t have to work for our electoral votes.  But the reality is that the national popular vote scheme would cut Rhode Islanders’ electoral sway in half.  Why would our representatives agree to do that?

Cammarano’s short statement was the first time I’ve considered this question since stumbling upon the idea of the “company state.”  I’ve been noting that certain cities and the whole state of Rhode Island are moving toward a civic business model in which government becomes the major industry, with incentive to import or create new clients for its services as justification for taking money away from other people in order to finance them.  As Rhode Island has long been learning, the flaw in this model is that the payers can simply leave, and the state is under constant risk that, due to recession or otherwise, people in other states will push back on the federal government’s subsidization of the scheme.

The electoral college, in other words, is one protection against having this “company state” model become truly national, such that municipal and state governments that rely on the compulsory transfer of wealth will be able to reach any wealth from sea to shining sea.



  • Mike678

    Good analysis.

  • toto

    Rhode Island, awarding all of its electors to the winner of the state, has NO sway.

    You’ve got it backwards. Rhode Island, awarding all of its electors to the winner of the state, makes it politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

    Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 80% of states and voters are ignored by presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

    State winner-take-all laws negate any simplistic mathematical equations about the relative power of states based on their number of residents per electoral vote. Small state math means absolutely nothing to presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, or to presidents once in office.

    In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

    In 2012, 24 of the nation’s 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

    The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

    Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

    Voters in states, of all sizes, that are reliably red or blue don’t matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

    Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

    Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

    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 the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation’s votes!

  • toto

    A survey of Rhode Island voters showed 74% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    The National Popular Vote bill would give a voice to the minority party voters 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).

    Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    When and where voters matter, then so do the issues they care about most.

  • ricon

    National Popular Vote = Permanent Democrat Liberal/Progressive/Marxist/Etc. Presidency.

    • toto

      From 1932-2008 the combined popular vote for Presidential candidates added up to Democrats: 745,407,082 and Republican: 745,297,123 — a virtual tie.

      In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

      Newt Gingrich summarized his support for the National Popular Vote bill by saying: “No one should become president of the United States without speaking to the needs and hopes of Americans in all 50 states. … America would be better served with a presidential election process that treated citizens across the country equally. The National Popular Vote bill accomplishes this in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with our fundamental democratic principles.”

      The bill was approved this year by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia and Missouri.

      On February 4, 2016 the Arizona House of Representatives passed the bill 40-16-4.
      Two-thirds of the Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Arizona House of Representatives sponsored the National Popular Vote bill.
      In January 2016, two-thirds of the Arizona Senate sponsored the National Popular Vote bill.

      On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 28–18 margin.

      On March 25, 2014 in the New York Senate, Republicans supported the bill 27-2; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party by 26-2; The Conservative Party of New York endorsed the bill.
      In the New York Assembly, Republicans supported the bill 21–18; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative party supported the bill 18–16.

    • toto

      The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressman John Buchanan (R–Alabama), and former Senators Birch Bayh (D–Indiana), David Durenberger (R–Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R–Utah).

      Supporters of the National Popular Vote bill include former Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA)

      Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the National Popular Vote plan would not help either party over the other.

      The Nebraska GOP State Chairman, Mark Fahleson.

      Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State

      Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:”A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College.”

      Some other supporters who wrote forewords to “Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote” include:

      Laura Brod who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

      James Brulte the California Republican Party chairman, who served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

      Ray Haynes who served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

      Dean Murray was a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

      Thomas L. Pearce who served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

  • drquantum

    Utterly stupid. You actually think that smaller states would be MORE likely to be visited by presidential candidates in a National Popular Vote? You must be smoking some of that weed from Colorado. If we went to a National Popular Vote, the ONLY thing that would matter is the urban centers. Win them and you win the election. NPV would make the problem (if there is one) FAR, FAR greater.

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