Inside Augusta

National Popular Vote fight not over yet

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Just last week, an amazing thing happened in the Maine House. Twenty-one Democrats joined all Republicans to defeat an attempt to get around the Constitution and the Electoral College. The final vote was 76-66.

For people new to this debate, here is what the so-called ‘National Popular Vote’ compact does. The presidential candidate who receives the popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be given the electoral votes of the states that approve the compact, regardless of for whom the people in that state voted.

This legislation takes effect only if enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes, that is, enough electoral votes to elect a president, which is 270 of 538. Nationally, the movement now stands at 189. Supporters need just 81 more.

Had this been in effect in 2004, Maine’s votes would have gone to George W. Bush, the popular vote winner, even though Mainers voted for John Kerry. In other words, if Maine votes differently than the rest of the country, our electors must still cast Maine’s votes for someone that Maine didn’t vote for. Maine’s voice will be silenced by results in larger, more urban states.

The nationwide National Popular Vote movement is a knee-jerk reaction to the 2016 election. It is an attempt by as few as 11 states to get around the Electoral College. The Framers of our Constitution designed a system that gave smaller states a form of representation that prevents larger states from walking all over them. This is why, even though representatives are apportioned based on population, every state has two Senators regardless of population.

What makes the Electoral College so valuable is that it is weighted to the population centers, but gives people in other states a voice in how they are governed. A candidate must have diverse support among the many interests across different states. If people want to elect their president solely through the popular vote, it should be done by amending the Constitution. Change the rules, rather than go around them. If this scheme is passed, it will lead to chaos.

Can you imagine the logistics, cost, and hysteria that would ensue if a national recount was necessary? Who can forget the recount in Florida after the 2000 presidential election? Image that chaos and uncertainty on a national scale. There is the issue of ballot integrity. If states only have power over their own electors, then they can’t stuff the ballot box to impact results in other states. Currently, if there is fraud in one state, it is less likely to affect the outcome.

Our founders established a system of checks and balances designed to protect everyone, especially minorities, from the tyranny of the majority. It is a result of compromise that brings people together for the good of the whole. If the National Popular Vote scheme succeeds, I have no doubt that it will result in a constitutional crisis that requires a ruling by the United States Supreme Court. That would mean more chaos.

Even though we won this vote in the House this past week, there is still danger that enough legislators will be pressed into changing their minds by progressive special interest groups from larger states. With this scheme, they want to give away our voice to those out-of-state interests.

The current system favors Maine and the influence of our citizens to impact the selection of a president. To abandon this system is to cede Maine’s voice to New York and California. The National Popular Vote is a bad idea for Maine and the country.

About Billy Bob Faulkingham

Rep. William "Billy Bob" Faulkingham is serving his first term in the Maine House. He represents the people of House District 136.

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