Newspaper column: National Popular Vote veto is right call

Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak rightly chose to stand up for his state instead of his party and vetoed Assembly Bill 186 — the ill-advised Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.

The bill landed on Sisolak’s desk after passing the Assembly and state Senate with every Republican voting in opposition and even five Democrats in the Assembly. It would have awarded Nevada’s six electoral votes — one for each representative and senator in Congress — not according to how Nevadans vote, but those six votes would have been awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

AB186 would have negated Nevada’s votes entirely since it would matter not for whom we vote. It would matter only how the populous states such as California and New York vote.

“Over the past several weeks, my office has heard from thousands of Nevadans across the state urging me to weigh the state’s role in our national elections,” Sisolak wrote in a press release explaining his first veto of the legislative session. “After thoughtful deliberation, I have decided to veto Assembly Bill 186. Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”

The Founders chose to elect presidents via an Electoral College rather than by popular vote to further the Federalist system in which each state is sovereign. They gave smaller states extra votes for each of its senators, just as every state sends two senators to Washington no matter its population. Until the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed the process to a popular vote, state Legislatures elected senators so the states could protect their sovereign powers from usurpation by Washington.

The National Popular Vote has already been approved in 14 states and the District of Columbia. That represents 189 electoral votes. The measure would be binding, though probably face a legal challenge, once states representing a majority of 270 out the 538 electoral votes join the compact.

Sisolak went on to say, “I recognize that many of my fellow Nevadans may disagree on this point and I appreciate the legislature’s thoughtful consideration of this important issue. As Nevada’s governor, I am obligated to make such decisions according to my own conscience. In cases like this, where Nevada’s interests could diverge from the interests of large states, I will always stand up for Nevada.”

Approval of the National Popular Vote probably would have turned Nevada into a state ignored by the candidates for president. On the day of the veto, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was campaigning in the Silver State. A baker’s dozen of the 20-odd Democratic presidential contenders have already visited here, some multiple times and more visits are scheduled.

One proponent of the measure was Battle Born Progress. Its executive director, Annette Magnus, was quoted by various news media as saying, “We are disappointed that Governor Sisolak chose this bill, of all bills this session, to be his first veto. AB186 was a chance for Nevada to move towards the principle of every individual person’s vote for President mattering in national elections. This compact agreement would have eliminated the perception that one’s vote doesn’t really count because one lives in a ‘red’ state or ‘blue’ state, which serves as a source of disenfranchisement for many voters.”

Similar bills came up in the Nevada Legislature in 2009 and 2017, but failed to pass.

If the National Popular Vote had been in force in 2000 Nevada’s then four electoral votes would have been enough to flip the election to Al Gore, even though George W. Bush won the popular vote in Nevada by 49.5 percent to 46 percent, winning every county except Clark. Bush won the electoral vote 271 to 266, but lost the popular vote by 540,000 nationally.

The instigation for the current push is the fact that in 2016 Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million. Clinton won by 4 million votes in California.

This country was not founded as a democracy. It was founded as a republic … if we can keep it, as someone once said. The governor’s veto is a move in the right direction to keep it.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper column: National Popular Vote would make Nevada voters irrelevant

The Nevada Assembly voted 23-17 this past week to cut the impact of your presidential vote by at least a third.

Assembly Bill 186 would have Nevada join something called the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” Instead of awarding Nevada’s six electoral votes — one for each representative and senator in Congress — according to how Nevadans vote, those six electoral votes would be awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

One could say this cuts the value of Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population. Or one could say it negates our votes entirely since it matters not how we vote.

Not a single Assembly Republican voted for the bill and five Democrats had the good sense to reject this attempt to emasculate the federalist system on which this country was founded.

If only three state Senate Democrats have the temerity to buck their party leadership and reject AB186 it would fail.

An email to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office asking whether he would sign or veto the bill should it pass did not garner a response.

Backers say the compact would become a reality if it is adopted by states possessing a combined 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the 538 electoral votes. A similar bill passed in Colorado earlier this year, giving the proposal 181 electoral votes, just 89 votes short of becoming binding.

A similar measure passed the Nevada Assembly in 2009 on a party-line vote but failed to come up for a vote in the state Senate.

The instigation for the current push is the fact that in 2016 Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million.

If the National Popular Vote had been in force in 2000 Nevada’s then four electoral votes would have been enough to flip the election to Al Gore, even though George W. Bush won the popular vote in Nevada by 49.5 percent to 46 percent, winning every county except Clark. Bush won the electoral vote 271 to 266, but lost the popular vote by 540,000.

Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Families for Freedom, mentioned just such a scenario in testimony opposing AB186.

“There are three dangers I’d like to mention with the National Popular Vote,” Hansen testified. “One is the National Popular Vote will potentially betray the voters of our own state. If our state voted for candidate A and the National Popular Vote winner was candidate B, our votes would be stolen from our desire and given to the National Popular Vote winner, betraying the voters in this state. I think there would be a lot of angry voters if they found out that that’s what happened.”

Hansen also noted there is no national authority for determining the accuracy of the National Popular Vote.

In his testimony, Jim DeGraffenreid, vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, pointed out Nevada is currently a battleground state, getting significant attention from national candidates. He said the state’s first-in-the-West caucuses provide opportunities for all Nevadans to participate.

“The Electoral College exists because the Framers of the Constitution believed that each state should matter in selecting the president,” DeGraffenreid testified. “It is designed to protect the smaller states like Nevada. To suggest that a state should disregard its own voters and instead follow the will of voters in some other state is the exact opposite of what the Framers intended.”

He said the bill could make Nevada voters irrelevant.

The Founders created the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate to assure the smaller populated states were not relegated to powerlessness in a one person-one vote system. The states were meant to be sovereign and to hold the powers not specifically delegated to the federal government.

The National Review pointed out in a recent article that using 2016’s turnout stats a candidate could have won 54 percent of the vote in 48 states, losing only California, New York and D.C., but if an opponent won 75 percent of the vote in just those three locales, a 451 to 87 electoral vote landslide would have turned into a popular-vote defeat to 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent — even though the voters in 48 states rejected that candidate.

Should Nevada surrender its presidential votes to California and New York?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Assembly bill would dilute the voting power of Nevadans

There is a bill pending in the Legislature that would — and we are not making this up — dilute the voting power of every Nevadan in presidential elections.

A passel of Democrats have hatched Assembly Bill 274 that would rope Nevada into the conspiracy to subvert the Constitution and deny the wisdom of the Founders by joining an “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” The change would take place when enough states join to constitute a majority of electoral votes.

The bill is to go before the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections at 1:30 p.m. today.

Currently the president and vice president team that wins the majority of votes in Nevada gets the state’s six electoral votes, one for each representative and senator in Congress. AB274 would have those six votes go to whoever wins the national popular vote. This essentially cuts Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population and exclude the power of our two senators.

Why would any sane person want to do that and let California and New York elect every president?

Yes, Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Donald Trump, but he won more state electors, which is what the Founders envisioned, because ours is a federalist system, not a democracy. The Electoral College provides more power to the states. (Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million. She won California by 4 million votes. So Trump won the combined popular vote in the 49 other states. What about that California secession movement?)

Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has joined the fray, calling the Electoral College undemocratic.

“I believe that focusing on the Electoral College is important no matter how you do it, because what’s happened this decade, these last several elections, where we have clearly two elections, the Gore election and this election. In this election Hillary Clinton will wind up getting almost 3 million votes more than Trump. It’s time the system goes away. It is very undemocratic,” Reid said in an interview. “And we have a number of states that have taken care of this. It doesn’t have to be done with a constitutional amendment. And I think people should join together and get rid of this. It is unfair that presidential elections are focused on seven states. It’s wrong.”

Pay no attention to the fact Reid served in the Senate for 30 years, where each state gets two votes no matter the size of its population. Most undemocratic.

 

 

Newspaper column: Why we have a federalism system, not a democracy

Someone buy these folks a civics textbook and maybe a Cliff Notes version of the Federalist Papers.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, but she lost the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. That is because the Electoral College is made up of 538 members — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia. (Look at it another way. Clinton won California by 4 million votes, but Trump won the combined popular vote in the 49 other states.)

This has prompted a number of people to call, again, for the abolishment of the Electoral College, which gives smaller states like Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and the like a disproportionate say in the presidential election, just as James Madison and the other Founders intended. They were looking for a compromise between the unitary government of England, in which all decisions flowed from the central government, and the Articles of Confederation that dispersed nearly all decisions to the states, weakening interstate commerce and a strong national defense posture.

They settled on a federalist system that granted enumerated powers to the people and the sovereign state governments, as well as the federal government.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way in Federalist Paper No. 68: “It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”

Despite this precaution, the electors were in fact subject to a flood of phone calls, emails and social media diatribes.

Joining this cacophony of voices wailing and moaning about the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College was Nevada’s own senior Sen. Harry Reid, who is retiring in less than a month after three decades representing tiny Nevada in the U.S. Senate and more than a decade as Senate Democratic leader.

Perhaps, someone should remind Sen. Reid that the Senate itself was created to provide all states with an equal number of representatives in the upper chamber — very undemocratic, indeed, just like the Electoral College. Both were created precisely to be undemocratic and protect the rights of the minorities and smaller states.

In Federalist Paper No. 62 either Hamilton or Madison, not sure which, stated, “The equality of representation in the Senate is another point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the opposite pretensions of the large and the small States, does not call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into one nation, every district ought to have a PROPORTIONAL share in the government, and that among independent and sovereign States, bound together by a simple league, the parties, however unequal in size, ought to have an EQUAL share in the common councils …”

Federalism, not democracy.

 A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Reid puts the ‘less’ in clueless

Harry Reid in interview with Buzzfeed.

Harry Reid in interview with Buzzfeed.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Harry Reid called the Electoral College “very undemocratic.”

“I believe that focusing on the Electoral College is important no matter how you do it, because what’s happened this decade, these last several elections, where we have clearly two elections, the Gore election and this election. In this election Hillary Clinton will wind up getting almost 3 million votes more than Trump. It’s time the system goes away. It is very undemocratic,” Reid said. “And we have a number of states that have taken care of this. It doesn’t have to be done with a constitutional amendment. And I think people should join together and get rid of this. It is unfair that presidential elections are focused on seven states. It’s wrong.”

Buzzed did not think those remarks worthy of being included in its online written account of the interview that appears on Facebook.

The 538 members of the Electoral College — one for each senator and representative from each state, plus the District of Columbia — are to convene on Dec. 19 to cast their ballots for the presidency.

The Electoral College was set up in order to provide more power to small states in selecting a president rather than allowing the more populous states to hold sway.

Even small states get three Electoral College votes even though proportionally by population they would get only one. Thus, states like Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas get one elector for each representative in Congress and each senator.

Perhaps, someone should tell Harry Reid, who has been in the Senate for 30 years, that the Senate was created to provide all states with an equal number of representatives in the upper chamber — very undemocratic. That is why the Electoral College was created, too, precisely to be undemocratic and protect the rights of the minorities and smaller states. It is a federalist system, not a democratic one.

Reid shortly after the election:

Perhaps, instead, we should repeal the 17th Amendment.

Why would Trump rail against the Electoral College?

 

sqibOK, President-elect Trump isn’t as big an idiot as the morning paper would have you believe.

According to a squib atop page 13A, attributed to the AP:

Just two days before Election Day, Republican businessman Donald Trump tweeted: “The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy.”

As it turns out, without the Electoral College, Trump probably wouldn’t be the president-elect.

A day after Election Day, Clinton held a narrow lead in the popular vote, according to unofficial results tallied by The Associated Press. With nearly 125 million votes counted, Clinton had 47.7 percent of the vote and Trump had 47.5 percent.

Yes, it looks like Clinton is likely to become the second Democratic presidential candidate this century to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College tally.

So, why would Trump rail against wining three Electoral College votes from states like Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas — one for each representative in Congress and each senator — instead of the one he would have received if only the popular vote counted?

He didn’t.

Yes, the tweet did go out on Nov. 6, but on Nov. 6, 2012, Election Day. Why he did it then is still a question since Obama won both the popular and electoral vote count.

tweet

Someone should ask him what he thinks now.

Oh, and why are the words “astonishing victory” and “stunning” in the ledes of the two AP stories on the front page? Astonishing and stunning to whom? The voters? The media? Is that news or opinion?