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.

Governor vetoes National Popular Vote scam

In a shocking outbreak of common sense, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has vetoed the Democrat-pushed National Popular Vote compact that would have given all of Nevada’s six electoral votes for president to the winner the popular vote nationally — Assembly Bill 186.

“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 writes in a press release. “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. 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.”

Nevada would have been ignored.

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.

Newspaper column: Bill could dilute Nevada’s presidential voting power

There is a bill pending in the Legislature that could have the effect of diluting the state’s voting power in presidential elections.

Assembly Bill 274 would rope Nevada into a compact 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 voters would be awarded to the president and vice president team that wins the popular vote nationally.

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.

The change would take place when enough states join the compact to constitute a majority of electoral votes, which is 270 of the 538 electoral votes. Thus far enough states have signed on to constitute about 165 electoral votes. But because it is a compact, Congress would have to agree to it as well.

The Constitution leaves it up to each state’s Legislature to decide how to award its electoral votes. Currently all but two states — Maine and Nebraska — award all their electoral votes to the statewide winner. Maine and Nebraska award two electoral votes — equal to the number of its senators — to the statewide winner, but award one electoral vote to the winner in each congressional district.

AB274 went before the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections recently.

Scott Drexel, one of the backers of the popular vote compact, told lawmakers, “The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The short comings of the current system of electing the president stem from state winner-take-all statutes, that is state laws that award all electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state. The winner-take-all rule has permitted five of our 45 presidents to come into office without having won the most popular votes nationwide.”

Popular vote advocate Saul Anuzis argued before the committee that the current system results in candidates concentrating their campaigns in so-called battleground states instead of trying to sway the most voters nationally.

In response, Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks noted that in 2016 Nevada was indeed a battleground state. He pointed out Nevadans donated $6.7 million to presidential campaigns, but those campaigns spent $55 million in Nevada, netting substantial revenues for state media outlets and other businesses.

But Anuzis suggested that Nevada may be a fleeting battleground state. It has supported Democrats in the past three presidential elections and backed Bill Clinton twice before siding with George W. Bush twice.

Yes, Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Donald Trump, but he won more state electors, which is what the Founders envisioned. (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 rest of the nation.)

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.

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.

The Founders established the nation on a federalist system, not a democracy. Certain enumerated powers were assigned the federal government while the rest were reserved to the states and the people. That is why they created the Senate and — until 1913’s 17th Amendment — had state Legislatures pick their senators. That is why the Electoral College gives added weight to smaller states.

If Nevada wishes to assure greater attention and provide a chance for candidates to win votes here, we could adopt a system like that in Maine and Nebraska.

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.