Thursday, February 5, 2009

Arkansas Legislators want to Devalue Your Vote!

by Brett Hooton

There is a bill which is now before the House which would dilute the power of your vote as an Arkansan. That is right. The Arkansas House of Representatives is actually considering a vote which would make your vote for President count less than it did in all of the past Presidential elections since Arkansas has been a state. Not only that, but our legislators are voting to undermine one of the founding principles on which our country was founded.

HB 1339 would require that Arkansas ’ Electors to vote for the Presidential Candidate who won the national popular vote instead for who Arkansans’ actually voted for. Get ready for Arkansas to matter even less to Presidential candidates. This act wouldn’t take effect unless a majority of the states (majority by electoral votes) approved this same language. At that point, why would a candidate care to come to Arkansas when he or she could spend all of their time in California , New York , and Florida where they are able to meet more voters in the same amount of time?

This is not a new issue. In fact it was debated by in the 1700’s when our Constitution was being created. There was a concern that the policies of this country would be dominated by the more populous states with little to no say being had by the smaller states. I’m not saying that all of the small states should have all of the power. It is a valid point that larger states should have more votes than smaller states and they do. But should we allow the South and the Midwest to be dominated by the coastal states of the West and East? While we may not have as many people, we provide products and services which are vital to this county (such as food!).

At the Constitutional Convention our Founding Fathers debated this issue. At the time the largest state in the Union was Virginia , and Virginia proposed that we everything should be based on population. However the smaller states, who wanted equal power, demanded that each state as a whole have equal influence. They compromised and created what was called the Connecticut Compromise. This compromise created the system we have today which dictates that the large states are not able to simply dominate the smaller states, however they still have a larger say due to their larger population. This is the reason we have the US Senate instead of just the US House of Representatives. If we’re going to get rid of the current system in the Electoral College then logic would suggest that we get rid of the US Senate too. After all it isn’t fair to New York and California that Arkansas has just as many votes as they do right?

What does this mean for Arkansans? Well it means your vote will not count as much if this law passes. In presidential elections Arkansans have a 1.12% say in who is elected President since we have 6 electoral votes out of a total of 538. However some of our Arkansas Legislators only want us to have a 0.82% say in who is elected President since our popular vote in the last election was that percentage of the total popular vote. This is a 27% reduction in voting power. Arkansas legislators should do what is in the best interest of Arkansans, and obviously that is to protect the value of our vote. The House will be voting on this today, so please contact your legislator, or all of them, and ask them to vote against HB 1339.


mvymvy said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

mvymvy said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill is currently endorsed by 1,246 state legislators — 460 sponsors (in 48 states) and an additional 786 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

The National Popular Vote bill has been endorsed by the New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Miami Herald, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sacramento Bee, The Tennessean, Fayetteville Observer, Anderson Herald Bulletin, Wichita Falls Times, The Columbian, and other newspapers. The bill has been endorsed by Common Cause, Fair Vote, and numerous other organizations.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in Arkansas (80%), California (70%), Colorado (68%), Connecticut (73%), Delaware (75%), Kentucky (80%), Maine (71%), Massachusetts (73%), Michigan (73%), Mississippi (77%), Missouri (70%), New Hampshire (69%), Nebraska (74%), Nevada (72%), New Mexico (76%), New York (79%), North Carolina (74%), Ohio (70%), Pennsylvania (78%), Rhode Island (74%), Vermont (75%), Virginia (74%), Washington (77%), and Wisconsin (71%).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 22 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


mvymvy said...

What the Founding Fathers said in the U.S. Constitution is "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, that the voters may vote and the winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote, and only 3 states used the winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state's electoral vote to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state). Since then, as a result of changes in state laws, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the winner-take-all rule is used by 48 of the 50 states.

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

mvymvy said...

The concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically “radioactive” in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

As of 2008, the National Popular Vote bill has been approved by a total of seven state legislative chambers in small states, including one house in Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by Hawaii.

Most of the medium-small states (with five or six electoral votes) are similarly non-competitive in presidential elections (and therefore similarly disadvantaged). In fact, of the 22 medium-smallest states (those with three, four, five, or six electoral votes), only New Hampshire (with four electoral votes), New Mexico (five electoral votes), and Nevada (five electoral votes) have been battleground states in recent elections.

Because so few of the 22 small and medium-small states are closely divided battleground states in presidential elections, the current system actually shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states. The New York Times reported early in 2008 (May 11, 2008) that both major political parties were already in agreement that there would be at most 14 battleground states in 2008 (involving only 166 of the 538 electoral votes). In other words, three-quarters of the states were to be ignored under the current system in the 2008 election. Michigan (17 electoral votes), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21), and Florida (27) contain over half of the electoral votes that will matter in 2008 (85 of the 166 electoral votes). There are only three battleground states among the 22 small and medium-small states (i.e., New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada). These three states contain only 14 of the 166 electoral votes. Anyone concerned about the relative power of big states and small states should realize that the current system shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in a handful of big states.

mvymvy said...

The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and that a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

Of course, the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely act in concert on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red” states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
● Texas (62% Republican),
● New York (59% Democratic),
● Georgia (58% Republican),
● North Carolina (56% Republican),
● Illinois (55% Democratic),
● California (55% Democratic), and
● New Jersey (53% Democratic).

In addition, the margins generated by the nation’s largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
● Texas — 1,691,267 Republican
● New York — 1,192,436 Democratic
● Georgia — 544,634 Republican
● North Carolina — 426,778 Republican
● Illinois — 513,342 Democratic
● California — 1,023,560 Democratic
● New Jersey — 211,826 Democratic

To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 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). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 votes for Bush in 2004.

Under a national popular vote, a Democratic presidential candidate could no longer write off Kansas (with four congressional districts) because it would matter if he lost Kansas with 37% of the vote, versus 35% or 40%. Similarly, a Republican presidential candidate could no longer take Kansas for granted, because it would matter if he won Kansas by 63% or 65% or 60%. A vote gained or lost in Kansas is just as important as a vote gained or lost anywhere else in the United States.

Although no one can predict exactly how a presidential campaign would be run if every vote were equal throughout the United States, it is clear that candidates could not ignore voters in any state. The result of a national popular vote would be a 50-state campaign for President. Any candidate ignoring any particular state would suffer a political penalty in that state.

mvymvy said...


A survey of 800 Arkansas voters conducted on December 15-16, 2008 showed 80% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

Support was 88% among Democrats, 71% among Republicans, and 79% among independents.

By age, support was 89% among 18-29 year olds, 76% among 30-45 year olds, 80% among 46-65 year olds, and 80% for those older than 65.

By gender, support was 88% among women and 71% among men.

By race, support was 81% among whites (representing 80% of respondents), 80% among African-Americans (representing 16% of respondents), and 68% among Others (representing 4% of respondents).


Nick said...

This is the scariest thing I have seen this session. I know that this sounds crazy, but this is an 1860 issue. This will divide our country in a tremendously harsh fashion and essentially put an end to our republic and usher in the tyranny of the Majority. Thanks for standing against it.

Anonymous said...

How could Arkansas count any less than it does today? I think every vote should be equal.