In a speech in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10, 1790, John Philpot Curran stated, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” The quote has been changed slightly and attributed to other people, but that is the original quote. That quote is particularly applicable right now as there are those (some in our government) who are blatantly attacking one of the pillars of our representative republic.
On July 6th, I posted an article about the Supreme Court decision regarding the requirement that electors in the Electoral College vote for their state’s popular vote winner. That decision was a win for the Constitution. However, that decision is not the last we will hear on the subject.
Yesterday The New York Sun posted an editorial noting the next attack on the Electoral College. Understand that the Electoral College is what stands between the representative republic we now have and mob rule. If you believe that New York, California, and a few other populous states are well run, then abolishing the Electoral College would allow those states to run the entire country. That is a scary thought.
The editorial notes:
Now that the Supreme Court has vouchsafed the power of a state to require its presidential electors to vote in line with their state’s popular vote, a new question glimmers in the constitutional mist: Could a state require its electors to vote against the wishes of the state’s own voters? That might seem a ridiculous question. Feature, though, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
It’s a workaround designed to commit the states to use the Electoral College to deliver the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote. It’s the first thing that came to mind when the Supreme Court today unanimously concluded that states have the power to punish faithless electors. Most justices credited the language in Article 2, which grants states the power to appoint electors.
The key phrase is that each state shall appoint its electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” The court, in an opinion by Justice Kagan, reckons this gives the states the power to attach conditions to the electors it appoints, such as the requirement that they vote for the candidate their home-state voters prefer. It can punish them if they don’t.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, though, is a scheme under which states agree to instruct their electors to ignore what their own state’s voters want and, instead, vote for the winner of the national popular vote. The compact goes into effect when it has been ratified by states whose combined electoral vote count is 270, i.e., enough to choose a president.
The editorial concludes:
The Journal (The Wall Street Journal) covers one caveat, which is that the Constitution forbids any state from entering any compact or other agreement with any other state absent the approval of Congress. That prohibition, the Journal warns, could spell heavy sledding at the Supreme Court were the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact ever enacted by enough states to put it into effect.
One reason all this has been on the boil in the past generation is that 2000 and 2016 were both years in which the Electoral College chose a president who’d lost the national popular vote — and, in Mr. Trump’s case, by a substantial tally. That may be the constitutional way of doing things, but it’s not surprising it produces a certain amount of sturm and drang.
So why not simply amend the Constitution to provide for electing presidents by the national popular vote? It seems that such an amendment wouldn’t stand a chance. The Democratic states like, say, New York and California may favor it. The compact, though, makes a mockery of the idea that America is, in part, a confederation of sovereign states. So the big test of whether the Supreme Court is committed to the Electoral College is yet to come.
If the electors in your state are going to vote for whoever gets the majority of the votes nationally, what is the point of your voting?