Why Minnesota deserves National Popular Vote

  • Article by: JOHN LESCH and PAT GAROFALO
  • Updated: March 27, 2014 - 6:10 PM

Opponents mislead the public on plan’s constitutionality and demographics.

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Recently, opponents of National Popular Vote (NPV) have disseminated misleading, irrelevant and completely incorrect statements (“Lobbyists target Electoral College,” March 16).

For those unfamiliar with the bill, a national popular vote system would elect the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states. Participating states would agree to award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the overall popular vote. The compact would take effect when the participating states control a majority (270) of the Electoral College votes, which is constitutionally required to elect the president.

This system is supported by a large majority of Minnesotans and Americans alike, because it appeals to an ideal we all believe in: every vote should count equally in our elections.

Opponents argue that National Popular Vote is an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Constitution, suggesting that the bill itself is unconstitutional. They are either unaware of what the Constitution says or are deliberately attempting to mislead others. Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution states clearly that each state prescribes the manner in which its electors are awarded. Thus, National Popular Vote is not unconstitutional, and neither does it eliminate the Electoral College, which would remain intact along with each state’s sovereign constitutional authority.

Opponents further mislead the public when they state that the current system has made Minnesota a player. In the last presidential election, the Romney and Obama campaigns made 251 of their 253 post-primary campaign visits, and spent 98 percent of their campaign ad money, in just 10 states, leaving Minnesota and 39 other states on the outside looking in. Our presidential campaigns have turned into a battle for “swing states,” whereas states that are perceived a “lock” for one party or the other get left out. National Popular Vote would ensure that every vote in our next presidential election matters — in every state.

It’s surprising that opponents neglect basic population information in arguing that, under National Popular Vote, presidential candidates are likely to ignore smaller, more rural cities, focusing instead on large, population-dense cities such as Chicago or San Francisco. Only 19 percent of the U.S. population lives in the nation’s 50 largest cities. No successful candidate ignores 81 percent of his or her district, and no statewide candidate campaigns exclusively in metro areas. To get to 50 percent plus one, presidential candidates will have to reach out to a broad and diverse area of the electoral map.

Perhaps most disturbing is the assertion that proponents of National Popular Vote are engaged in secrecy and attempting to move a bill forward under the public’s radar. On the contrary, the National Popular Vote bill has been the subject of multiple public hearings, one floor vote and multiple public media appearances.

It is also our understanding that groups opposed to National Popular Vote have ignored multiple invitations to engage in a public debate on this issue. It would seem that if such groups were so confident in their position, they would jump at the chance to make their case in an open forum. This invitation remains open, and we hope they will one day accept.

Minnesota should enact the National Popular Vote plan to ensure that our state has an equal voice in the process of electing our president. We hope all parties will engage in a meaningful discussion of this issue. “Swing state” status should not dictate whether our president is weighing our concerns equally with voters of other states. This plan ensures that every vote in every state matters in every presidential election, all while preserving our state’s constitutional right to award electors as we see fit. It is time to make this change in the best interest of Minnesotans.

 

John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, and Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, are members of the Minnesota House. They are authors of HF0779, a bill to enact National Popular Vote.

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