This week, the California State Assembly will be voting on legislation to enter California into an interstate compact that would allow the state to participate in a change in how it would award its electoral votes. Rather than the current winner-take-all system which does not exist in the Constitution, California would agree to award its 55 votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Four times in our nation’s history, the winner of the national popular vote has not become President, and in fact, a switch of just 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would’ve elected John Kerry as president – even as George W. Bush had 3 million more votes.
As a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant, I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives, it is good for California, and it is good for America. Many conservative leaders including former California Senator Ray Haynes and former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson – an accomplished constitutional attorney, have also endorsed the compact. Republican leaders such as former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar and former Utah Senator Jake Garn are among strong supporters of National Popular Vote.
California is the largest and most diverse state in the country, and our economy, in spite of the Democrats hostile stranglehold on business, is still the 8th largest in the world. Yet, no presidential candidate bothers to court our votes because there is nothing to gain by listening to us during the campaign, nor is there much to gain by listening to us in the White House. Illegal immigration, water access, wild fires, and anything else that happens in California is of little concern to the occupant of the White House or anyone looking to replace him. We are a Spectator State while Ohio and Florida pick our president.
The impact is not just that other (Battle Ground) states are showered with goodies paid for by California taxpayers, it is also that our Republican infrastructure in the largest, most expensive state is eroding by the indifference of the national party and our presidential nominees. Opponents of National Popular Vote seem oddly worried that the change in the Electoral College would encourage Democrats to turn out votes in large urban areas – something they are already doing.
National Popular Vote does not side-step the Constitution, it preserves the State’s right to award its electors however it chooses, leaving the flexibility to participate in the compact or not. In fact, not even the professional National Popular Vote opponents question its constitutionality, because even they recognize that it is perfectly constitutional.
National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome. It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States. National Popular Vote’s chairman, businessman Tom Golisano, is a registered Republican and ran for governor three times as an Independent, to the right of Gov. George Pataki.
National Popular Vote is being sponsored by conservative legislators in many states around the country including Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. In New York, 22 of 27 Republican Senators voted in favor including 20 senators endorsed by the Conservative Party. In California, the bill is co-authored by the Republican Caucus Chairman Brian Nestande and has won the support of Senator Tony Strickland and Assemblyman Don Wagner, the co-chairs of the conservative Taxpayer’s Caucus.
Some of the opponents of National Popular Vote are suggesting that the Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party get involved, possibly having a forum to debate the topic. Supporters of National Popular Vote would relish the opportunity. The fact is, National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help California Republicans. It is also not a change that anyone should approach lightly but with careful consideration. We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it.
In reality, National Popular Vote will pass the State Assembly, with or without Republican votes but I believe it is a mistake for Republicans to knee-jerk oppose without consideration of its benefits. While Republicans won historic victories around the country just 7 months ago, we actually lost a seat in the Assembly and after spending $200 million statewide, didn’t win a single statewide office.
I am a paid advisor to National Popular Vote and decided to get involved after spending a lot of time studying its impact and consulting with opponents (I consulted with opponents because I thought I might be missing something and wanted to thoroughly understand their objections). What I found is that those opponents either had a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or didn’t fully understand it. I am confident that those that take the time to understand will become vocal supporters.