Even as the rest of the country focuses on the economy, the inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket continues his push to all but eliminate the Electoral College. John Koza’s National Popular Vote (NPV) effort is making unfortunate progress. Just last week, Governor Jerry Brown’s signature ensured that the elector-rich state of California will participate in NPV.
NPV’s plan is disarmingly simple: States join an interstate compact that allegedly binds them to allocate their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. Supporters claim NPV is just a unique way of using the Constitution’s presidential election provisions. In reality, questions remain about the constitutionality and enforceability of the compact. Worse, if it did survive legal challenges, NPV would effectively eliminate an institution that contributes to the political stability of the United States.
Koza and NPV are wrong about the Electoral College, but they’re no dummies, either. They learned much from last November’s elections and this year’s congressional fights over spending. They have apparently concluded that their best chance of success comes with the cooperation of conservatives. Thus, they are working diligently to reconstitute themselves as a Tea Party-friendly organization.
NPV has retained a retinue of Republican lobbyists, including former California state senator Ray Haynes, Michigan Republican national committeeman Saul Anuzis, and former Minnesota state representative Laura Brod. Through such mouthpieces, NPV has pitched its plan to the Republican National Committee, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and conservative think tanks such as the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
Despite the immense amounts of money being poured into the effort, NPV’s lobbying efforts have largely failed. Only a few individuals have fallen for the ruse. Perhaps most notoriously, former Senator Fred Thompson recently agreed to serve as one of NPV’s “national co-champions.”
Indeed, the money flowing into NPV tells a very different story about who wants this “reform” and why. Koza—who hit the jackpot when he patented the scratch-off lottery ticket and then convinced states to sell them—has reportedly pledged $12 million to his organization. Koza has given tens of thousands of dollars to various Democratic Party committees and liberal candidates; he was an Al Gore elector in 2000. New York businessman Tom Golisano, who has also pledged millions to NPV, is quick to point out that he is a registered Republican—even though he supported John Kerry and gave a cool $1 million to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
The organizational support behind NPV is similarly lopsided, coming almost exclusively from left wing groups such as Common Cause, the American Civil Liberties Union, FairVote, and the League of Women Voters. A George Soros-funded group, DEMOS, has supported NPV, and Soros’s son, Jonathan Soros, has written in favor of the plan.
Are we to believe that these left wing financiers and activists are really on the same side as the Republican Party or the Tea Party?
NPV alleges that Republicans will be helped by its proposal for a national direct election—at least that’s what it tells Republicans. Allegedly, eliminating swing states and making “every voter equal” will enable conservative voices across the country to be better heard. The message is seductive: If you believe this is a center right country, how can you not believe that direct election of the president would take us in a center right direction?
The Republican National Committee heard these arguments. On August 5, it rejected them. The RNC overwhelmingly adopted a resolution by Alaska state committeewoman Debbie Joslin in firm opposition to the NPV plan.
What NPV would really do is to wipe away state lines in presidential campaigns, turning the nation into one giant “single-member district.” This would radically change the political landscape, but rather than equalizing voters it would simply shift political power. Because the majority of America’s population resides in the 40 largest metropolitan areas, the short-term effect of NPV would be to benefit left leaning urban political machines, at the expense of more conservative voters in less densely populated areas.
NPV would also clear the way to consolidate more control over elections in Washington, D.C.—an item on the agenda of many left leaning “good government” groups. Shocking—left wing donors and organizations are behind an effort to shift power toward their own constituencies and ideological objectives!
The Electoral College benefits voters across the political spectrum. All Americans are better off with a system that ensures political parties build truly national coalitions, where presidential candidates succeed only by winning simultaneous victories in states across the nation. Running presidential elections state by state keeps election administration local and decentralized—no presidential appointee is in charge of presidential elections.
With California, NPV has 132 electors committed to its cause—nearly halfway to its goal of 270. This is unfortunate. It turns out, the most bipartisan thing about NPV is the tremendous damage it would do to all Americans if it ever took effect.
Tara Ross is the author ofEnlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College. Trent England is the director of the Save Our States project at the Freedom Foundation.