Saving the electoral college will not keep Iowa relevant

Both Governor Chet Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro have now come out against a bill that would award Iowa’s electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Their opposition in effect kills any chance of the bill advancing. Although it has been voted out of committee in the Iowa Senate, it may never come to a floor vote there or a committee vote in the Iowa House.

I don’t know what so many people have against one person, one vote for president, just like we have for every other elected office. I also take issue with this part of Culver’s statement:

As the last three elections have shown, Iowa is now a battleground state, and, as such, the issues of Iowans are heard by the candidates of both parties. If we require our electoral college votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state and the opportunity to ensure that the ideas that are important on Iowa’s Main Streets remain important on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the governor wants to buy into Republican propaganda about this bill, fine. But let’s not pretend Iowa is bound to be a swing state forever. Oregon was a battleground state for a few cycles, but John McCain didn’t seriously compete for it this year. West Virginia was a battleground state in 2000, but hopeless territory for Democrats in 2004 and 2008.

Democratic gains in voter registration could make this purple state blue if Culver and the statehouse Democrats give us a solid record of achievements to run on in 2010. If that happens, don’t count on Iowa’s six electoral votes being up for grabs during the 2012 general election.

I am also unconvinced that the electoral college ensures presidential candidates pay attention to small states. When was the last time a presidential candidate spent time in uncompetitive small states like the Dakotas, Montana, or Vermont?

John Deeth is right:

# The person with the most votes should win.

# It would be better if the Constitution actually said so.

# But National Popular Vote is a nice stopgap.

# If big states want National Popular Vote, it will pass without Iowa.

# The caucuses, not the electoral votes, are what makes Iowa important.

And about those caucuses: we won’t have competitive caucuses on the Democratic side in 2012, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some major Republican presidential candidates skip Iowa. It didn’t stop McCain from winning the nomination last year.

  • Head in Sand

    None of the arguments for the electoral college are sound.  This is just knee-jerk conservatism on the part of most critics.

    Culver may see a bigger role for himself if he can keep Iowa a swing state, whereas he becomes less important if the popular vote system takes hold.

    • how badly does he want to keep us a swing state?

      If he wins a convincing re-election and we maintain our legislative majorities, we will cease to be seen as a swing state.

  • 75% OF IOWA VOTERS FAVOR A NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE FOR PRESIDENT

    75% OF IOWA VOTERS FAVOR A NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE FOR PRESIDENT

    A survey of 800 Iowa voters showed 75% overall support for a national popular vote for President. The question was “How do you think we should elect the President when we vote in the November general election: should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current electoral college system?

    By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote for President was 82% among Democrats, 63% among Republicans, and 77% among others.

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

    By gender, support was 82% among women and 67% among men.

    By race, support was 75% among whites (representing 93% of respondents), 65% among African Americans (representing 2% of respondents), 86% among Hispanics (representing 1% of respondents), and 58% among others (representing 4% of respondents).

    The survey was conducted on February 17-18, 2009, by Public Policy Polling

  • small states are most disadvantaged

    The small states are the most disadvantaged of all under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

    Small states are almost invariably non-competitive in presidential election. Only 1 of the 13 smallest states are battleground states (and only 5 of the 25 smallest states are battlegrounds).

    Of the 13 smallest states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska regularly vote Republican, and Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC regularly vote Democratic. These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has “only” 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

    The fact that the bonus of two electoral votes is an illusory benefit to the small states has been widely recognized by the small states for some time. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly low-population states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania) in suing New York in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that New York’s use of  winner-take-all effectively disenfranchised voters in their states. The Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision). Ironically, defendant New York is no longer a battleground state (as it was in the 1960s) and today suffers the very same disenfranchisement as the 12 non-competitive low-population states. A vote in New York is, today, equal to a vote in Wyoming–both are equally worthless and irrelevant in presidential elections.

    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.  

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

  • same disadvantage for most medium-small states

    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 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 mattered in 2008 (85 of the 166 electoral votes).  There were 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.  

  • the National Popular Vote bill

    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 closely divided battleground states: Colorado – 68%, Iowa – 75%, Michigan – 73%, Missouri – 70%, New Hampshire – 69%, Nevada – 72%, New Mexico – 76%, North Carolina – 74%, Ohio – 70%, Pennsylvania – 78%, Virginia – 74%, and Wisconsin – 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware – 75%, Maine – 71%, Nebraska – 74%, New Hampshire – 69%, Nevada – 72%, New Mexico – 76%, Rhode Island – 74%, and Vermont – 75%;  in Southern and border states: Arkansas 80%, Kentucky 80%, Mississippi 77%, Missouri 70%, North Carolina – 74%, and Virginia – 74%; and in other states polled: California – 70%, Connecticut – 73% , Massachusetts – 73%, New York – 79%, and Washington – 77%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 23 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, 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.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote…  

  • While I agree with John Deeth that

    the Caucuses are the biggest factor in making Iowa important in nominating/electing the President but they aren’t the only reason.  

    I will say that you would never see a Presidential Candidate in the State of Iowa during the General Election again because if you win the popular vote you get Iowa’s electoral votes.  And this has real a real impact because a lot of regular voters don’t even begin to pay attention till Labor Day or later.  

    These reforms cannot be started one state at a time you would need a coalition of states to do this.  There is NO incentive for Iowa to do this.  

    Lots of people remember Al Gore coming to Iowa the weekend before the 2000 election and many credit that visit for him winning the state.  

    Finally, I will say that Iowa’s impact on the Republican party nomination is in flux(as much as I may way people who vote for Steve King and David Hartsuch deciding who the Republican Party nominates for President).

    • I consider it unlikely

      that Iowa will be in play in 2012. Of course I could be wrong, but several factors point to this being a safe state for Barack Obama. We are not going to get as much attention as people are used to.

    • Coalition it is!

      The NPV plan takes effect only after it has enuf participants so that those participants control a majority of the electoral votes.  So far it has NJ, Illinois, Maryland, and (small state) Hawaii.

      • Then again

        a state with no major metropolis would become a Presidential ghost town if there were no electoral college.  

        Personally, I like that issues in both urban and rural America are being addressed because of the current system.

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.