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California Governor Vetoes National Popular Vote Bill

Published on September 30, 2008, by in General.

On the evening of September 30, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 37, the National Popular Vote Plan bill. His veto message said the voters should vote on the idea.

36 Responses

  1. Coming back to the LP

    National Popular Vote is a terrible idea.

    We must retain the Electoral College System if we are to retain our liberty at all.

    Thank you Arnold.

    But, it should not be left up to the voters. It is a bad plan. Bad ideas such as slavery should just be banned. It would not be a good idea to leave a return to slavery up to the voters in any state either. It should just be banned.

  2. Richard

    Georgia once had its own “electoral college” for nominating candidates for statewide office in the Democratic primary. The Democratic primary for Governor and other statewide offices gave each county a certain number of “unit votes”, and then the winner of the primary was the person who had the most “unit votes”, depending on carrying counties. Does anyone think that was a good idea that should be implemented by all the states for gubernatorial elections?

    Is there anyone who, if the U.S. were starting from scratch, would propose this electoral college system as the best way to choose a president? If so, why isn’t there agitation to elect Governors that way?

  3. Coming back to the LP

    Yes, in fact, I would propose the Electoral College system as THE very best system to elect the President and Vice President of the United States.

    I would also propose that any LARGE nation with a large population or spread over a large geographic area, divide up into states or provinces and adopt such a system today, and to replace the other systems currently in use. Nations such as Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Australia, as examples, should use this system.

    The winner-take-all aspect should be replaced by the Maine/Nebraska system of choosing electors. This will make the system the most fair. There is nothing inherent in direct election of the President that would make elections more fair, but we would give up our Liberty.

    The electors must have only one chance to vote, as is currently the case. And the electors must be individual citizens who can break ranks and vote for another candidate, if, subsequent to being chosen as an elector, they have a change of heart and choose to become a “faithless elector.”

    The EC system serves to help break the power of the Federal Government. As things stand, there are NO directly elected Federal offices, and this is how it should remain. As huge, massive and evil the US Federal Government has become, the EC has helped to prevent the kind of massive fascist-socialist dictatorships that have befallen other nations with direct elections.

    (We also benefit, and must retain, the plurality, single member district election system that is currently the most prevalent in US elections. It is also the system most conducive to the maintenance of Liberty.)

    True, this means that most smaller parties will never elect anyone and they have no chance. But, most of the smaller parties in America are either evil, wacko, or both, so this is a good outcome of the current system and helps to defend our Liberty from the nutjobs and the powermad crazies.

    The Libertarian Party can win and become the Majority Party under the current system, if we just follow a rational, systematic party building program.

    Unfortunately, the LP has NEVER followed such a plan.

  4. Coming back to the LP

    As to electing Governors:

    These elections are being held within the smaller subdivisions that we have set up in the US. These areas have been created to be more uniform, smaller, and the populations are less diverse (and obviously, they must be, mathematically and as a mater of logic) within one such state than in the nation as a whole.

    Now, it may be true that some of the US states have become too large in population and should be divided into smaller states. But this is difficult under our system and is not the topic at hand.

    Most importantly, the purpose of the Electoral College is to spread the huge power of the President over all the states, so that the election is a balance of vote that gives some weight to the total population and some weight to each State. This is intended to help maintain a balance of power between the Federal Government and the States. Breaking up power is the key.

    Once we have broken up the power, and especially, denied supreem power to a central authority at the National level, we will have done the most to protect our Liberty.

    At the State level, the balance comes back from the National level, so there is no need to make a similar system for the office of Governor.

  5. Richard

    But what about these problems with the electoral college: 1. The problem of a tie vote in the electoral college, a problem that has existed since 1961; (2) the problem that the state legislature have the power to eliminate the popular vote for president, a power the Florida legislature was about to exercise in 2000; (3) the problem that the Constitution gives the electors themselves the power to choose the president, and the electors are a very obscure bunch of people to be entrusted with so much power. We have had 15 presidential elections since the end of World War II. In 9 of them, an elector voted for someone other than the presidential candidate who had carried his or her state.

  6. eddy

    Richard: I’m with you.
    LP wrote: “There is nothing inherent in direct election of the President that would make elections more fair, but we would give up our liberty.”
    Huh?

  7. Coming back to the LP

    Richard,

    1)The Electoral vote problem concerning the possibility of a tie was created by the stupid idea that DC should have electoral votes. The populated areas of DC on the Maryland side should have been returned to Maryland, just as the populated areas of DC on the Virginia side were returned to Virginia.

    This should still be done (retaining some federally administered areas as a non-residential and non-voting US Capitol District)and those 3 Electoral votes eliminated from the total.

    2) Should this actually come to pass, it could be addressed by mandating that electors be elected by a popular vote along the lines of the Maine/Nebraska system as a reform Constitutional Amendment, without altering the beneficial elements of the EC.

    3) This is actually one of the strengths of the Electoral College system. We elect a group of electors who then have one chance to choose the President and VP, but also they must exercise sound judgement and go faithless when warranted.

  8. Richard

    But in real life, the presidential electors are such flawed people that in 2004, one Democratic elector in Minnesota apparently accidentally voted for John Edwards for president. Minnesota electors use a secret ballot, so to this day no one except that elector knows which elector made that mistake. I can’t understand why some journalist doesn’t interview all the 2004 Minnesota electors and get to the bottom of the story. Maybe it wasn’t an accident, but it’s frustrating that we don’t know. But Congress counted that one goofy electoral vote for John Edwards for president.

  9. Coming back to the LP

    So, Richard, nobody knows if it WAS an accident.

    Looks to me like one elector, knowing that Kerry had already lost, wanted to send the message that Edwards would have been the better choice for the Democrats and might have one.

    This is a GOOD THING.

    It is one of the advantages of the Electoral College. It is a reason to retain it!

  10. Coming back to the LP

    might have WON!

    OOPS.

  11. Richard

    But doesn’t it bother you that we could have an elector decide the results of who takes office as president, and we wouldn’t even know who that elector was?!?

  12. Coming back to the LP

    We do know who the electors are. We know by name those who have been chosen in each state, it is a small number of people and each one is sent a ballot, and we know the votes cast in each state. We just don’t know who cast which vote within each state.

    Faithless electors are pretty rare, and have never changed the outcome of an election as far as I know. They do, however, make important political statements.

    If we ever have a revolt of electors, enough to change the outcome of an election, then that would probably be a good thing. If these loyal, hand chosen supporters of a particular candidate and party are unable to vote for their own candidate and prefer another, then probably they know something even more important about that candidate and their rejection of that person serves as an important firewall. It’s another chance to reject a bad potential President, before he takes office.

    Being elected President and wielding that power should be seriously considered by many groups and constituencies.

  13. susan

    Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, along district lines (as is currently the case in Maine and Nebraska), or national lines.

  14. susan

    The congressional district method of awarding electoral votes (currently used in Maine and Nebraska) would not help make every vote matter. In NC, there are only 4 of the 13 congressional districts that would be close enough to get any attention. A smaller fraction of the county’s population lives in competitive congressional districts (about 12%) that in the current battleground states (about 30%). Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

  15. susan

    The present system of electing the President does not “work well” because the winner-take-all rule (currently used by 48 of 50 states) awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state. Because of these 48 state laws, presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the concerns of voters of states that they cannot possibly win or lose. Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of “battleground” states. In 2004, 88% of the money was focused onto just 9 closely divided battleground states, and 99% was concentrated in just 16 states. Two thirds of the states, are effectively disenfranchised in presidential elections. Another effect of the winner-take-all rule is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide — something that happens in 1 in 14 elections (1 in 7 non-landslide elections).

  16. Richard

    Poster #12 says faithless electors have never changed an election outcome. But in 1836, some Democratic faithless electors refused to vote for the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Richard Johnson. So the US Senate had to choose the vice-president, since no one got 50% of the electoral college vote for vice-president.

  17. Poster #12 quite rightly points out that one of the roles of a presidential elector is to act as a “firewall” against a bad candidate. This is the exact reason why as a potential Elector for the LP, I let it be known that I would not support or cast an Electoral vote for Bob Barr. He is a bad candidate, and I feel that he should not be put in office.

    ART
    LPMA Presidential ElectorSubmit Comment

  18. Richard

    Art also kindly offered to withdraw as an elector candidate and be replaced by another Libertarian. Art’s kind offer helped win the substitution lawsuit in Massachusetts.

  19. Coming back to the LP

    Art is correct to exercise his judgement if selected as an elector, and if he chose not to support Barr I would have no problem with this.

    At the same time, the LP needed to win the right to substitution.

    Thank you Art.

    Re: number 16. That is a good example. It also demonstrates that faithless electors have never swung an election from one candidate to another, unless you can find another case.

    So, the benefit and lack of risk stands proven.

  20. Coming back to the LP

    In number 15, Susan complains about the winner take all rule.

    That is exactly why we need to adopt the Maine/Nebraska system nationwide, it eliminates the winner take all rule.

    Many Congressional Districts are quite competitive, but they don’t seem to be because no one gets the chance to contest them. So no one makes the effort that would show just how competitive they would be.

    If we were to adopt the ME/NE system nationwide, we would see a huge upsurge in campaigning, district by district and we would find hundreds of competitive districts nationwide.

  21. faithless objector

    Many here are advocating a highly theoretical possibility of “faithless” electors nullifying their expected vote (according to state rules) for a candidate that is presumed to be “better for the country”. It’s equally or perhaps more likely that in a close EC vote a small number of electors could be influenced to (or just out of stupidity) vote for the despotic, tyrannical or otherwise worse candidate.

    Compare the aforementioned weak theoretical argument for the EC with the actual strong argument that the EC has elected a president/ticket in opposition to the direct wishes of the people at large as measured by the popular vote. There’s really no comparison between these two arguments. In addition, since the Constitution provides a mechanism for impeaching and removing a president the potential beneficial power of a faithless elector is made mostly unnecessary anyway.

    I just haven’t seen a strong argument as to how faithless electors would theoretically “improve” the choice of the people at large. Wasn’t the original purpose of the electoral college to guard against uneducated, uninformed blocks of voters from states with large populations and cities forcing their candidates on the country? (The question is rhetorical and the answer is “yes”.) This just isn’t a factor anymore. Sure the general population can be feckless and even choose unwisely (e.g Warren Harding) but how are electors immune from this?

    There’s another argument that the EC somehow guarantees the power or voice of smaller states (but, as mentioned already, in actuality it really just helps a few small-to-medium population states with significant swing voter numbers earn sporadic, short-lived pre-election attention from the candidates). I’m not really sure how this is protecting truly small states that vote solidly for a given candidate (e.g., Montana or Wyoming). In reality, the power of these states is asserted through the allocation of two federal senators per state and the very fact that they govern themselves to a large degree (again already mentioned).

    National Popular Vote will prevent the kind of real historical subversions of the people’s will rather than its defeat will somehow one day preserve our republic.

  22. Jim Riley

    If the US were starting from scratch, I doubt that they would devise a system where popular votes were aggregated from States using different standards of candidate qualification and voter qualification, voting systems, etc., and then have the States appoint electors to rubberstamp the national result.

  23. Jim Riley

    Did Richard Johnson’s name appear on the ballot in Virginia (in 1836)? Did Virginia even use ballots? Who were the electors (in other States) who supported Johnson faithful to? The voters or the national party?

    Were the electors who supported the various Whig candidates “faithful” or “faithless”.

  24. Jim Riley

    Has not the Democratic Party in 2008 nominated a candidate who was not favored by the people as measured by the popular vote? Wouldn’t it be better to nominate the Presidential/Vice Presidential candidates by a national popular vote?

  25. Coming back to the LP

    NO ONE can make the claim that the Electoral College has elected a candidate that did not win the popular vote!

    This is because, there has never been such a popular vote in the US.

    When we hold Presidential elections, the goal is to win Electoral Votes. So, no major candidate makes any attempt to win the most popular votes. Instead, the candidates work to gain Electoral votes. They need to carry whole states. If we adopted the Maine/Nebraska system, they would need to win Congressional Districts.

    So, although a candidate could pander solely to big city voters and try to run up the popular vote in these areas, this candidate would be wasting his efforts as it is Electoral votes that are needed to win.

    Likewise, a candidate who knows that Wyoming is a lock, will make no effort to turn out massive vote totals in Wyoming as it will not increase the Electoral vote.

    As a result, we do not know what the popular vote would have been in any election, nor who might have won under such a system, since we didn’t have such a system.

    It is foolish, stupid and wrong to make any claim that the person who won the Electoral Vote and was elected somehow lost the poplular vote, because THERE WAS NO POPULAR VOTE HELD.

  26. Richard

    The Federal Election Commission certainly thinks the U.S. holds a national popular vote. The FEC always tabulates the popular vote for president. The FEC must tabulate this, because the FEC is charged with certifying public funding to parties that poll 5% of the national popular vote.

    As to 1836, there were no government-printed ballots in any state (for president) until 1892. All the popular votes cast in Virginia in 1832 were on party-printed ballots, or ballots that an individual voter prepared. I suspect the party-printed ballots back in 1836 didn’t list candidates for president and vice-president, just lists of candidates for presidential elector. But I’m not certain.

  27. Coming back to the LP

    Richard,

    The US Government thinks, believes, requires and madates a lot of things. This does NOT in any way mean that the US Government is correct or doing the right thing.

    What the FEC tabulates is:

    “the aggregate of the total recorded votes cast, in 51 independent State (incl DC) elections, in an effort to win the Electoral Votes of each individual State to determine the Presidential electors whose task it will be to elect the President and Vice President of the United States.”

    This is quite a bit different than the popular vote, and especially different than the popular vote would be in a nationwide, direct election.

  28. Coming back to the LP

    To understand the difference in systems:

    Having 51 elections to determine Electoral Votes is like a baseball season where the key is to win the most games.

    Having a nationwide direct election would be like holding the same ballgames, but instead of determining a winner, we would just add up the total runs scored in all the games. The team with the most runs over the whole season would be the champion.

    This would result in a total change in strategy and in the players chosen to be on a team.

    You would want to wear down your weak opponents and then run up huge rallies of runs, batting for hours and scoring runs in the hundreds in innings that would go on for hours or days.

    It would destroy baseball.

    Such a Voting system for President would completely change America.

    It would destroy the balance between the Federal Government and the States.

    It would lead to pandering to large groups with huge fascist-socialist programs of vote buying.

    It would lead to massive voter fraud and violence.

  29. Richard

    At least baseball counts each ball game equally with every other ball game. Would you be in favor of giving each state one electoral vote, so that each “game” is equal to every other “game”?

    And if the answer is no, why not give each state a number of electoral votes that is proportionate to its population, with 3 or 4 digits to the right of the decimal point? We can’t have a state with a fractional number of members of the US House, but we could have fractional numbers of electoral votes.

    Why should Wyoming have three times as many electoral votes per resident, compared to California? Baseball doesn’t do things like that.

  30. Jim Riley

    1. Provide that the electoral votes be apportioned among the several States and the District of Columbia on the basis of the number of US citizens over the age of 18, and that there shall be at least 1000 times as many electors as there are US representatives.

    2. Require that electoral votes be allocated among the presidential candidates and among the vice presidential candidates on the basis of the popular vote in each state.

    3. Give the States time, place, manner authority subject to an override by Congress.

  31. Coming back to the LP

    Richard,

    We do have a system where every “state” has the same number of EC votes – Every State has 2 Electoral Votes now. (plus 2 for DC)

    Then, we have EC votes based on population. There are 435 population weighted EC votes. (plus 1 more for DC)

    This is a good system, to have EC votes based on Statehood and population. They should be allocated under the Maine/New Hampshire system, however.

    (Except that DC should be stripped of its EC votes and the populated areas should be returned to Maryland.)

    Now, it you want to increase the size of the House of Representatives, resulting in a smaller number of constituents for each House member and a smaller number of voters within each Congressional District and therefore each Electoral College district, that is another matter.

    I would actually support such an increase. We could increase the US House to 600, 800, even 1200 members and it would be fine with me. Of course, if we do create such a large body, we should quit paying these House members. They should recieve only a stipend, as they do in New Hampshire, and they should be term limited to only a 3 term maximum in the House and 2 terms in the Senate.

    This would give us a much larger Electoral College. However, they must be elected by district and not winner take all. And they must be individuals who can become faithless electors when necessary.

  32. Joel

    “As huge, massive and evil the US Federal Government has become, the EC has helped to prevent the kind of massive fascist-socialist dictatorships that have befallen other nations with direct elections.”

    Which is why we have George W. Bush in power, who’s administration has been one of the, if not the most destructive to the Constitution ever. So, unfortunatley, we’re there, and as long as we still have “Battleground States”, where, say.. five hundred votes statewide versus maybe a million nationally make the diference, and rigged elections, you can bet it will only get worse.

  33. andy

    Richard,

    I’ve read this terrible baseball analogy out of you twice now, please come up with an actual parallel. American idol even makes as much sense (nearly none since it ends with a popular vote).

    I think this detracts from your point as a whole, as it shows an ignorance to both sports and our electoral process. Just a suggestion, it’s not that your thoughts are “baseless”, LOL, but the are lame and debated better by smarter people on both sides of the debate in and out of this spectrum.

    Cheers

  34. andy

    Correction, Richard was responding to going back to the lp who made this same analogy in another thread on this issue from 06

  35. Lawrence Kramer

    I’m new here, but I want to cast my vote almost entirely with Coming Back to the LP, especially on the notion that the popular vote proves nothing if the popular vote is not campaigned for. The baseball analogy is dead on; indeed, I have used it myself.

    I don’t agree with LP that faithless electors serve any useful purpose as discretionary actors. On the other hand, should it be discovered between election day and inauguration day that the president elect has committed some heinous felony, it’s nice to have a mechanism whereby the national outcry could be served, presumably in favor of his running mate.

    The argument against the EC that I find most obnoxious is the “swing-state” thing. Swing states only get to be swing states because other states are predictable. But those states are predictable only to the extent that the candidates are “of” their base. A Republican will not come out for redistribution of wealth, higher taxes on the rich, and other liberal stuff just to get Ohio or Florida’s votes. If he did, he’d lose his base, and with it the election. So those base voters in predictable states “count” very much in the outcome of the election.

    Meanwhile, I doubt very much that Utah’s Republicans resent the fact that no one campaigns for their vote. They get a disproportional say in the election and their guy wastes none of his resources on the 23 Democrats in the state. And yet the big-city liberals whine about how the small states are ignored, as if the majority party in the small states cared.

    I am also sympathetic to the Maine/Nebraska approach, especially in large states with differing regional interests. Heterogeneous states should use an EC-type method to pick their governors; I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened. But the fact that it has not happened does not suggest to me that it would be a bad idea. In contrast, it’s quite clear why the Maine/Nebraska thing is so uncommon as regards EC allocations: in most states, the majority party sees no point in surrendering electoral votes by abandoning winner-take-all.

    At the end of the day, this dispute is between big-city and agrarian interests. The Founders determined that the best way to adjust the political interests of these groups was to give disproportional weight to the agrarians who, by the nature of their work are small in numbers relative to their contribution to the economy and stability of the polis. I have no problem with city folk arguing that this balance should change, but that’s the only anti-EC argument that seem to me to be coherent. All the others are lame non sequiturs aimed at obscuring the raw politics behind them.

  36. Вот про все это я почитал с огромным интересом. И с удовольствием прочитал бы еще больше! Планируете ли дальше писать на эту же тему? Спасибо

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