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Various States Consider Bills Changing Presidential Elector Procedures

Published on January 18, 2013, by in General.

Bills are pending in several states to alter how that state elects presidential electors. The National Popular Vote Plan bill has been introduced so far this year in Arizona (SB 1042), Louisiana (SB 705 and HB 1095), Missouri (HB 39), New Hampshire (HB 148), and Oklahoma (SB 906).

Jurisdictions that have already passed the plan are California, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington.

Bills are pending in Maryland and New Jersey to withdraw from the plan. The Maryland bill is HB 73; the New Jersey bills are A859 and S1626.

At least three states are considering the model bill that provides that if a presidential elector votes “unfaithfully”, he or she is deemed to have been disqualified and is automatically replaced by a back-up elector. Those bills are SB 200 in Indiana, LB 167 in Nebraska, and SB 309 in Oklahoma.

Virginia has a bill for each U.S. House district to choose its own presidential elector, SB 723. News stories say Republican legislators in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are thinking about similar bills, but so far they don’t seem to have been introduced.

17 Responses

  1. Oklahoma also has a National Popular Vote Bill introduced, SB906.

    There is also a bill introduced to change the slate of electors to 1 elector for each US House District and 2 at large electors, HB1533.

  2. Richard Winger

    #1, thank you; I have amended the post to include that.

  3. DSZ

    I hate faithless elector laws. If you’re going to pass them, a) when would it actually change the outcome of a national election and b) what’s the point of having human electors? Sure, we can argue about the method of choosing electors, but their relative independence is a cornerstone of their purpose.

    For one, if a candidate dies/withdraws/become incapacitated before the votes are counted, a decision has to be made as to where that support will go (as happened to William Crawford in 1824). Secondly, faithless electors have made perhaps quixotic yet often noble causes out of their vote to raise awareness of certain issues, such as the D.C. elector who abstained over statehood (2000), the rather naive elector who reversed her VP and pres. votes to raise awareness of the EC’s flaws (1988), and a vote for the LP that was the first ever for a female VP candidate (1972). Lastly, voters obviously pay more attention to the top of the ticket than the VP candidate, and if they don’t like the VP they can’t do much about it or even express their desires accurately with their vote – I’m sure many Bush voters in 2004 weren’t thrilled about Cheney anymore. At least electors get to have some wiggle room on their vote, and if they wanted to, they could try to force cooperative government by having a pres. and vp from two different parties. In 1836 Virginia’s electors were unhappy with Van Buren’s VP choice and all chose someone different for that office, forcing the Senate to decide the matter (although they ultimately went with the Democratic pick anyway). Faithless elector laws thus force everyone to leave their conscience at the door.

  4. Be Rational

    Adopting the ME/NE system nationwide is the ideal reform needed to perfect the electoral college system. Keeping electors free to be faithless is also a cornerstone of this system that serves as a pillar of the dispersion of power across the states through the EC and having human wisdom in the EC as a final protection.

    The National Popular Vote scheme and any movement toward a nationwide election of POTUS and VP is detrimental to the preservation of liberty and should be avoided.

  5. DSZ

    #4 – While a nationwide ME/NE system would be an improvement over what we have now, it wouldn’t be ideal. For larger states you could get some quirky results. For instance, let’s say Candidate A narrowly wins 20 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, but loses by a wide margin in 7 congressional districts, perhaps due to demographics etc. As a result, Candidate B wins 7 districts and narrowly wins the state overall. Despite winning the state, he has 9 electoral votes to Candidate A’s 20. In the current system B would have 29 EV’s instead of 9 under the ME/NE system.

    The ME/NE system probably wouldn’t cause enough of these scenarios for one candidate versus another to have a candidate lose the popular vote yet win the EV, at least not often. But it’s still a smaller form of winner-take-all that could lead to the same results of the larger scale winner-take-all we have now, and it probably wouldn’t noticeably help third parties or the wasted vote syndrome (although it would mean less targeted bombardment of ads on swing state folks). The ME/NE system would give Republicans a big advantage since they have an edge on how districts are drawn – Democratic support is more concentrated and as Richard has reported, the D’s won more votes for house in 2012 yet control less seats. I say we get away from winner-take-all systems yet still support the spirit and intention of the Electoral College, so I’d like to see a proportional plus 2 system – proportional house electors, winner take all senate electors (per state).

  6. Baronscarpia

    4, 5 -

    With modern polling science as accurate as it is, and with the immense amount of money now being made available topresidential campaigns, partly to contract for such polling…as the allocation of EC votes becomes more granular (by CD, e.g.) the GREATER will be the number of voters who are effectively disenfranchised by the EC system. Also, the chances for electoral fraud will be greater, since it needs to be perpetrated within smaller segments of the electorate, organized at a more local level that can be more easily controlled with the complicity of fewer people. Campaigns will be able to identify not 8-12 states that “matter” but rather 30-40 CD’s that “matter.” Such an approach only changes the focus of the campaigns, and solves none of the problems created by this wobbly, antiquated system. It was created by a group of people in the last few days of a convention they all wanted to just get done with, and who could not have contemplated modern campaigns, media, technology, vote tabulation methods and polling science. It serves no useful purpose unless that purpose is the (perception) by one political party or the other that it currently allows them to “game” a presidential election.

    Pass NPV, then dump EC entirely.

  7. Be Rational

    @6 You have it backwards. The larger the area of the election the greater the likelyhood of massive fraud.

    Under the current system, fraud at a local level where it usually takes place – dead voters, etc. – can swing only the Electoral votes of a state.

    Under the ME/NE system, the same fraud can swing a single CD district, so only a single vote, plus the two at the state level. Fraud becomes less beneficial.

    Under NPV, massive fraud in a single city can swing the whole nation in a close race. Every local district, ward, precinct, town and city will have an incentive to cheat. The Democrats have used massive fraud to control Chicago and all of IL, West Virginia and Maine for decades. NPV will let the same forces of fraud control the nation.

  8. Arthur C. Barker

    I’m with Baronscarpia (and DSZ) on this. That America was going to be a strongly unified country was established in 1865. States are merely administrative districts. The Electoral College is obsolete (or worse). There is nothing wrong with the idea of one-person, one-vote for the Chief Executive of the entire country, particularly using some form of preference voting. (And particularly if the occupant of the office returns to the Constitutional intent of carrying out the laws as passed by the Congress.) And, what the heck is a “faithless” elector if you believe in continuing to use the Electoral College? Perhaps all electors should be robots?

  9. Baronscarpia

    7 -

    Be Rational…

    Ohio, 2004.

  10. Baronscarpia

    BE Rational -

    Ok…did you give it wome thought?

    In that elecion, SOLELY because of the ludicrous design of the EC, BOTH parties knew that Ohio was the whole enchilada of the election. The state electoral system was controlled by Republicans, however, and they made every effort to make sure that those EC votes went Bush’s way. (It could just as easily be the Dems in another state in another similar circumstance, BTW). That objective was MUCH easier to achieve than it would have been to fraudulently swing the three million popular votes that would have been necessary to win the election under a popular vote election.

    I’m afraid you’re the one looking at this backwards.

    And…do you really want our president to be elected by a few dozen “battleground” Congressional districts? I don’t. Neither do the people who live in the 400 or ao other CD’s, I’d bet.

  11. Be Rational

    Ohio 2004. Now imagine that effort happening in every precinct in every state in the nation where one party dominates. Voting districts all over the country with more registered voters than residents and turnout exceeding 100%.

    A nationwide popular vote will result in banana republic styled elections in America. Of course, we are already creating a banana republic styled economy due to similar illogical policies, so perhaps your idea fits.

    Statewide EC voting limits fraud.

    CD electoral vote allocation will further reduce fraud.

  12. Be Rational

    Shifting to Electoral district allocation of Electoral votes – 1 for each CD and 2 statewide would break the POTUS/VP race wide open. Every large state would have multiple competitive districts. Candidates and advertising would be spread nationwide. Third parties would have their best opportunity ever to win Electoral votes. POTUS races would be much more competitive. More voters would participate directly. Voter turnout would increase, participation and interest would increase, the chances for fraud would be reduced. Other than a few small states, every state would be included in the active campaign. No major candidate would be able to target only a few CDs because a CD is too unpredictable and susceptible to swinging.

    Direct elections at a such a large scale are not conducive to effective democracy nor the maximization of liberty in continental sized nations.

  13. Baronscarpia

    11 – You’re missing a fundamental reality of math here, I’m afraid. Put it this way – if one accepts the premise that electoral fraud may be perpetrated to swing EC votes, I believe on would not prefer to approach that objective by swinging an entire state by fraudulently shifting tens of thousands of votes rather than concentrating on moving a few hundred votes in a handful of CD’s.

  14. DSZ

    I’m afraid if there’s ever an opportunity to eliminate the EC, the resulting system will simply be plurality wins with no sort of runoff. So, in order to defeat the wasted vote system in stages, I’d like to see us go to some sort of proportional allocation of electors (heck, maybe even nationwide – imagine if a few third party electors held the balance of power?) before we consider abolishing the EC. If that ever happens my hope is we would have preference voting or some form of runoff.

  15. Baronscarpia

    14 -

    Plurality wins.

    Yeah. I’m down with that.

  16. I like the Virgina bill using the Congressional District Method!

  17. There shouldn’t be any movement to protect the Electoral College system. In fact it should be abolished, burned and then blown up.

    Be Rational says “The larger the area of the election the greater the likelyhood of massive fraud.” What massive fraud? This is the same crap reason the Republicans tried to use when they wanted to restrict voters who they thought would vote for Obama. There is no proof of electoral fraud, massive or otherwise that justified these actions. It’ was just another Republican big lie.

    It’s no coincidence that all these bills suddenly appear at the same time and sponsored by Republicans. This is a deliberately planned offensive by the likes of the Koch Brothers to control elections by removing majority rule. They did it with the House so that while Republicans got less than 50% of the vote and Democrats got over 50%, the Republicans got more seats in the House than the Democrats did. Now that’s real electoral fraud!

    Pretty soon only the 1% will be choosing ALL our elected officials, not just most of them.

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