Commentary: National Popular Vote bill renders Delaware irrelevant

It appears that far too many of our duly elected senators and representatives within our Delaware General Assembly have forgotten our history and our constitutional heritage. They have apparently forgotten that our United States Constitution is a remarkable document that has endured and served our country well since 1789. They have either forgotten or ignored the fact that it is the product of careful deliberation and numerous compromises, balancing the rights and interests of large states versus small, urban versus rural, north versus south, commercial versus agricultural.

One such important compromise concerned presidential elections. Now, 230 years later, Delaware’s General Assembly is considering a bill which would fundamentally change the presidential election process, greatly undermining and significantly diminishing Delaware’s role in that process. That bill is Senate Bill 22, “National Popular Vote”.

John Sigler

This isn’t the first time Delaware’s General Assembly has flirted with the concept of destroying the delicate balance of competing interests represented by the Electoral College, nor is it the first time that Delaware’s politicians have attempted to undermine the republic formed by the founders in favor of an ill-conceived scheme that sounds good in theory but which would effectively render Delaware irrelevant.

Luckily, each of the prior attempts to circumvent the intent of the founders have been resoundingly rejected. The question is whether S.B. 22 will meet the same just demise as its predecessors, or will Delaware play a role in ripping our republic asunder replacing it with an electoral scheme controlled by America’s big cities, rendering Delaware and other small States electoral non-entities?

Contrary to popular belief, the United States is not now and was never intended to be a democracy where the president is directly elected by the masses. It is, and has always been, a republic.

To understand this concept, one must also understand that in 1776 the various states, Delaware included, joined together to form a union of states, hence the name – “United States” of America. It is the states that form this union that elect the president through operation of the Electoral College, a mechanism that is specifically designed to protect the interests of the various states.

Operationally, the people of each state vote for the person whom they believe will best represent their state and the people of that state. The electors from that state then cast votes within the Electoral College reflecting the will of the people from within their respective states.

Since the founding of the republic, candidates have needed a majority of votes in the Electoral College (270) to win the presidency. Each state is represented in the Electoral College with a number of votes equal to its number of representatives in Congress (based upon population) plus its number of senators (two for each state). The District of Columbia also receives three electoral votes.

As one of the smallest states, Delaware has but three electoral votes. California, the largest state, has 55 electoral votes. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, every state awards all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote within their state. Thus, to win the presidency, a candidate must not only appeal to a wide number of voters but also a majority of voters in a large number of states across the country, ensuring that every state plays a role and that the president enjoys support from a broad and diverse coalition, not just a few large population centers – as the framers intended.

Although exceedingly rare, it is mathematically possible to win a majority of the nationwide popular vote, but still not win the presidency. This rare event occurs when a candidate wins big in some states, but loses by a small margin in many states, thereby enabling another candidate to capture a majority of electoral votes.

For reasons of perceived political gain, some are now calling for states to award their electoral votes based upon which candidate wins the national popular vote rather than on which candidate actually wins the state. Thus, their plan is for Delaware to award its three electoral votes, not to the candidate who actually wins Delaware, but to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

The disadvantages of a national popular vote system are readily apparent, even to the casual observer. First and foremost, it robs smaller states, such as Delaware, of having any practical effect on the election.

With less than 1 million residents, Delaware has fewer voters than many large cities. The proposed system would allow candidates to ignore the will of smaller states and to concentrate strictly on large population centers (big cities) to rack up a larger national vote total. This approach becomes especially problematic when you consider other parts of the country, such as Philadelphia and Indianapolis, where there are reportedly more registered voters enrolled than the recorded population of the city.

More importantly, it robs Delawareans of their intended vote. Ironically, while Delaware has generally been in line with the national election results, if the National Popular Vote bill had been in force in 2004, Delaware’s three electoral votes would have gone to George Bush, even though John Kerry won the state of Delaware, thus thwarting the will of the people of Delaware.

The National Popular Vote bill is an incredibly important and destructive bill. SB 22 is bad for Delaware, challenges our republic, and should be rejected by every legislator who loves Delaware and believes in our republic.

Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, Dec. 7, 1787. We are justly proud of our place in constitutional history. We must not casually relinquish our voice in the national election. We must not allow other states and other voters to determine Delaware’s role in the Electoral College.

Please join me in opposing the National Popular Vote bill. Please urge your legislators to vote “NO” on SB 22.

Mr. Sigler is the former chairman of the Delaware Republican Party and an attorney admitted to practice in Delaware, Maryland and before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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