Commentary: National Popular Vote would give Delaware a powerful new voice

Dr. Samuel Hoff’s recent diatribe against the National Popular Vote (“Delaware General Assembly wasting time on National Popular Vote”) significantly mischaracterized this movement that would greatly expand Delaware’s voice in presidential elections, and make every voter in every state politically relevant when it comes to choosing our nation’s chief executive.

In brief, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes necessary to elect a president — 270 out of 538. In December, when electors meet to cast their ballots for president following an election, the electoral votes of all the compacting states would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and Washington D.C.

Bryan Townsend

Dr. Hoff supports the current system, under which Delaware and 37 other states – roughly 70 percent of America’s population – are ignored every four years in favor of 12 so-called “battleground” states and their dominant blocks of electoral votes that consume virtually all of the candidates’ time, money, and attention during the election – and command presidents’ political pandering after the election.

Dr. Hoff’s piece ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented the National Popular Vote bill in a surprising number of ways. Here are key facts:

The National Popular Vote bill amplifies and strengthens Delaware’s role in electing the president.

Under the current system, Delaware voters have a direct voice in allocating just three electoral votes out of the 270 needed to elect a president. If you voted for the person who ultimately loses Delaware’s popular vote, your voice has no impact, because the winner gets all three electoral votes.

Under a National Popular Vote, a voter in Delaware GAINS a direct voice over the disposition of 270 electors — enough to elect a president. No voter in Delaware will have their vote canceled out simply because they weren’t part of Delaware’s majority. Every voter in Delaware will have her or his vote counted directly toward her or his choice for president, and the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide will become president.

Moreover, there won’t be any more “battleground” states that limit the real campaign to just a handful of jurisdictions. Candidates will be compelled to go after every voter in every state instead of ignoring some 215 million voters in 39 states – including Delaware – just because those states are predictably “red” or “blue.”

The National Popular Vote bill is clearly constitutional and consistent with the intent of the founders.

The founders explicitly gave states the authority under the Constitution to form agreements like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Constitution also grants the states authority to award their electoral votes by any method they wish, stipulating in Article 2, Section 1: “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors …” The Constitution does not express any preference for the method of awarding electors.

The current winner-take-all system currently used by Delaware and most other states to award their electors is not included in the Constitution.

In fact, the current winner-take-all system was not debated at the Constitutional Convention, nor is it mentioned in the Federalist Papers. Winner-take-all became the method of choice beginning in the 1880s, in order to maximize influence of whichever party was in power in the various states. In other words, pure politics.

Support for a National Popular Vote is bipartisan, widespread and growing.

Far from being the “gimmick” Dr. Hoff refers to in his piece, the National Popular Vote bill has been passed by 11 states and the District of Columbia — altogether totaling 172 electoral votes. The measure is awaiting the governor’s signature in Colorado and is progressing in Nevada and New Mexico. The latest National Popular Vote bill was sponsored by two-thirds of the Michigan Senate, including a majority of both parties. In total, 3,125 state legislators — Democrats and Republicans alike — across all 50 states have endorsed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

With Delaware helping lead the way, we soon can see a presidential election in which every voter in every state will be politically relevant. At a time when we must guard against fraudulent elections and urge every American to believe that her or his vote matters, National Popular Vote is a powerful American idea whose time has come.

Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Democrat, represents District 11 (Newark/Bear) in the Delaware Senate.

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