GAE Election Law Priorities

At the EDR forum at Wesleyan last night, Chairman Spallone was asked what election law legislation they will be take up this session. Here is the list (in my words):

  • A Senate vacancy bill (which would likely need a veto-proof majority)
  • A Constitutional Amendment that deals with some form of early voting/vote by mail (either early voting or opening up absentee balloting to no-fault or both)
  • EDR
  • On the early voting amendments, it sounds like the absentee balloting reform is more likely, because it would have little to no fiscal impact, and because Republicans attempted to add it to the Under 17 Constitutional amendment last session (it failed, largely because it hadn’t had a public hearing). That said, Rep. Reeves, who used to be a registrar in Wilton, suggested that any cost for early voting may be able to be absorbed, if planned correctly (for example, one polling place per town, in the town clerks office, using the existing voting machine that is currently only used on election day to count ABs).

    After the event, I was able to ask him about the National Popular Vote initiative, and he said it was on the GAE agenda, and would likely be taken up as well. In the past, that bill has cleared GAE, but not received a vote on the floor.

    A couple of things to keep an eye on.

    5 responses to “GAE Election Law Priorities

    1. The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

      Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

      In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    2. 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 Arkansas (80%), California (70%), Colorado (68%), Connecticut (73%), Delaware (75%), Kentucky (80%), Maine (71%), Massachusetts (73%), Michigan (73%), Mississippi (77%), Missouri (70%), New Hampshire (69%), Nebraska (74%), Nevada (72%), New Mexico (76%), New York (79%), North Carolina (74%), Ohio (70%), Pennsylvania (78%), Rhode Island (74%), Vermont (75%), Virginia (74%), Washington (77%), and Wisconsin (71%).

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 22 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, 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.



      A survey of 797 Connecticut voters conducted April 19-20, 2008 showed 73%-27% support for a national popular vote for President.

      By party, support for a national popular vote for President is 80%-20% among Democratic voters; 59%-41% among Republicans, and 76%-24% for Others.

      By age, support is 76%-24% among 18-29 year olds; 67%-33% among 30-45 year olds; 72%-28% among 46-65 year olds; and 78%-22% among 65-and-older.

      By gender, support is 81%-19% among women and 64%-36% among men.

      By race, support is 73%-27% among whites, 71%-29% among African-Americans, 79%-21% among Hispanics, and 66%-34% among Others.

    4. We had the Florida 2000 debacle. Minnesota still hasn’t elected a senator yet. National Popular Vote would be a disaster. When the 270 electoral vote standard is met, who is responsible for counting and certifying the votes in the winner take all states?

      Imagine a close national vote, with lawyers in every courthouse across the country haggling over ballots.

      It’s one of those ideas which sounds good at first — hence the high polls — that upon retrospection is really stupid..

      Most of the issues regarding winner take all can be addressed by having states allocate their electoral votes proportionally.

    5. The electoral college is fine. It assures that candidates have to appeal to a broad cross section of the nation, and not just deeply in urban centers.

      It can be reformed — by apportioning the electoral vote by congressional district plus winner takes the additional two votes in each state. Reform how each states establishes their districts by taking it away from the legislature and assigning it specially convened state-wide grand juries (i.e. relatively random cross section of the citizenry) given basic rules to follow.

      As for election day registration and early voting, those are proposals only a brown shirted thug could love. Yes, I already invoked Godwin so there. While not as anti-democratic as the current card check proposals for unions, I do sincerely believe proposals like EDR and early voting are nothing but asking to weaken decades old procedures designed to keep the dead from voting.

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