Harry Neuwirth writes from Silverton OR.
We live in a republic as outlined in the Constitution laid down by the Founders, a Constitution reserving a high degree of sovereignty to the states. Clearly, ultimate authority in the U.S. was meant to reside in the people and the states they live in as delineated in Article IX of the Bill of Rights: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," and in Article X: "The powers not delegated to the U.S., nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States . . . or to the people."
Serious language addressing serious conditions assessed by emigrants who had seen how life withered where power was narrowly concentrated as in the European world from which they were fleeing; where they and their ancestors had led constricted lives under the rule of monarchies of various stripe for centuries; colonists, now, who had endured great physical discomfort along with financial distress to erect the documentary ramparts that have defined and protected us since 1787.
How to establish and maintain equity among sovereign states which inevitably would experience differing rates of growth? They chose to adopt a bicameral legislature, two branches with fundamentally equal authority, but assigning membership in one strictly by population, the other accepting two members from each state without regard for numbers.
But then, how to avoid having the more populous states dominate election of the president, the sole national executive? They adopted the same equalizing formula as they'd seized upon for elections to congress. Rather than simply tallying popular votes, which would favor the more populous states as they evolved, that advantage serving as an attraction for even more people to migrate to those centers of power, the Constitution provided for an electoral college which follows the pattern of the national congress: each state receives electors in the "college" in proportion to its population, but with two additional electors without regard to population.
Should we care?
We should care. Employing statistics from the 2000 census, seven eastern states combined with Texas and California would have the numerical muscle to elect a president over the other forty-one in a popular election. However, those nine dominant states are limited to an additional eighteen votes in the "college," while the forty-one small states would bring an additional eighty-two votes to that party, overcoming the balance lost to population.
Yet we have state legislatures seeking to circumvent the "college" by adopting state laws that would award all of their state's electoral votes to the candidate who won the national popular vote in an attempt to establish this method of electing our presidents without having to go through the arduous process of amending the Constitution. It was reported in a local newspaper some weeks ago that there were forty-five states considering such legislation. If true, we should care!
It's hard to believe that "small" states would wish to adopt such self-abnegating policy. One analysis put forward is that, having had questionable tallies and suspect officials in some states in recent elections, hanging chads in others, that a popular vote total calculated from the results submitted by the fifty states would be more accurate, more honest, more dependable. May I never fly on an airplane piloted by someone who thinks like that.
Perhaps the unlikely vitality of the popular vote initiative in the U.S. can be explained by the civic perceptiveness of those in support of this circumvention of the U.S. Constitution as expressed by the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives who stated--for publication--"I believe that whoever wins the popular vote should win, whether that is a school board or the U.S. Presidency."
It should come as no surprise to thoughtful people that the popular vote movement is coordinated by the National Popular Vote group headquartered in California, the nation's most populous state. *
"Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret." -Ambrose Bierce