OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2012
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Glenville State College
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Glenville, WV—Dr. Arthur DeMatteo, Glenville State College Associate Professor of History, served as a member of a distinguished panel at a public forum that discussed the ‘Electoral College process and the National Popular Vote Bill’ on October 31st at West Virginia State University. Panelists debated whether the Electoral College process is necessary or needed with the real-time reporting of election results in the presidential race. The panel was comprised of politicians and political scientists as well as a lobbyist for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC).
The NPVIC is an agreement among several states that have passed legislation to replace their current rules regarding the apportionment of presidential electors with rules guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes. The agreement would go into effect only when the states in the compact have an absolute majority in the Electoral College.
To date, eight states: Washington, California, Illinois, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. have joined the NPVIC. That gives the compact 132 electoral votes. New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina have pending legislation to join the NPVIC. Should all four eventually join the compact, the NPVIC would then have 200 electoral votes. If the NPVIC could recruit states with 70 additional electoral votes, they would have the 270 that are needed to elect a president. That would mean the candidate with the most popular vote, regardless of party affiliation, would be elected. National Popular Vote legislation has been introduced in the West Virginia Legislature for the past two years but has never moved out of committee.
“The issue of the Electoral College was particularly relevant, since we had our presidential election coming up in six days, and some pundits were predicting that Mitt Romney would win the popular vote, while President Obama would win the Electoral College. And sure, there are some problems with the Electoral College. For one thing, as it now stands, a candidate could win just the 11 largest states and have 271 electoral votes, one more than is needed to win the election. It also tends to reduce voter participation in states where the presidential outcome is not in doubt, such as West Virginia this year. If a person does not bother to vote because the presidential outcome is a certainty, then he or she is also not voting for state and local offices, school levies, etc. But the NPVIC creates a lot of problems itself, and it is probably unconstitutional, in any case,” said DeMatteo.
Joining DeMatteo on the panel were: State Senator Dan Foster, D-Kanawha County; Delegate Mesha Poore, D- Kanawha County; Dr. Frank Vaughan, WVSU Professor; Dr. Marybeth Bellar, Marshall University Professor; Dr. Tera McCown, University of Charleston Professor; and Patrick Rosenstiel, Senior Consultant for the NPVIC.
Each panelist was given five minutes for an opening statement. “There was a lot of enthusiasm for the NPVIC as we worked down the line of commentators, so I think there was some surprise when I threw my cold water on the whole idea. I also could feel a lot of doubt on the part of the audience once I stated my case for opposing the initiative,” added DeMatteo.
“One panelist claimed that 62% of the population favors a national public vote. I countered that, if this is the case, why not just work for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and go to a straight popular vote? I argued that the NPVIC is a cheap way to get around the difficult task of amending the Constitution; even if it is constitutional as is, and even if Congressional approval is obtained or is not needed, it violates the spirit of the Constitution. That’s why I consider it an ‘end run’ around the Constitution, said DeMatteo.
One idea brought up by the panel was proportional voting, perhaps by Congressional districts, rather than the ‘winner take all’ system now in place. Nebraska and Maine already do this. According to DeMatteo, this idea would encourage voter participation, but it would also be subject to its own problems such as gerrymandering.
“We really did have a lot of fun, and it was a congenial group. In the end, maybe we are simply better off leaving the system as it is,” said DeMatteo.