Getting Around The Constitution

Some like to use the Court System.  Some like to use creative Congressional Legislation.  Some even like to use Executive Orders.

Others seek a coalition of states to enact laws to just circumvent the Constitutional system.

Today we look at a bill before the Iowa General Assembly (House version, Senate version).  This same bill has already been enacted into law in Maryland and New Jersey.  It is still in the “Study Bill” state (in a committee for review), and will essentially cause Iowa to select Electors based on the National Popular Vote results instead of Iowa’s Popular Vote results.  Once enough states opt into this coalition to cover 270 electoral votes (the number of votes currently needed to win the Presidency), the law would go into effect.  In case it’s not obvious, the point is to make the College meaningless.

I am very concerned about this bill. I’ll start by saying I support the Electoral College structure that we have in place today to mange the electing of the President, and although I could use this space to explain my support for it, my concern with the bill is not in the value of the College, but rather in the Compact that this bill places Iowa in.

This bill, in concert with the same language in other states’ codes, is intended to provide a means to circumvent the Constitution of the Unites States. I consider that a serious matter. Despite the fact that each state has the right to select its electors for President by whatever means it deems appropriate, this is a creative way to achieve a populist agenda that should be given the due course of debate at a national level and resolved by changing the Constitution as it is intended to be managed.

Further, this bill will hurt Iowans in the following ways:

  1. Iowa, along with the other states that are agreeing to this compact, will become at odds with the Federal Government. Circumventing the Constitution is serious business. Congress will, of course, take notice and somehow act. Congress may act in a way that penalizes the states that participate in this Compact.
  2. If this is passed, I am confident that Iowa will lose its first-in-the-nation caucus status. Both parties will abandon Iowa as due to the negative impact we are supporting against national party politics.
  3. Iowa will lose its voice in the national debate. Becoming part of this Compact will mean that no matter how Iowans vote, it will be the national voice that we speak, not our own.
  4. The loss of Iowa’s relevance will mean that candidates will no longer bother coming to Iowa. They will focus on the urban centers such as the Northeast, Chicago, the West Cost, and Texas. Agrarian states will get no attention.

Other problems with this bill include the fact that this course of action may, ironically, be executable without the favor of a majority of American Citizens. Only required is that the legislatures of enough states to acquire a majority of the Electors approve this measure. Regardless of the polling on this issue, it deserves to be debated and decided by all Americans.

Once this Compact is enacted, the Electoral College will become irrelevant. Congress will be forced to act. It could take the course of withdrawing the Electoral College, which is what the Compact supporters desire more than anything. Again, I will refrain from speaking to that issue at this time.

Or, Congress may decide to take other action to abolish the Compact. It may determine that it will have to define how electors are selected. I don’t think we want that.

We are currently suffering from a series of attacks on the Constitution. Plans nationally to enact the “Fairness Doctrine”, the recently approved Stimulus Package, discussions around nationalizing the banking system, plans to further limit religious expression and the holding of firearms, and the repeated use of the court system to decide the things that we should be deciding in the halls of our legislative bodies are all slowly eating away at the foundation of our law.

Even if this is the direction that Iowans and Americans really want to go, it concerns me that such a dramatic change could be thrust into the heart of our country while we are trying so desperately to recover from economic challenges and a significant shift in popular thinking… this decision, this idea needs more time and more debate.

If you live in Iowa, please contact your State House Representative and Senator.  At the this links you’ll find email, phone numbers, and home addresses.  I would urge you to send an email right away, and perhaps follow up with a phone call.

Since this topic has both Iowa and National impacts, it is being posted on both The Conservative Reader and The Conservative Reader: Iowa.

About the Author

Mr. Smith is the Publisher of The Conservative Reader. He is Partner/Owner of Ambrosia Web Technology as well as a Systems Architect for Wells Fargo. Art hold a degree in Computer Science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a political blogger at the Des Moines Register. Art's views are purely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wells Fargo.


RSS Feed for This Post2 Comment(s)

  1. TheVirginiaHistorian | Feb 16, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Reply

    The nvp proposal before the Iowa legislature is Rousseau’s General Will gone wild. Regardless of Iowan votes, the state legislature would throw all Iowa electors to the majority vote in the compact states. You will not know how you voted until the majority narrow 270 count, not the national majority, tells you.

    Completely reversing Iowa’s vote, if it happens to be a minority of the 270 count compact states, could reverse the winner of the electoral college. Iowa’s preference might have otherwise won, if Iowa’s electors were subtracted from the compact one-elector majority, then added to the national total.

  2. TheVirginiaHistorian | Feb 16, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Reply

    Attacks on the Electoral College mostly originate from dissatisfaction with the state-made unit rule, winner-take-all. This has the effect of disenfranchising substantial political and geographic minorities.

    Most objections can be met with the state-made District Plan, one vote from each congressional district, and a two-elector bonus for the state majority. This allows for individual differences and state diversity.

    The district plan was used in twelve states until 19th Century political machines erased their state majorities to gain in federal patronage when their man won. Free people will vote with diversity, apart from the country registrar’s preference, regardless of party.

    The District Plan allows for a state to divide, like Nebraska (4-1) or not, like Maine (4-0). But Nebraska proved that every district plan state is a battleground state (Obama campaigned and picked up the urban district). All any state needs is one close district, and campaigns will try to influence that one and the surrounding 4-6 districts.

    Let individuals express their preference without nvp compact state reversals. Let states express diversity by equal population divisions in the congressional districts, and a two-elector bonus for the state majority advocates.

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