Opinion: Carolina Beat

No. 947 The Death of Voting in North Carolina

Some North Carolina legislators would like to ignore the will of North Carolinians when it comes to Presidential elections. If a plan introduced in the legislature gets passed, and it might, North Carolina would make a compact with other states to support the Presidential candidate that receives the most votes in the nation.

This plan, referred to as national popular voting, is a response to the rare situation when the President wins an election despite receiving fewer popular votes than the losing candidate.

The biggest problem with the plan is that it ignores the will of North Carolinians. If every single citizen of North Carolina voted for one candidate, the state would still have to support the opposing candidate if that individual received more national popular votes. This plan should be called the anti-North Carolina popular voting plan.

In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California version of the bill arguing “I cannot support…giving all our electoral votes to the candidate that a majority of Californians did not support.”

This whole approach to voting also ignores the fact that the existing Electoral College voting system was set up, in part, to protect the specific interests of states. New York, for example, may have very different interests than North Carolina.

If a candidate were pushing policies that would hurt North Carolina, and the majority of voters opposed that candidate, it wouldn’t make a difference in this new voting system. North Carolina not only would have to ignore the majority of voters but also support a candidate that would hurt the state. The citizens of other states, along with those states’ interests, should never take priority over the right for North Carolinians to have a voice in Presidential elections.

It is true that in any election year, all states won’t be considered battleground states. As a result, one individual vote may have less importance than in other years. This isn’t a permanent reality though. The next election cycle, the battleground states will change.

If this new plan were passed, the system would have permanent flaws that would disenfranchise voters. In a national popular voting system, smaller states would be ignored. The system also is biased against rural and small-town voters. In the current system, candidates have to battle throughout a state if they hope to gain the necessary number of voters to win the electoral votes. In the national popular voting system, they are better off simply going to the major population centers of the state.

A national popular voting system also would create the possibility that a candidate could win an election even though the individual has won far fewer states than the opposing candidate. In the current system, a candidate has to gain the wide approval of many interests and the support of many states.

There also is an incredible level of arrogance in trying to change a system that has worked so well throughout the nation’s history, simply by passing some hastily considered legislation. Some legislators apparently think they know better than our Founding Fathers on how to develop elections for President.

There are serious constitutional issues as well, such as whether the proposed compact between the states violates the Compact Clause of the United States Constitution. Regardless, this clearly is an end run around the Constitution. If the idea of a national popular vote is such a great idea, then proponents of the system should go through the amendment process just like anyone else that is trying to change the most important governing document in history.

If such a plan were passed, North Carolina will be letting out-of-state citizens decide the candidate that the state will support in Presidential elections. The legislature will be saying that the voices of North Carolinians don’t matter. It will be a sad day when North Carolinians have to defend their right to have a voice in Presidential elections. Unfortunately, that day has arrived.

Daren Bakst is the legal and regulatory policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation.