Connecticut should support the national popular vote

The General Assembly should put Connecticut’s interests first this session by passing national popular vote legislation. Electing the president by popular vote would put Connecticut – and the concerns of all its citizens – back on the electoral map.

In the current state-by-state, winner-take-all Electoral College system, a handful of swing states decide each presidential election. While Connecticut residents watch far-flung rallies on the nightly news, presidential candidates shower swing states with attention. Once elected, our presidents reward these states with disproportionate amounts of federal funding.

As the federal government doles out hundreds of billions of dollars in grant funding each year, swing states receive on average 7.5% more in grants. They’re twice as likely to get presidential disaster declarations and the federal funds that come with them. Moving to a national popular vote would help Connecticut get its fair share because a popular vote, in President Trump’s words, “brings all the states into play.”

It may be surprising to find President Trump, and other Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich, agreeing with progressives like Howard Dean and Jill Stein on this issue. Yet here in Connecticut, national popular vote legislation has received favorable, bipartisan recommendations from the Government Administration and Elections committee four times in the last eight years. This widespread agreement stems from the fact that a national popular vote would better represent the views of citizens across the political spectrum.

The current Electoral College system effectively disenfranchises millions of Americans in predictably red and blue states. Few should understand this better than Connecticut Republicans, whose votes for president haven’t mattered since 1988, when George H.W. Bush won the state. Their votes – and their views – should count for just as much as those of citizens in other states, but they don’t.

Meanwhile, Democrats are still bruising from Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College loss, despite her popular vote victory of nearly 3 million votes. Should the votes of these millions of men and women carry no weight? In an election decided by less than 100,000 votes in three states, the votes of more than 200,000 Connecticut citizens essentially didn’t count because they were cast on the wrong side of state lines. Is that fair?

Given the 2016 results, Republicans may fear that moving to the popular vote would hurt their party (although the President certainly doesn’t think so). But in 2004, had 60,000 Ohio voters switched from George Bush to John Kerry, Bush would have won the popular vote by a margin similar to Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory but lost the presidency.

The president should represent every American equally – no matter their gender, race, religion, political views, or home state. In all other elections, the candidate with the most votes wins. Our highest office should be no different.

Joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact can help Connecticut get its fair share and help our state lead the nation towards a more equitable, more representative and more perfect Union. Already adopted by ten states and the District of Columbia, the Compact is an agreement among states to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. When states holding a majority of Electoral College votes sign onto the Compact, it will go into effect, making the national popular vote winner the president.

The Compact would not abolish the Electoral College. But it would allow for a national popular vote within the confines of the Constitution, which gives the states the power to appoint Electors, “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Thus, by taking action together, states can make the change to the national popular vote – without amending the Constitution.

Governor Malloy has joined leaders of both parties in expressing his support for this national popular vote legislation. It’s time for the legislature to send the national popular vote bill to his desk so he can sign it.

A version of this piece by Steven Winter has been submitted to the Hartford Courant as an editorial.

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