Citizen Group Forms to Pass National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in Connecticut

Greenwich & New Haven, CT – In the days following the November election, a nonpartisan grassroots movement sprang to life with the objective of getting Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Through social media and word of mouth, National Popular Vote Compact CT (NPV CT) has grown to include some 500 supporters from more than 45 towns across the state. A working group of approximately 20 activists—including students, young professionals, working parents, and retirees—is leading the effort. With HB 5434 likely to be raised by the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee of the CT General Assembly, the group is preparing to testify at the public hearing that it expects to be announced shortly.

Supporters of NPV CT believe that in a democracy every vote should matter equally and the nation’s leader should be the candidate who wins the most popular votes. Neither was true in this past election. Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes, voters in Connecticut and other reliably blue or red states receive scant attention during the general election, except as a campaign “ATM.”

As Jonathan Perloe, a communications strategist living in Greenwich explains, “The NPV Interstate Compact is an elegant way to ensure that every vote cast for president matters equally, without having to abolish the Electoral College.” Under the Compact, all of the participating states’ electoral votes will be awarded to the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states. The Compact takes effect once states possessing 270 electoral votes, the number required to elect the President, have joined.

Five bills to enter Connecticut into the Compact have been introduced in the General Assembly. Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney proposed Senate Bill 9, one of 10 bills that his spokesperson called “legislative priorities.” Representatives Matt Lesser and James Albis introduced HB 5434 with 10 co-sponsors. The measure is not new; it passed the House in 2009 and received bipartisan joint favorable votes in the GAE Committee in 2011, 2013, and 2014.

According to Andrea Levien, a third year law student at Yale University, “A key reason the bill has not passed both chambers in past sessions was for lack of public awareness.” That’s not true now says Steven Winter, a New Haven-based business operations professional who has led grassroots organizing on climate change and affordable housing. “The response to local outreach efforts has been tremendous in New Haven and around the state. People are excited when they learn how we can make elections more democratic.”

The Compact has been endorsed by numerous national groups, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Latino Congreso, and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. In Connecticut, chapters of the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have both testified in support of the bill.

Support for the Compact crosses party lines. Former Vice President Al Gore, and Jill Stein of the Green Party, favor the Compact. In 2014, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote, “This important project has the potential to transform the way we elect our presidents and to make sure all Americans have a voice in their future.” During President Trump’s first week in office the Wall Street Journal reported that he told Congressional leaders he was “interested in getting rid of the Electoral College and replacing it with a national popular vote.”

Many editorial pages have endorsed the Compact, including the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post. Citizen support for the Compact is widespread as demonstrated by a recently published op-ed co-signed by more than 50 members of Pantsuit Nation CT from 36 towns across the state.

NPV CT is currently focused on recruiting supporters to attend and testify at an expected GAE public hearing. Simultaneously, outreach is ongoing to educate the public about the benefits of the Compact and to counter objections of those who favor the status quo.

In response to one challenge by opponents of the Compact—that large cities would dominate rural areas—NPV CT Working Group member Lisa Kelly, a marketer of children’s books who recently moved to Guilford, explains, “The idea that a national popular vote system would favor large cities is not true. There are fewer than 50 cities in the U.S. with populations of more than 500,000. It’s the vast majority of the country—87 percent—that lives outside large cities that have the most voting power.” Adds Hilary Grant, a sales representative and long-time resident of New Haven, “It simply comes down to principles of democracy and equality—each and every one of us deserves an equal say. Whether I live in South Dakota or New Jersey should make no difference to the weight of my vote.”

Some see the Compact as an end-run around the Constitution. That view does not comport with the actual language of the Constitution explains Mel Sorcher, an organizational psychologist living in Westport. “The Constitution is silent on how states should allocate their electoral votes. It simply reads, ‘in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct’.” It wasn’t until 1824 that states adopted the winner-take-all system used by 48 of 50 states today. Greenwich attorney Sandy Litvack believes Connecticut voters, regardless of party preference, should have a greater say in the outcome. “The winner-take-all arrangement does not serve the interests of Connecticut voters, especially in comparison to battleground states.” The irrelevance of Connecticut to the presidential election is evident from general election campaign events. Of nearly 400 events, 94 percent were held in just 12 states, only one was held in Connecticut.

Writer, videographer and actor’s agent Rozanne Gates of Westport reports that NPV CT organizers are working on multiple fronts to encourage members of the GAE Committee to hold a public hearing. “We believe the NPV bill deserves a full and transparent airing so legislators can cast informed votes, taking into account the views of their constituents.” Past surveys have shown that three-quarters of Connecticut voters, including a majority of Republicans, think the candidate who gets the most votes in the country should become President.

To build awareness of the Compact public forums featuring advocates on both sides of the issue are being planned by NPV CT in Westport and with local partners in Greenwich; other locations are expected to follow. The organization’s digital presence is being expanded and new supporters are signing up every day. The group has a Facebook community (search National Popular Vote CT) a website at NPVct.com, and it can be followed on Twitter (@NPVct). Those who are interested can sign up for email alerts at eepurl.com/cuHqLj.

This op-ed by Rozanne Gates appeared in the Bridgeport Patch.

Popular vote would benefit Connecticut

This letter by Steven Winter was published in the New Haven Register.

In a recent letter criticizing those advocating for Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, Michael Maturo claims that they “should be more concerned with the desires, interests, and opinions of their (Connecticut) constituents.” In doing so, he argues that Connecticut benefits from “a small but deliberate bias in favor of less populous states.”

Yet, Maturo fails to realize that Connecticut’s interests are scarcely represented in the Electoral College, as candidates focus their energies on swing states, not less populous states. Connecticut’s votes — and its interests — are taken for granted.

Heeding the advice of National Popular Vote advocates like Sen. Mae Flexer is not only equitable — it will help put Connecticut’s interests first. In a national popular vote, when every vote counts and counts equally, candidates will refocus their attention on states with greater population density. Connecticut, the 4th most densely populated state, would obviously benefit from this.

While Maturo worries that New York and New Jersey would get all the attention, a renewed focus on densely-populated regions would spur new investments that benefit the entire Northeast. Imagine a highspeed rail line connecting the Northeast corridor: projects like this would benefit many citizens in Connecticut and neighboring states.

These projects would make wiser use of the nation’s tax dollars than the current system, which disproportionately rewards swing states with 7 percent more federal grant funding than “spectator” states and double the presidential disaster declarations.

The Electoral College is broken. Nearly three million votes cast for the nation’s highest office, including more than 200,000 in Connecticut, didn’t count because they were cast on the wrong side of state lines. Fixing the College and correcting this inequity can serve both the national interest, through better allocation of funds, and Connecticut’s interests, by putting it back on the electoral map.

 

National Popular Vote Compact is best remedy

This letter  by Ridley Knapp was published in the Greenwich Time.

I write in opposition to the current way by which the Electoral College operates. The Electoral College is an antiquated system, originally proposed by the Founding Fathers to separate the population of the United States from the executive branch. While it is correct that the Electoral College pulls power away from “large states and large population cities,” this power is not simply destroyed: it is given to smaller and swing states.

Yes, California contributed 4.3 million votes to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s plurality, but to simply say Donald Trump would win if you don’t count California is irresponsible and disenfranchising of literally millions of people. Trump would have won if the votes from California weren’t counted, but they were. Californians are Americans, too.

Now, let’s talk about math. If 38,872 voters, split between Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, had voted for Clinton instead of Trump, she would have won those three states and 280 electoral votes, winning the presidency. Are those 38,872 voters, less than two-thirds the population of Greenwich, really more deserving of deciding the election than 4.3 million Californians? The answer is, unquestionably, no.

The next question, then, concerns how this problem may be solved, and the easiest remedy is the National Popular Vote Compact. Article II of the Constitution, so “astutely” included by the Founding Fathers, states that, “each state shall appoint, in such manners as the legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Therefore, a state legislature may pass a law directing the states’ electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote. Many states have passed such laws, but they will not go into effect until states with a sum total of 270 electoral votes agree follow suit. Connecticut should be the next step of this compact.

The reformation of the Electoral College by way of the National Popular Vote Compact continues down a trail blazed by Supreme Court cases Baker v Carr (1962) and Gray v Sanders (1963). The latter case, widely known for its coining of the phrase “one man, one vote” stated that “the weighting of votes through the county unit system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by giving more voting power to residents of particularly small rural counties.” It is not difficult to expand this logic to the current system under which the Electoral College operates.

I am a Democrat, but my support of the National Popular Vote Compact does not stem from political machinations. Republicans proved they could win a majority of votes in the 2014 midterms elections, winning 52 pecent of votes cast for House candidates, as well as winning the 2004 presidential election by a more than 3 million vote margin. The Republican Party can, have, and will again win the popular vote.

Therefore, I urge state Sen. Scott Frantz and state Representatives Livvy Floren, Mike Bocchino, and Fred Camillo to support S.B. 9 and H.B. 5205, and to do their parts to truly enfranchise the American people.

Compact Would Make Popular Vote Winner The President

This op-ed was published in the Hartford Courant. The author, Jonathan Perloe, is vice chairman of communications for the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee. This was also signed by 54 members of Pantsuit Nation CT from 36 Connecticut towns.

Two days after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election to Donald Trump, an online petition took off; it now has more than 4 million signatures. Recognizing that Clinton won the popular vote by more than 1 million ballots, it calls on the Electoral College to cast “faithless” votes to elect her president. I signed the petition out of anger, fear and despair of electing the most unqualified and dangerous person to lead our nation in modern history, perhaps ever.

I soon realized that altering the outcome of the Electoral College’s vote is a fool’s errand. As Vox commentator Andrew Prokop wrote, “electors overturning Trump particularly would certainly cause a constitutional crisis, because there is no world in which the Republican Party … would accept Clinton taking the presidency in this way.”

But I’m unwilling to stand idly by to see the second president this century take office without winning the popular vote. Connecticut should join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Under the compact, all of a state’s electoral votes would go to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of electoral votes, the 270 required to elect a president.

The compact is a straightforward means of enabling the electorate to express its will without a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College. In two of the last five elections and nearly one of every 11 elections since 1789, the Electoral College has awarded the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. The Electoral College is an anachronism that has no place in our democracy. It was conceived by the founders to appease southern slave-owning states and for an anti-democratic fear of the uneducated hoi polloi. In “The Federalist Papers,” Alexander Hamilton was plainspoken about the need to ensure “that the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

The means by which we elect our president should not have its origins in racist, anti-populist motives. The apportionment of state electors in numbers corresponding to each state’s representation in Congress is an affront to the principle of one person, one vote. The votes of citizens in less populous states have far more weight than do votes from more populated states. Wyoming has a population of roughly one-half million and three electoral votes. If Connecticut’s citizens had the same voting power, it would have 18 electoral votes rather than seven.

The 18th-century voting mechanism distorts the political process by encouraging candidates to focus on just a handful of swing states that decide who will become president. The consequence on voting participation is substantial: last week in 14 states where the margin was close, 65 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, a 16 percent higher turnout than in the rest of the nation.

There is nothing nefarious about the compact. The U.S. Constitution states, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” In her 2013 testimony to the Government Administration and Elections Committee, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said, “this plan is consistent with the Constitution.” The compact has widespread public support. A 2009 poll in Connecticut showed 74 percent in favor of direct elections, including two-thirds of Republicans.

Eleven jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, have passed bills favoring the compact. They represent 165 electoral votes, more than half the number needed for activation. The bill enjoys bipartisan support. In 2014 Republican Newt Gringrich wrote, “America would be better served with a presidential election process that treated citizens across the country equally. The National Popular Vote bill accomplishes this … .”

Some state legislators argue the approach would disenfranchise voters because Connecticut electors would vote for the winner of the national popular vote, not the state’s winner. The argument lacks merit. The bill gives every individual’s vote equal weight, regardless of where they live.

Let’s elect the president as we do every other elected official in the country, by the winner of the popular vote.