Monday, March 13, 2006

Illinois Senate Bill 2724: An Irrelevant Electoral College? (Part II)

(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

(For Part I of this story and Andy's personal beef with the electoral college system, click here.)

Instead of personally characterizing Illinois Senate Bill 2724, I'll leave that task to Hendrik Hertzberg, who wrote about the bill for the New Yorker:

Here's how the plan would work. One by one, legislature by legislature, state law by state law, individual states would pledge themselves to an interstate compact under which they would agree to award their electoral votes to the nationwide winner of the popular vote. The compact would take effect only when enough states had joined it to elect a President — that is, enough to cast a majority of the five hundred and thirty-eight electoral votes. (Theoretically, as few as eleven states could do the trick.) And then, presto! All of a sudden, the people of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia are empowered to elect their President the same way they elect their governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen. We still have the Electoral College, with its colorful eighteenth-century rituals, but it can no longer do any damage. It becomes a tourist attraction, like the British monarchy.
The effort is called National Popular Election, and it has the support of The Center for Voting & Democracy, the leader in US election reform.

As the Per Curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), notes, "the State legislature's power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution." If this 6-year old statement even remotely reflects the current sentiment on SCOTUS, the National Popular Election effort would easily withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Here's hoping that enough states exercise this plenary power in such manner as to give voice to the will of the national electorate. The Illinois bill is currently in committee. Keep your fingers crossed. Your vote for the President may count soon enough.

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