National popular vote: A serious mistake for this democracy

Connecticut may be close to adopting the proposed National Popular Vote compact. This would be a serious mistake.

If the proposed National Popular Vote compact were adopted, Connecticut’s six electoral votes for President would be cast for whomever received the most popular votes nationally regardless of how the voters of our state actually voted. This raises very serious problems that appear to be ignored or poorly understood.

First, the compact opens the way for a fringe candidate to succeed over a divided field of moderate contenders. That is because the compact does not require a majority vote or even a substantial plurality to win. Obviously the more candidates that are running, the fewer the votes that are needed to be elected. France, a country that elects its president directly by popular vote, wisely requires a runoff election if no candidate receives 50%.

Second, the NPV compact almost assures unprecedented delay and uncertainty in our presidential elections. An official in each state would have to rule not only on who won in that particular state, but also decide who won across the entire country. This offers plenty of opportunity for disagreement and legal action. In the 2000 Presidential election, for example, it required the Supreme Court to settle whether Bush or Gore carried Florida. If the NPV compact had been in effect, the same question could have been litigated in each participating state. Another issue concerns what happens if an elector refuses to obey the compact and chooses instead simply to vote for the express choice of the voters who elected him or her. Once elected, an elector is free to vote as he or she wishes. Finally, Article 10, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits compacts among individual states without the consent of Congress. The provision has not been invoked for years, but it offers the basis for an additional lawsuit if an attempt is made to elect a president by implementation of the NPV compact.

If the American people wish to do away with the Electoral College, the Constitution provides a path for amendment. It has been used successfully 27 times. We should proceed in the same way so as to assure a full understanding and open discussion by our entire country. For the good of this democracy, we should reject the National Popular Vote compact.

Mr. Hetherington is the former state representative of the 125th District.