Legislators explain opposition to national popular vote

From left, Gail Lavielle, Tom O'Dea and Toni Boucher.
From left, Gail Lavielle, Tom O'Dea and Toni Boucher.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, state Rep. Gail Lavielle and state Rep. Tom O’Dea have explained their opposition to the National Popular Vote Compact.

The compact, which was supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and passed by the legislature earlier this month, makes Connecticut allocate its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes. It would take effect only if enough states signed on to guarantee that the national popular vote winner wins the presidency.

“With the exception of the presidency, every elected office in the country, from city council, to United States senator, to governor, is awarded the candidate who receives the most votes,” Malloy said in a statement. “The vote of every American citizen should count equally, yet under the current system, voters from sparsely populated states are awarded significantly more power than those from states like Connecticut. This is fundamentally unfair. The National Popular Vote Compact will ensure an equal vote for every American citizen, regardless of which state they happen to live in. I applaud the General Assembly for passing this common-sense legislation.”

The legislation is House Bill 5421, An Act Adopting the Interstate Compact to Elect the President of the United States by National Popular Vote. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 77-73 and the Senate by a vote of 21-14.

Boucher told The Bulletin in an email she disagrees with the proponents who say the National Popular Vote is the only way to ensure that every vote counts.

“In fact, I think entering into this compact dilutes the voice of Connecticut voters. Under the Popular Vote model, presidential candidates need only concern themselves with campaigning in the most populous states, since it will be the majority vote that wins the election. No matter how Connecticut votes, it will be the population in other, larger states who decide who will be president,” she said.

Many people don’t understand that the Electoral College gives weight to small and less populous states. The founders recognized that large states potentially could use their votes to run roughshod over smaller states as a result of the sheer numbers of their citizenry. This is the reason each state is represented by two senators, no matter their size, Boucher said.

“New York and California will vote in a way that most benefits their citizens. However, what’s best for large, urban centers and states may not be right for less populous states. The Electoral College provides an equalizing effect so that smaller states retain the power to represent the will of their people,” Boucher said in conclusion.

Lavielle said there are multiple arguments for and against the National Popular Vote, and the discussion is always interesting. While many proponents believe that it would give Connecticut more of a voice in the election of a president, Lavielle said that, on the contrary, it would not.

“It would require Connecticut to give all of its electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes in all other states. If our state’s choice were different from that of the rest of the country, it would not be able to express that choice when electoral votes were cast, as it can now,” Lavielle said.

A national popular vote would hurt the smaller states, O’Dea said.

“I understand the logic the old electoral college system is out of date. There was a more informed group of electors than the people outside, but we’re not an actual democracy, we’re a republic, so I am convinced if we went to a national popular vote, all the time and energy would be spent in big states. Connecticut now doesn’t get enough focus. With a national popular vote it would get even less,” O’Dea said.