California State Senate agrees to violate U.S. Constitution

State Senator Mark-Ridley Thomas, who represents California’s 26th District throughout Los Angeles, voted last week along with 22 others in Sacramento to pass a bill that would effectively render the Electoral College system moot.

The measure, by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, would ratify an interstate compact under which states would agree to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the preferences of their own voters. (from Associated Press, via National Popular Vote)

For those of you who never heard of Senator Mark-Ridley Thomas, welcome to the club. However, he represents a wide swath of central Los Angeles County, including Culver City, South Central, Hollywood, Beverlywood, and Los Feliz. But I’m sure many of you have heard of the US Constitution, which not only lays out the structure of how we elect presidents, but also prohibits States, “without the Consent of Congress,” from entering “into any Agreement or Compact with another State”. (more here)

…h/t Gentle Cricket at California Conservative

On a humorous side note,
Sen. Carole Midgen, who sponsored the above measure, also recently supported another that bans using a cel phone while driving… earlier this week she crashed her SUV while reaching for her cel phone. Doh! (story at Autoblog… h/t Ruth666)

28 Replies to “California State Senate agrees to violate U.S. Constitution”

  1. So it sounds like this to me: if a Republican presidential candidate wins the national popular vote in 2008, he will automatically win CA’s electoral votes, which would he would not win under the old system (where, you know, the votes went to the candidate a majority of Californians ACTUALLY VOTED FOR.)

    If this is some sort of “closing the barn door” response to the 2000 elections, didn’t Gore win the popular vote AND California anyway? Not only is this unconstitutional, it’s completely stupid as political strategy.

    WHY did Democrats sponsor and vote for this bill? Way to go dummies…

  2. Coop, I think you missed an important piece of this bill. It only goes into effect once 271 electoral votes worth of states agree to join it. At that point, with 271+ electoral votes being decided by the national popular vote, the election goes for the popular candidate.

    The thing is, it doesn’t matter which states sign up for this, California, Utah, Ohio, whatever. As long as there is enough of them, the popular vote will be the only thing that matters.

    Right, California signing this alone wouldn’t’ve helped Gore. California leading the revolution will help future Gores.

    And there really is no constitutional problem here. States are free to assign their electoral votes however they want. Historically, this was done by the individual electors voting for whomever they wanted. Later, individual state constitutions by and large were amended to allocate electoral votes as a single block (or not, in NE and ME) by the state’s popular vote. The federal constitution doesn’t care about this process, and this new system would be just as kosher as the current one.

  3. Oh, and the bill is neither an agreement nor compact with another state. It is a unilateral declaration of intent. And if you don’t see the difference, well, that just means you’re not a lawyer.

  4. Why don’t we save ourselves all the confusion and bickering, just allocate them to the Giuliani column and call it a day/election.

  5. Alas, was the AP inaccurate by calling this “an interstate compact” in an article the group supporting the bill posted prominently on their own website?

  6. Everybody seems to think this is some pro-Democrat plan that will save future Al Gores, but there’s nothing about the electoral college that inherently penalizes Democratic candidates. Everyone forgets the 2004 election, where Bush easily won the popular vote but nearly lost the electoral college count.
    It seems to me this actually punishes a state like California (which has a large electoral count and is politically diverse) to the benefit of smaller, more politically lopsided states. Bush lost by 1.2 million votes in CA in 2004. Bush won by 0.4 million votes in Oklahoma. So CA would have had 3 times the impact of OK in a national vote, but as it worked out (with CA’s 55 electoral votes to OK’s 7), we had nearly 8 times the impact.

  7. Steve, you are making my point for me.

    Why would Californian willingly give up the disproportionate effect they already have on the presidental election? Answer, the voters wouldn’t, but their bonehead legislators would, all in hopes of gaining some advantage for their party, an advantage which is almost guaranteed (as you point out) to backfire on them.

  8. And didn’t Gore win the popular vote in 200O? I fully admit to trying to forget that whole sordid mess, as I was pretty disgusted with both candidates.

  9. The demise of good reporting explains why a reporter would use the word “compact” without giving a thought to whether it has legal implications on which those particularly interested in the subject might pick up.

    I’m glad someone pointed out that states have always had the right to set up their own elector-selection system on their own. A fine, tiny scrap of true federalism that remains after most other vestiges have been scrapped.

    I don’t agree with plans to modify the EC. At least, not the proposal discussed here.

    Twice – that’s TWO TIMES out of more than TWO CENTURIES – has the popular vote not squared with the electoral vote. That’s it. Twice.

    And there was no failure of the EC in 2000. There was a massive, massive failure of the Supreme Court, however.

  10. SteveK is of partly right, that popular vote does not equal Democratic party advantage. However, due to the nature of the Senate, where every cow in Montana and Wyoming have their own electors, the electoral college is biased towards the Republican party in a way that the popular vote is not.

    Furthermore, many of us who support the Democratic party also feel that direct election of the president is a more Democratic (or is that “democratic”) system, and thus inherently more fair even if strategically neutral.

    Lastly, Coop, California, voting overwhelmingly Democratic, oddly enough doesn’t have a disproportionate clout to swing elections to the Democrats. The ~33% of CA voters whose Republican votes get erased in the current system are minimal compared to the %49 of FL Democrats, 49% of OH Democrats, %40 of TX Democrats, and whatnot.

  11. Look, I’m libertarian-leaning, pretty much can’t stand either democrats OR republicans, and my biggest problem with this is it is yet another freedom we arec supposed to exercise at a state level that is being given away without my consent. Did any of us get to vote on this? There’s your democracy in action…

  12. You might want to change the headline on this post. Doing something you disagree with does not constitute a violation of the U.S. Constitution, even if more than one state does it at the same time.

  13. Did any of us get to vote on this? There’s your democracy in action…

    Yep. Your representative democracy. That’s kind of how it works.

  14. Coop, I understand your position, but I think it a little odd that you’d prefer to have everybody in the state’s vote aggregated into an artificial electoral college than to have every person in the nation get one vote that gets counted as one vote. That’s really what we’re talking about here.

    There’s this bizarre backdoor state-wide electoral college mechanism that makes things sound all weird, but it’s simply a way of getting the country to elect its president by a direct popular vote. (In contrast to the current system where the president is elected by a couple hundred people in Ohio, Iowa, and Florida.)

  15. I’d amend the title and post, but I won’t be able to do this til later…

    However, its also inaccurate to imply I’m pro or anti the electoral college – I’m just against the what appears to be what appears to be a violation of the Constitution.

    That said, if this isn’t an interstate contract or compact, what is?

  16. A simple majority democracy is mob rule, there’s a reason the founding fathers built ours as a representative democracy. The electoral college counterbalances the popular vote by ensuring that states with smaller populations aren’t completely ignored, in the same way that the Senate (two senators from each state) counterbalances the House (where each state’s number of representatives is detemined by population.) Any decision that takes power away from the states and cedes it to the federal government is a bad decision as far as I’m concerned.

    Look, I’ve heard interesting arguments for changing/abolishing the electoral college, and I’m not necessarily against it, provided a better way of doing the same thing could be put into place. Going to a straight popular vote ain’t it, IMHO.

    (I also find it amusing to consider that if the supreme court had ruled in gore’s favor in 2000, everyone who now wants to dump the electoral college would instead argue that it is the best thing EVAR.)

  17. if this isn’t an interstate contract or compact

    There’s no “if.” It isn’t.

    what is?

    You know what a contract is, right? When two or more parties sign a contract, at least one of them incurs obligations–contractual obligations–to one or more of the other parties. When states do this, their way of “signing” the contract is to adopt the language of the law (complete with any obligations incurred by one state towards another, and enumerating the circumstances under which the compact would become void) contingent on the other states adoption of an identically-worded law.

    This EC law does none of this. It does not require any action from any other state to go into effect. It does not make a promise to do anything jointly with any other state. It does not incur any obligation from California to another state, or from another state to California.

    It is not a compact.

    It is not a contract.

    It just isn’t. OK?

    I make ’em too, bro. Move on.

  18. Whats so completely at odds with anyone disagreeing that this is a “compact” is that the group behind this effort uses those very same words to describe what this is.

    According to National Popular Vote.com:

    “An interstate compact is a contractual agreement between two or more states. The U.S. Constitution authorizes states to enter into interstate compacts. States may enter into an interstate compact in the same manner that they enact any other state law.”

  19. If “National Popular Vote.com,” whoever the heck they are, think that this is an interstate compact, they are just as wrong as you are.

    David, I’m only going to tell you this one more time: it’s not a compact. You made a mistake, which proves that you are human.

    Move on.

  20. I’m not really sure why you give so much weight to a group that came up with a system that you think is unlawful to begin with. Lobbyist groups frequently use incorrect terms and/or encourage laws that are, uh, unlawful.

    But it’s the lobbyist group’s words. Just because they said it, doesn’t make it correct, legal, accurate, credible . . . .

    The whole proposal is boneheaded. As mentioned above, if the Supes hadn’t wandered into the fray (or more precisely, bodly refused to wander into the fray after wandering into the fray – ah ain’t the “political question” excuse a grand one) and Gore had prevailed in 2000, this wouldn’t even be a question.

    Two times, people. Two times.

    I will remain a fan of representative democracy and (true) federalism – the latter of which balks at the idea of direct democracy, recognizing that even democracy’s inventors – the ancients – realized it was unworkable.

    Back to Poli Sci 101, y’all.

  21. I don’t agree with AP that the electoral vote is biased towards Republicans–it nearly went against them in 2004 (in a near-reversal of the ’00 popular/electoral results, as I already mentioned), but whatever its effect on Republicans and Democrats, it gives CALIFORNIA more impact than a national popular vote will. CA usually votes Democratic, but there are a lot of Republicans here, we have a Republican governor, 3 of our last 4 governors were Republican. These relatively thin margins would go a long way towards our votes cancelling each other out. This bill is being passed by California legislators, and it seems to me they should be working on bills that are to the BENEFIT of California.

  22. They are wrong. You are correct in your quotations of their product.

    Possible options: someone at LegCo (that’s the folks that actual write the bills) messed up and took too much copy straight from the proposal that was itself wrong. Or, they use the word “compact” but what they get isn’t one, and a court would agree. Or, they use the word, a court thinks it is, severs that part, but the rest of the bill stands. Or, the bill never gets passed because it is a joke. Or, the bill does get passed because it is a joke and a symbolic thing that hurts no one when the Guv kills it quietly in the night.

    It seems that we all (those arguing about the word and usage of “compact”) agree the proposal is foolish. Or at least I think David and I do. So why are we still arguing?

    David wants it procedurally dead, I want it substantively dismissed. Everyone can win this battle.

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