Should the winner of the national popular vote become President? Or, should we maintain the current winner-take-all Electoral College system which denied the popular vote winner a victory in two of the last five elections? These are the questions being debated on April 4 at a League of Women Voters of Greenwich panel discussion about the National Popular Vote Compact (NPV Compact). The event is being co-sponsored by National Popular Vote CT, Common Cause Connecticut, CTVotersCount.org, and the Greenwich Library.
The forum is timely since the Connecticut legislature currently is considering whether the state should join the NPV Compact. Raised bill H.B. 5434 has 26 co-sponsors, and Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney listed his bill, S.B. 9, as one of his top ten legislative priorities. Under the Compact, all of a participating state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the Presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states. But, the Compact only takes effect once states possessing a combined total of 270 electoral votes — the number required to elect the President — have joined. The NPV Compact has been enacted into law by 11 jurisdictions (including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California), meaning it already has more than 60% of the electoral votes needed to become effective.
A competing bill before the General Administration and Elections (“GAE”) Committee proposes the Congressional District Method for assigning electoral votes, while another affirms the current winner-take-all system as the best way to elect the President.
Although the Compact has been considered by the legislature in four sessions since 2009, never has it received as much public attention as now. A statewide citizens’ advocacy movement, National Popular Vote CT (a co-sponsor of this forum), sent more than 100 advocates to the GAE public hearing in Hartford last month.
With the bill making its way through the Connecticut legislature, the forum will provide an opportunity for members of the community to hear the arguments for and against it. The assembled panel of experts will share different views, with some advocating for the Compact and some favoring the status quo.
Joining the panel will be Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause in Massachusetts, who played an important role in the adoption of the Compact in her state. The panel will also feature Hendrik Hertzberg, award-winning political essayist for The New Yorker magazine and board member of FairVote. For a different perspective, historian and author Mark Albertson will discuss the establishment of the Electoral College, shedding light on why the founders created a process for electing the President unlike any other office in the nation. The panel will be rounded out by Luther Weeks, Executive Director of CTVotersCount.org, who has testified against the Compact due to concerns over voting integrity. The panel will be moderated by Victoria Bassetti, author and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.
As Sheila Mehta, board member of the League of Women Voters of Greenwich, explains, “Although there may be disagreements about the merits of the Compact, we hope Connecticut residents will see that this is not a partisan piece of legislation. The truth is that the NPV Compact is supported by people across the political spectrum, including former politicians like Vice President Al Gore, U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Libertarian Presidential Candidate Bob Barr. That being said, we want to be sure to fairly present both sides of the debate about the Compact to inform our members and the wider community.” The League, a non-partisan organization, has been advocating for the direct election of the President by popular vote for nearly 50 years; it endorsed the Compact in 2010 as an interim solution to achieving that goal.
Sandy Litvack, National Popular Vote CT Working Group Member and Greenwich resident, added, “The current winner-take-all arrangement does not serve the interests of Connecticut voters, especially in comparison to the battleground states. The irrelevance of Connecticut to the Presidential election is evident by looking at how much attention our state gets from candidates: of nearly 400 general election campaign events in 2016, 94% were held in just 12 states, and only one was held in Connecticut.” The group contends that the votes of Connecticut citizens in a Presidential election will matter to Presidential candidates only when the vote of each Connecticut citizen is counted the same as the vote of every other citizen in the country. They see the National Popular Vote Compact as a way to ensure that.
The event is being held at the Greenwich Library in the Cole Auditorium on Tuesday, April 4. Refreshments start at 6:30 p.m. and the program will run from 7-9 p.m. Although admission is free, League members should RSVP with the numbers attending to [email protected]. Non-members can RSVP to [email protected].