Bunnie Keen: A way to make every American’s vote count

National Popular Vote would give a voice to every American voter.

(Office of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley via AP) In this photo released by the Office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, Electoral College ballots sit on a table after they were rescued from the Senate floor in Washington, Jan. 6, 2020.

Nobody should be embarrassed if they don’t really get how our system for electing presidents works. I made it to age 62 before it really sank in, and that was only after I put in some effort. That was also when, for the second time in my voting life, the candidate with the most votes, lost. Go figure.

I’m assuming Utah state Rep. Kay J. Christofferson and Trent England, the authors of Thursday’s commentary supporting the way we currently elect presidents, have put in some effort too. But darned if I could prove it by their arguments against National Popular Vote (NPV.) Practically cut-and-paste versions of the ones I first encountered almost four years ago, they’re also the same ones organized opponents to a single nationwide vote for our a single nationwide office, have been trotting out for over a decade.

NPV is state-by-state legislation over 70% of the way toward making all votes for president matter, wherever they’re cast. It’s a pretty simple concept that actually needs the Electoral College to function, so all this brouhaha about abolishing it is just one of many red herrings tossed out to distract from potential support.

A single clause in the Constitution gives states the exclusive right to decide how to designate their electoral votes. That states currently award all their votes to the winner within their borders is a method adopted way back in the 1800s that replaced even earlier methods. Maine and Nebraska revised how they award electoral votes in the late 20th century. NPV just seeks to once more update laws concerning electoral votes in some states, by replacing old legislation with new, something states do all the time. Dog bites man.

The simplicity of it is that nothing changes under a National Popular Vote except this: On election night/week, whatever, NPV participating states (totaling at least 270 electoral votes) agree to hold off appointing their electors until one candidate accumulates so many votes nationwide that the remaining votes can’t change the outcome. Once that’s abundantly clear, they choose their electors not from the party of whoever wins the state, but from the party of whoever wins the nation. So when the Electoral College meets in December, the candidate with the most votes in all 50 states and D.C. becomes president. Simple.

An anti-NPV argument that turns out to be a pretty good case against itself is one of the many never-offered-with-evidence-to-back-it-up arguments: Our current electoral system encourages broad national coalitions. So, is that the broad national coalition that encourages ignored voters in Utah to send money to swing states where voters really decide the election? Or maybe that’s the broad national coalition that worked so well for Evan McMullen, Gary Johnson or Jill Stein?

If you want a broad national coalition, enact NPV so Utah money can turnout Utah voters and Utah’s rural interests can team up with, not compete against, rural interests in Colorado, Iowa and, dare I say, California?

Finally the donkey in the room: California, the biggest state in the union, and the nemesis of conservatives everywhere. But the big-state-bugaboo-domination-myth about NPV simply doesn’t pan out. Because as hard as it may be to believe, there are lots of Republicans in states like California, New York and Illinois. They feel just as disenfranchised as Democrats in Texas, Idaho and Utah when their votes for president are stomped on, swept out the door and disappeared every four years.

This big state/big city ruse is just that. When a vote is a vote is a vote, it doesn’t matter what state it’s cast in, because it will be added up with every other vote of its political affiliation everywhere in the nation. That means voters everywhere will become important. When voters are important, their states are important, when states are important, candidates pay attention.

Listen, Republicans are just as capable of winning a national popular vote for president as Democrats. The GOP’s been running neck-to-neck with Dems in presidential elections since the 1930s. They’re only in a bit of a slump right now because they’ve forgotten how to do it: Come up with better ideas, expand your base, get more of them out to vote.

Not rocket science.

Bunnie Keen

Bunnie Keen, a voter in Utah since 1972, knows you have more questions about how the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact works and invites you to visit www.nationalpopularvote.com to learn more.