Guest Column: The National Popular Vote: Missouri vote and issues should matter
By Heath Clarkston, Gallagher Consultants Inc. (Jefferson City, MO)
How does it work?
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC. It would go into effect when approved by states possessing a majority of electoral votes (270 of 538).
The bill accomplishes its purpose by awarding the presidential electors of all the enacting states to the party that wins the national popular vote.
If Missouri (which was 55% Republican in 2012) and Minnesota (which was 54% Democratic) had enacted the National Popular Vote bill and the bill had been in effect in 2012, then both Missouri’s 10 electoral votes and Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes would have gone to the winner of the national popular vote (the Democrat). Similarly, in 2004, both Missouri’s and Minnesota’s electoral votes would have gone to George W. Bush (the national popular vote winner) even though the popular vote inside Minnesota favored John Kerry.
The U.S. Constitution gives the Missouri Legislature the power to decide how to use Missouri’s electoral votes to the state’s best advantage.
We are ignored
The practical result of Missouri’s current winner-take-all law (i.e., awarding Missouri’s 10 electoral votes to the popular winner inside Missouri) is that Missouri is ignored in the general-election campaign for President. Missouri is ignored because the only states that received any attention in 2012 were those within 3% of the national outcome.
Missouri’s current winner-take-all law transfers political power from Missouri to closely divided “battleground” states, such as Ohio and Florida. Those two states received 45% of the general-election campaign events (113 of 253) and a similar fraction of all campaign expenditures, while Missouri received none.
Missouri is ignored even though Missouri’s 259,000-vote Republican margin is considerably larger than the combined winning margin in Ohio (166,000) and Florida (64,000).
A benefit can be found in that every spectator state (like Missouri) would become politically relevant. Instead of sending millions of campaign dollars to Florida and Ohio, Missouri can keep that money in Missouri and use it to elect their candidates at every level. Presidential candidates will have to develop a campaign strategy that is inclusive of all 50 states—not just a handful. Policy driven by swing states will be a thing of the past. Government spending will return to what’s best for the country and not what’s best for a few states.
A map below charts all the post-convention events of the Republican and Democrat candidates.
The second column shows the total number of general-election campaign events for each state (out of a nationwide total of 253). As can be seen, the only states that received any campaign events and any significant ad money (third column) were the 12 states (shown in black in the middle of the table) where the outcome was between 45% and 51% Republican—that is, within 3 percentage points of Romney’s nationwide percentage of 48%.
The fourth column shows donations from each state. Please take a close look at Missouri and you will see that Missouri exported over $11.5 million to the campaigns and only received $127,560 in spending for television. This clearly shows that Missouri’s vote was not in play and did not matter to either candidate.
The benefit of the National Popular Vote plan is that Missouri’s issues would become relevant in presidential campaigns. Presidential candidates would solicit votes in Missouri. Issues important to Missouri’s business industry would be important and thus consideration would be given before a federal agency made a decision to potentially cripple our state economy. Most recently, our state elected leaders have been working diligently to stop a federal water rule that would have been disruptive to our state farmers and ranchers and we are still fighting back on the EPAs effort to significantly curb the use of coal for power generation. Perhaps if Missouri’s voters were needed to secure the office of President, the federal government would give us some consideration before pursuing such troublesome policies?
The public overwhelmingly supports NPV
In public opinion polls since the 1940s and in recent state-level polls in numerous states, the public has strongly favored the idea that the President should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire country. A survey of 840 Missouri voters conducted on January 26–27, 2015 showed 75% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.
State-level election returns would continue to be published under the National Popular Vote plan, so there would be no lack of information about how the plurality voted in a particular state.
Missouri must adopt NPV and become relevant
It is the current state-by-state winner-take-all system that makes voters unequal in presidential elections. It is the current state-by-state system that makes four out of five states and four out of five Americans politically irrelevant in presidential elections. Under the state-by-state winner-take-all method, candidates have no reason to poll in, conduct campaign events in, advertise in, build a grassroots organization in, or pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a small handful of closely divided battleground states.
Under the National Popular Vote bill, every voter in every state would be politically relevant in every presidential election. The Electoral College would reflect the choice of the people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If you would like to learn more about the National Popular Vote Compact, please visit www.nationalpopularvote.com
Heath Clarkston is currently a registered lobbyist in Missouri representing multiple clients including the National Popular Vote Compact. He is a graduate of Missouri State University and interned with Associated Industries of Missouri and Taxpayers Research Institute of Missouri (TRIM) in 1997. Gallagher Consultants Inc. are a member of Associated Industries of Missouri in addition to many of their clients.