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AZ Senator Responds to National Popular Vote Sponsorship

vote booth voting electionSedona AZ (February 2, 2016) – The following is a letter received by the SedonaEye.com editor from Yavapai County Precinct Committeeman, Dale Gohr, Clarkdale, responding to Arizona State Senate President Pro Tempore Sylvia Allen’s request for public input:

Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen
Lightning Bolt Update, 2/2/16

National Popular Vote

A number of us here at the State Legislature have been contacted by some of our Precinct Committeemen seeking details on the National Popular Vote bill that we have sponsored. The questions were largely the same, so we thought it would be easier to put the questions together and write one comprehensive answer that we could send to all of our Precinct Committeemen. I hope it is helpful!

Q1: Why are we co-sponsoring this bill?

The current system is incredibly dysfunctional and Arizona is one of the losers in it. Candidates for President currently ignore roughly 40 out of 50 states when the run for President, including Arizona. And they keep ignoring us when they govern. The current system has made swing voters in Ohio, Florida and Virginia virtually the only voters who matter. We believe that voters in Arizona ought to matter equally as much and that our issues deserve the attention of the federal government and our President.

Q2: Is the bill Constitutional?

Absolutely, or we wouldn’t be co-sponsoring it. The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the state legislatures exclusive control over awarding each state’s electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” Over our nation’s history different states have pursued a great many different ways of appointing their electors, ranging from the Legislature literally appointing the electors, to giving the governor the power to appoint, to creating Presidential Elector Districts, to awarding electors on the basis of Congressional districts, to the winner-take-all system that Arizona has.

American FlagQ3: Does the bill forfeit Arizona’s State Sovereignty?

It actually does the opposite. This power is exclusive to the state’s and it is one of the few express powers we were given that we still have. Redistricting was just stolen from us by the Supreme Court and the appointment of Senators was given away with the 17th Amendment. States have this power and have seemingly forgotten about it or how to use it to ensure that they (and their citizens) are relevant in the election of the President.

Q4: Does the bill make us more vulnerable to fraud?

No, it offers much greater protection against fraud. Under the current system, those looking to commit fraud know which states are swing states and they can spend years getting set up to steal a small number of votes that might swing a state and with it, the Electoral College (the Presidency!) Under National Popular Vote, the incentives to commit fraud are removed because the scale of fraud needed to swing a national popular vote election would be massive and those participating in it would be sure to be caught.

Q5: Does the bill move us from a Republic to a pure Democracy and subject us to “Mob Rule” or the “Tyranny of the Majority”?

No. Popular vote elections do no such thing, which is why every state has popular vote elections for their Governors, while still enjoying a republican form of government. James Madison defined the difference thusly “in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.” A direct democracy, the tyranny of the majority, and all the other terms for it refer to a system where the people vote directly on the issues themselves. Imagine a world where there are no legislators or legislation, just a ballot each year with 1,000 questions on it. A republican form of government is where the people elect representatives to serve for fixed terms and to vote on these issues on their behalf. That is not changing.

Q6: Will this bill allow big states to dominate the process? We have been told that a candidate could win the 12 largest states and win the national popular vote as a result.

That myth was propagated by Mitch McConnell back in 2011 and it comes from the fact that the 12 largest states have more than 50% of the population. But the suggestion is ludicrous because the only way it could happen is if a candidate got 100% of the vote from all 12 of the largest states. Obviously that will never ever happen. The largest states aren’t uniformly Republican or Democrat and nobody gets every single vote from any state, big or small. Now, it is interesting to note that under the current system, if one candidate won the 11 largest states by just one vote each, and got no votes in the rest of the country, he or she would win 270 electoral college votes and become President. That is unlikely, but far more likely than McConnell’s concern. In other words, like many of the objections, the problem is actually much worse under the current system.

Q7: Will candidates just focus on the big cities and ignore rural America?

If candidates ignoring parts of America is a concern to you, we totally agree. That’s why we are interested in changing a system in which 40+ states are ignored entirely. But the concern about big cities is misplaced for two reasons. First, if you really think it is true, then take comfort from the fact that Arizona has 3 of the largest 38 cities in the country (Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa). If candidates only paid attention to the big cities, Arizona would get a lot of attention and that’s great for Arizona. Second, it actually isn’t true because while the largest 50 cities in the country have only about 15% of the population, small-town America (towns/cities with populations of 50,000 or less) also have about 15% of the population. Candidates trying to win a national popular vote aren’t going to be able to afford to skip 15% of the population period.

Q8: What about the Founding Father’s original intent? Didn’t they reject National Popular Vote in favor of winner-take-all?

No. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787 the founders did vote against a national popular vote, but they also voted against every other method they debated. Which is why they compromised and left the decision on how to choose electors to each state. It is worth noting though, that the winner-take-all method was not voted on or even debated at the Constitutional Convention. And it didn’t become the prevalent method of awarding electors until after the founding fathers were long gone.

We all began as either skeptical or outright hostile to the idea. But an honest hearing of our history, a comprehensive examination of our Constitutional authority, and a comparison of the various methods (winner-take-all, congressional district, proportional, national popular vote) have convinced us that the best thing for Arizona is that Arizona’s issues should matter, Arizona’s voters should matter, and that a National Popular Vote is the only way to ensure that a voter in Arizona matters as much as a voter in Florida or Ohio.

I hope this answers your questions but recognize that the list isn’t exhaustive, so if you have other concerns, please let me know. One thing we do hope that comes from this long communication is that we have been doing our research and we did not arrive at our conclusions quickly or lightly.

As always, your input is appreciated and welcome.


Senator Sylvia Tenney Allen
President Pro Tempore
1700 W. Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007

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