One of the biggest surprises last legislative session in Oklahoma occurred when the State Senate passed a bill that would return Oklahoma to a National Popular Vote (NPV) system. Once Republican activists realized what had happened, the bill was killed, and not sent to the State House for a vote. However, the lobbying efforts behind this idea don’t seem to be going away. We recently caught up with Matt Pinnell, former OKGOP Chairman (who successfully fought this bill a couple of times as Chairman), who is now the current State Party Director at the Republican National Committee (RNC), on the topic:
1. So what’s this NPV all about?
Under proposals drafted in previous sessions in Oklahoma, if enough state legislatures (possessing the majority of the electoral college votes) pass a bill endorsing the NPV proposal, then each of the enacting states agree to award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.
So, as is almost always brought up, in 2008 Oklahoma would have been required, no matter the vote in the reddest state in the country, to award all its electoral votes to Barack Obama. The idea is that America should guarantee that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidential election.
2. Where does the RNC stand on this issue?
The RNC’s most recent vote on the subject was 168-0 against NPV.
3. How are state legislators being convinced that this is a good idea?
In Oklahoma, it seems some legislators have been convinced that this is somehow going to make Oklahoma more relevant in the presidential selection process. This whole relevance debate is a farce. Oklahoma is already relevant because Oklahoma awards our electoral votes proportionally. Every Presidential candidate came to OK in the 2012 cycle because they knew they had the chance–if they made the effort–to win a few delegates. Let me say that again: every single GOP presidential candidate campaigned for Oklahoma votes in 2012. I have no doubt our crop of candidates in 2016 will do the same thing.
4. Why should we keep the Elector College system?
A. It’s actually a pretty practical answer; one that was outlined by RNC Members the last time this issue was debated: the Constitution requires a successful candidate to assemble a winning coalition across a broad geographic spectrum, embracing both large and small states, rather than a narrow concentration of votes. A popular vote, in contrast, does not require the candidate to have broad appeal. It would make it possible for a candidate to win without any majority but merely a plurality of the popular vote. The compact would require the states to determine the candidate with the “largest national popular vote” – not a majority. Thus, in a multicandidate race, the “largest national popular vote” could be obtained by a regional candidate with just 35 percent or 40 percent of the popular vote.
Under such an arrangement, presidential candidates would have no incentive to campaign anywhere except the major media markets in a few states. The country would, in essence, cede our presidential elections to the largest metropolitan areas, whose concerns are different from those of other areas of the country.
5. Give me one more reason why legislators should think twice before changing systems?
Another very strong reason to keep the Elector College system is that NPV would maximize the rewards of vote fraud in large metropolitan areas. Under the Electoral College, an illegal vote only affects the outcome in one state; under the popular vote compact, an illegal vote would affect the national outcome.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Matt Pinnell, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any particular organization.