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New Hampshire Fights Back Against National Popular Vote

New Hampshire may soon prove the truth of its state motto: “Live Free or Die!” Several state legislators have introduced an election bill that is best explained as a thumb in the eye to California and other states that would like to stifle New Hampshire’s voice in presidential elections.

The Constitution gives New Hampshire the ability to defend itself. Now several state legislators are proposing to do just that.

Their idea sounds admittedly odd at first. New Hampshire legislators propose to withhold the state’s popular vote totals at the end of a presidential election. Those numbers wouldn’t be released until after the meetings of the Electoral College, assuming they aren’t needed for a recount.

The hope is to frustrate an anti-Electoral College effort that has been working its way through state legislatures.

The National Popular Vote organization (NPV) knows that a constitutional amendment formally eliminating the Electoral College would be too hard: That formal process requires the support of 38 states. Thus, NPV instead seeks support for a simple contract among states: Any state that signs also agrees to give its electors to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the outcome within its own borders. The compact goes into effect when states holding 270 electors—enough to win an election—have agreed to participate.

So far, 15 states plus Washington, D.C. have signed. Those entities have 196 electoral votes among them. Seventy-four more are needed.

In other words, NPV could effectively eliminate the Electoral College with the support of only a minority of states.

Don’t expect anyone to care about New Hampshire’s primary results once the Electoral College is gone. In a contest for the most individual votes, what candidate will care about little New Hampshire and its 1.3 million people? That’s less than one half of one percent of the United States population.

Fortunately, our Founders knew that small states might need to defend themselves from their larger neighbors. They left states in charge of themselves at election time. And that’s where New Hampshire’s proposal comes in: It can confuse NPV’s ability to generate a national popular vote total. Without that tally, the NPV compact fails.

Remember, there is no official national tally because American presidential elections are conducted state-by-state. NPV’s compact instead assumes that it can rely on an “official statement” from any other state regarding the number of popular votes in that state. Such official statements are to be treated as “conclusive.”

But what if non-NPV states created official statements that are purposefully confusing? The possibilities are endless, and New Hampshire’s proposal is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Perhaps New Hampshire will choose to withhold all popular vote totals, but what if another state were to release totals for winning candidates only? In 2016, Texas could have reported its 4.6 million votes for Donald Trump, even as it refused to report Hillary Clinton’s 3.8 million votes.

Federal reporting requirements can’t prevent Texas or New Hampshire from taking these actions, despite the protests of NPV. Federal law is vague, asking for only “the canvass or other ascertainment” supporting the appointment of electors.

If non-NPV states were to adopt such plans, they would skew the national total, to say the least. But there’s more.

What if another state were to tweak the congressional district system already used in Maine and Nebraska?  Each voter in the state could be given three votes: One could be cast for an elector expected to represent a congressional district. Two separate ballots could be cast in another election for at-large electors, expected to represent the state.

Voters would be fairly represented by electors of their own choosing, and popular vote totals could be released before the meetings of the Electoral College. Yet NPV would have no way to tabulate a coherent national popular vote tally when each voter gets three ballots to cast in two different elections for presidential elector.

Perhaps another state would prefer to keep it simple. It could give each of its voters two votes—or even three!  Most voters will cast all their ballots for the same candidate, but not everyone will. The final tally will be confused—and inflated in favor of that state’s preferred candidate.

Indeed, the real question is: How imaginative are state legislators? How many ideas can they generate for conducting a presidential election, even as they complicate NPV’s efforts to tabulate the national popular vote?

NPV has arrogantly assumed that a minority of states can overhaul the presidential election system, without so much as asking the rest of us what we think.

An attitude of “Live Free or Die” is the perfect antidote.

Abolishing Electoral College Goes Down 20-0 in Dem-Controlled NH House

Last week a committee in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted 20-0 against a proposal to upend the Electoral College. Rather than supporting a bill to commit New Hampshire’s EC votes to the national popular vote winner, the committee unanimously voted for an “interim study” status–or as the Concord Monitor’s veteran statehouse reporter Ethan DeWitt called it, “death with dignity.”

In one sense, the vote is hardly a surprise. Backing an end of the Electoral College in a small state like New Hampshire makes no sense. In 2000, for example, the Granite State’s four EC votes kept George W. Bush in the race and made the Florida “hanging chad” election possible.

In a popular vote system, New Hampshire would be nothing more than a distant suburb of Boston.

On the other hand, every New Hampshire frontrunner except Joe Biden has called for abolishing the EC system, and even Biden refuses to defend it. (Politico reports that as of October 15, Biden’s campaign refused to take a position on the EC either way). The liberal Concord Monitor newspaper editorialized that New Hampshire should dump it, while admitting that “the Electoral College system does give small, rural states a louder voice in the election process.” And both of New Hampshire’s Democratic U.S. Senators, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, want to dump it, too.

All of which leaves political observers puzzled. There is no polling to show that New Hampshire voters want to give up their influence in national elections.  And why would they? Elections are one of New Hampshire’s key industries. Bill Gardner isn’t a Granite State hero because of civics. It’s because the “First In The Nation” franchise is a moneymaker for the state’s hospitality, tourism and media industries. A national popular vote would undermine the very state-by-state election model that makes the #FITN work.

As Tara Ross, author of The Indispensable Electoral College reminded NHJournal, “Hillary Clinton got 20 percent of her entire popular vote total from just two states: New York and California. The Electoral College punished her narrow focus in 2016. A national popular vote would reward it.”

Gov. Chris Sununu understands the issue perfectly. “This is a bipartisan referendum against @SenatorShaheen and @SenatorHassan’s call to abolish the Electoral College,” he tweeted after the unanimous House committee vote. “That type of politically driven sentiment would only serve to destroy the voice of New Hampshire voters in the election of our national leaders.”

And while Rep. Wayne Moynihan (D-Dummer) is both his party’s vice-chair of the House Election Law Committee and a public supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders — an aggressive advocate of abolishing the Electoral College– that didn’t stop him from voting against the proposal, too.

The 20-0 vote against a policy embraced by virtually national Democratic candidate (with the glaring exception of tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang) is a reminder of the vast chasm between candidates throwing out buzz phrases like “make every vote count” in support of a nebulous proposal, and legislators having to explain to constituents that they voted to give their four Electoral College votes to the candidate who lost New Hampshire.

It’s unlikely this issue will cost any Democratic candidates a vote in the New Hampshire primary. But it’s an issue — like support for gun confiscation, packing the Supreme Court and ending all private health insurance– that sends a message to moderate and swing voters that the Democratic Party supports extreme ideas that may not make a lot of sense for the Granite State.

OPINION: National Popular Vote Makes Small States (Like N.H.) Irrelevant

New Hampshire Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are angling to eliminate the Electoral College—and now editors at the Concord Monitor are jumping on that bandwagon, too. They urge state legislators to join an under-the-radar effort known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact.

The National Popular Vote seeks to effectively eliminate the Electoral College without the bother of going through the process of a constitutional amendment. The proposal would be a de facto end of the constitutional system for electing the president using a simple contract among states instead.

How is that possible?

The National Popular Vote’s compact requires participating states to give their electors to the winner of the national popular vote—regardless of the outcome within their own borders. So far, twelve states plus D.C. (181 electors) have agreed to the plan. NPV’s compact goes into effect when 270 electors (enough to win the presidency) are committed.

Massachusetts has already signed on.  New Mexico and Delaware are also close to joining: NPV is awaiting gubernatorial signatures in both states. Those states will bring the total to 189 electors.

NPV’s appealing sound bites have sucked legislators into endorsing a bad idea. Who doesn’t want to “make every vote count”? Of course “one person, one vote” sounds like a good idea. Further study shows that effectively eliminating the Electoral College, as NPV does, would be disastrous for a small state like New Hampshire.

New Hampshire would have less influence, not more.

It’s a matter of simple pragmatism. Presidential candidates have limited time and resources. They cannot visit every corner of the country out of some idealistic notion of fairness. Instead, they will go where their resources can be most efficiently used. Once the presidential election system is driven by a need to get the most individual votes, the states and cities with the most individuals can expect to benefit.

Hint: Not New Hampshire.

New Hampshire has roughly 38 million fewer people than California and 27 million fewer people than Texas. Fully one-third of the nation’s population lives in the four largest states. By contrast, fewer than half a percent of Americans live in New Hampshire.

Why would presidential candidates go to rural New Hampshire to scratch out a few hundred votes when Los Angeles, New York, or Houston offer millions? Now consider that Hillary Clinton got 20 percent of her entire popular vote total from just two states: New York and California. The Electoral College punished her narrow focus in 2016. A national popular vote would reward it.

The Founders understood these dangers. Modern groups such as National Popular Vote proudly tout a “one person, one vote” sound bite, but the Founders understood the need to balance the dangers of simplistic democracy.

It’s been said that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. At the Constitutional Convention, the small states were pretty sure that they would get eaten, unless sufficient constitutional safeguards could be constructed.

Perhaps the most honest—the rawest—expression of this fear during the crafting of the constitution was made by Gunning Bedford of Delaware. “I do not, gentlemen, trust you,” Bedford blasted at the large state delegates. “If you possess the power, the abuse of it could not be checked; and what then would prevent you from exercising it to our destruction?”

The Convention ended in compromise. The large and small state delegates agreed to blend the best features of democracy (self-governance) with republicanism (deliberation and compromise) and federalism (state-by-state action). The Electoral College is a reflection of this compromise. Its structure requires presidential candidates to take into account the needs of a wide variety of American citizens—and it penalizes those who focus too single-mindedly on one part of the country or one type of voter.

The state-by-state structure has one other irreplaceable benefit: The system makes it harder to steal elections. After all, votes can’t be stolen in any random precinct: They must be stolen in the right state at the right time—and they must be stolen in a year where swinging one or two states is enough. By contrast, a national popular vote tally could be altered by any vote stolen in any part of the country—even if that vote was easily stolen in a very safe red or blue state.

The National Popular Vote legislation is pending as House Bill 541 in New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor hopes that legislators will approve it.

They’d serve their constituents better if they soundly reject it.

N.H. Dems Push for Popular Vote Compact Could Endanger #FITN Primary

Here’s the scenario:

It’s November 2020.  President Donald Trump is locked in a political struggle with Democratic POTUS nominee Liz Warren. In a razor-thin race, both campaigns were thrown into chaos when a bipartisan ticket of John Kasich and Kanye West launches an independent bid.

Trump holds onto his 43 percent of the popular vote, finishing in first place. But he loses New Hampshire and its key four Electoral College votes—just enough to make Liz Warren president.

Except—they don’t. Because (in this scenario) in 2019, New Hampshire’s Democratic-controlled legislature joined about 20 other states in an agreement to give its Electoral College votes to whichever candidate won the national popular vote.  And so, with the votes—but not support–of the people of New Hampshire, Donald Trump is sworn in for a second term.

Hey—it could happen.  Even the Kanye part.

This weekend the Connecticut General Assembly voted to become the 11th state—plus DC—to join “The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” Connecticut is committing to cast its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of which candidate wins their state.

The compact only kicks in when states that control at least 270 electoral votes—enough to pick the president—sign up.

And a group of New Hampshire Democrats wants the Granite State to get on board, too.

“We must ensure that each person’s vote is counted equally,” NH State Rep. Mindi Messmer told NHJournal. “[Presidential] elections should be based on the popular vote.”

Messmer, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the NH First Congressional District race, supported a house bill last year to put the Granite State in the compact. The bill was defeated in a largely party-line vote, with Democrats like Messmer and Rep. Mark Mackenzie—another candidate in the race to replace retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter–voting to keep it alive.

(Rep. Mackenzie did not respond to requests for comment)

Shea-Porter raised the issue herself when she cast her Electoral College ballot for Hillary Clinton as an elector in 2016:

“Now think that [Hillary] did win the popular vote. And the popular vote (margin of victory) is the size of two of the state of New Hampshire. Two. We need to address this,” Shea-Porter said.

“This is a very short-sighted view for a small state like New Hampshire” says Josiah Peterson, debate coach at The King’s College in New York and author of The Electoral College: Critical To Our Republic.

“The only reason presidential candidates campaign in small states like New Hampshire is because of the Electoral College. In 2016, Donald Trump came to New Hampshire on the last day of the race, along with big states like Michigan and Florida. That won’t happen again if you end the Electoral College,” Peterson told NHJournal.

The National Popular Vote effort would seem to benefit big states, and yet four of the six relatively small New England states—Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and (America’s smallest state) Rhode Island—are already on board.

The other states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington state, plus DC.

What do these states have in common? None of them have backed a Republican president since 1988. This adds to the argument that partisan politics is the primary motive behind this effort, as does the fact that the National Popular Vote effort is bankrolled by “John Koza—a California Democrat who made his fortune by inventing the scratch-off lottery ticket,” according to

Does a small, purple state like New Hampshire want to be part of a partisan effort to reduce the influence of its own state’s voters in picking a president?  And what about the risk the compact effort poses to New Hampshire’s “First-in-the-Nation” primary?

“If the only thing that matters is appealing to the most people, no matter where they are, why would you have your first primary in New Hampshire?  Or Iowa?” Peterson asks.

“You’d want to have primaries in states with lots of large cities. You’d have a primary in Ohio, or you’d go to Florida, or California. You’d go where the population is.”

“Abandoning the Electoral College system would run roughshod over the interests and idiosyncrasies of smaller states like New Hampshire,” Peterson says. And possibly the #FITN primary, too.

So why do so many New Hampshire Democrats support it?