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Former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver has found a new mission. He's among a bipartisan group of former political types calling for our presidents to be picked by national popular vote instead of that pesky Electoral College.
Culver is a co-chair of the effort, along with former U.S. senator, TV D.A. and very deliberative presidential candidate Fred Thompson and former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar. They have a news conference Thursday at the National Press Club.
Basically, these guys and the group National Popular Vote think the Electoral Collegeis a flawed, outdated way to pick a president. The most obvious problem is that a candidate can win the popular vote and lose the race for 270 electoral votes, which determine the outcome. Our founders adopted the college as a compromise between those who wanted Congress, not the rabble, to pick the president and those who favored popular voting. And by popular, I mean men with land, etc..
Nowadays, we know the real rabble is in Congress, and clearly, we're all perfectly capable of casting an intelligent vote, if we are not taking a long nap, playing Call of Duty Black Ops, watching Top Chef or just plain forgetting there's an election of some sort. Voting remains popular, according to polls of likely voters.
What Culver and NPV want is for state lawmakers to adopt laws that promise to cast their state's electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. In other words, if in some future election, Rand Paul wins Iowa, but Oprah Winfrey wins the national popular vote, Iowa's six electoral votes would go to Oprah. Then, we all get new cars and a trip to Australia!
Eight states have approved it, but it won't take effect until states comprising 270 electoral votes make it law.
In essence, this is an end-around to avoid the long, arduous process of actually amending the U.S. Constitution to remove the Electoral College.
I don't like the Electoral College so much, and wouldn't mind seeing it go. But I also don't like short-circuiting it without a formal constitutional amendment. Culver has had a change of heart on this point, but I haven't.
I understand that the Constitution does not mandate our current, flawed winner-take-all system. It gives states latitude on how they'll allocate electoral votes. Supporters of the NPV measure say that makes their maneuver OK. And they make a strong case.
But this is not a state issue. It's a national issue. And it deserves a national debate.
We have a difficult amendment process for a good reason. And I think following that process in this case would allow the sort of lengthy national discussion that's necessary for a change of this magnitude. Actually attempting a rare constitutional change -- with a formal proposal and ratification process - would elevate the issues' importance. I don't think that happens by collecting simple majority votes for low-profile state-by-state code changes.
States would still get to weigh into an amendment process through legislative votes or ratification conventions. And if, as backers contend, 75 percent of the public supports this, an amendment would have a good chance.
I'm not a small-state guy defending an existing system that gives Iowa more clout. I support the intent, but not the method. I just think a national issue should be addressed through a nationwide process.
I'm sure many of you disagree. Have at it.
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