Popular vote does not contradict Founders

Ari Savitzky // Published July 19, 2008 in South Coast Today

The Standard-Times' July 11 editorial ("Our View: A farce in the House") was way off. Despite claims to the contrary, the national popular vote compact flows directly from the form and spirit of the Founders' designs.

Here in Rhode Island, our Legislature passed this measure with bipartisan support. Massachusetts should, too.

Let's be clear: The problem extends far beyond Bush versus Gore. Under the current system of elections, voters in safe states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island are ignored, while a few battlegrounds decide the election. An equal vote for every American is the right way.

The Founders intended the electors to be an independent group of elites who would choose the president. They decided to use a system of electors because it was the only way to represent the slaves, and thus a deal-breaker for the South. Crucially, they created a flexible system which gives extraordinary power to the states to choose the rules.

The Electoral College system we have today is entirely a product of state law. It is the states that created, over time, a right to vote for president. It was the states who adopted a winner-take-all system, prompting bitter opposition from Thomas Jefferson. To imply an endorsement by the Framers of the current swing-state-opoly is seriously inaccurate.

These changes occurred within the framework that the Founders designed: In matters of presidential elections, the states decide. Our Constitution and the intentions of its creators are best respected through state-based action.

The editors may not like the idea of every American having an equal vote for president, but the public has overwhelmingly supported it for decades, and the states are indeed able to achieve it.