The National Popular Vote Fallacy


by Paul R. Hollrah, ©2016, blogging at Order of the Ephors

(Nov. 18, 2016) — My most recent column exposing the fraud that is the national popular vote movement has finally struck home. On Tuesday, November 15, I received a lengthy response from a staff member of the National Popular Vote (NPV) organization, attempting to refute my claims for the superiority of the Maine-Nebraska system of electoral vote allocation.

As I read their arguments, it could not help but consider the political risks of making false and unsubstantiated claims for the national popular vote to members of the state legislatures, none of whom are dummies.  The following is my response to the national popular vote email:

NPV:  “Dividing more states’ electoral votes by congressional district winners would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system.”

PRH:  I can’t respond to that statement because I have no idea what “worst features of the Electoral College system” you refer to.  Anyone who reads the Federalist Papers will understand that the Framers wanted the members of the lower house of the legislative branch, the U.S. House of Representatives, selected by the popular vote of the people.  They wanted the upper house of the legislative branch, the U.S. Senate, selected by the political institutions of the states (the state legislatures), and they wanted the president and vice president to be chosen, not by the people and not by the political institutions of the states, but by the states themselves.  That’s why electors are state officials for a day.  I suspect that few Americans have taken the time to learn this distinction.  To short-circuit the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote is to totally reverse the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

NPV:  “If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system.”    

PRH:  That simply is not true and cannot be proven.  How is it fair for all of California’s 55 electoral votes to go to a single presidential candidate when the voters in 14 of the state’s 53 congressional districts vote for Republicans up and down the ballot?  And how is it fair for all 20 of Illinois’ electoral votes to go to one presidential candidate when voters in only 10 of the state’s 18 congressional districts prefer Democrats over Republicans?

NPV:  “In 2012, for instance, when Obama garnered nearly a half million more votes in Michigan than Romney, Romney won nine of the state’s 14 congressional districts.”      

PRH:  This is not an anomaly of the Electoral College system.  It is a function of the Democrat Party’s long campaign to capture the votes of large political constituencies by promising them “stuff.”  This electoral anomaly is created by those political constituencies that want something from government that they could not have earned at the ballot box or in a competitive market.

NPV:  “With the present deplorable 48 state-level winner-take-all system, 38+ states (including California and Texas) are ignored in presidential elections; however, 98% of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally… The district approach would not provide incentive for presidential candidates to poll, visit, advertise, or organize in a particular state or focus the candidates’ attention to issues of concern to the state.” 

PRH:  That simply is not true.  The exact opposite is true and if anyone had ever tried to tell me a whopper like that one I’d take it as an insult to my intelligence.  For example, had the Maine-Nebraska system been in effect in all states in November 2016, Donald Trump could not have ignored the 14 electoral votes available to him in California or the 9 electoral votes available to him in New York.  Conversely, Hillary Clinton could not have ignored the 11 electoral votes available to her in Texas or the 5 electoral votes available to her in Michigan.  By assigning more importance to local elections under the Maine-Nebraska system, interest in local politics would be enhanced and much of the negative impact of the 17th Amendment would be reversed.

I can understand why Democratic presidential candidates tend to ignore all but the coastal states, as well as the states of Illinois and Minnesota in “fly-over” country.  Just one cursory glance at the county-by-county electoral map of the past five presidential elections… all but totally red with an occasional splotch of blue… to convince any candidate that campaigning anywhere but in the population centers of the east and west coast could be a waste of time.  For example, in 2012 Obama carried 653 (21.06%) of the 3,100 counties in the country, compared to Romney’s 2,447 counties (78.94%).  In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried just 568 counties (18.32%), compared to Donald Trump’s 2,532 counties (81.68%).  So is it any wonder that Republicans control the governors’ mansions and both house of the legislature in more states than ever before?

NPV:  “Awarding electoral votes by congressional district could result in no candidate winning the needed majority of electoral votes.  That would throw the process into Congress to decide the election, regardless of the popular vote in any district or state or throughout the country.”

PRH:  Again, that simply is not true.  And again, I’d take it as an insult to my intelligence if someone tried to make me believe that bit of nonsense.  In order for that assertion to have even a smidgen of truth, you’d have to give me a list of congressional races that have been won by third party candidates.  They are “scarcer than hens’ teeth.”

If there is a problem with the Electoral College, it is the lack of knowledge and training among individual electors.  When I was elected to my first term in the Electoral College I took that responsibility very seriously.  I researched and read everything I could find on the origin and the purpose of the institution.  For example, as an expression of the fear of foreign influence that motivated and inspired the Framers, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, etc.) might actually have expected to make their approach from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.  How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

Clearly, we don’t have to look far to find examples of exactly what Hamilton was referring to.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore ran for reelection to a second term, a major portion of their campaign funds came through intermediaries from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  Is it any wonder then that, at the behest of the Chinese and Japanese governments, the Clinton administration attempted a legislative coup d’etat in 1997 that would have destroyed a core function of the U.S. government, the engine of our economy and our standard of living, the U.S. patent system?  What was it that Barack Obama promised in exchange for the huge sums of money, from unknown sources, that was funneled into his 2008 campaign after being laundered through the United Bank of Switzerland (UBS)?  And what was it that Bill and Hillary Clinton promised to foreign political and business leaders in exchange for the hundreds of millions of dollars contributed to the Clinton Foundation?  It was precisely these kinds of people that the Electoral College was intended to identify and deter.          

In Federalist Paper No. 68, arguing in favor of the Electoral College, Hamilton explained that, “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

Reading those words, it is easy to see how the Electoral College has failed in its responsibility in three presidential elections: 1880, with the election of Vice President Chester A. Arthur, and in 2008 and 2012 with the election of Barack Hussein Obama… both of whom were sired by men who were not American citizens.  Both of their fathers were British subjects at the time they were born.  In each instance, it was the responsibility of members of the Electoral College to assure themselves that these men were “natural born” U.S. citizens.  In each instance they failed to do so.  The Republican members of the Electoral College in 1880, and the Democratic members of the Electoral College in 2008 and 2012, lacked “the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

In fact, I am aware that letters were sent to a large number of Democratic electors in 2008 advising them that Barack Obama was ineligible for the office he sought and that it was their duty to reject him.  However, when the electors voted, every single one of the 365 Democratic electors were so anxious to elect the first black president that they violated their oaths and cast their votes for Barack Obama.  If Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, or Nikki Haley had won the Republican nomination for president or vice president during either of my two terms in the Electoral College, could I have voted for any of them?  Absolutely not!  Like Barack Obama, all are products of foreign parentage; none are “natural born” citizens.

In 2012, instead of a 332 to 206 vote victory for Obama-Biden in the Electoral College, the Maine-Nebraska system would have produced a comfortable 282 to 256 vote victory for Romney-Ryan.  What this tells us is that the national popular vote movement is merely an attempt to obtain through trickery that which the left could never achieve at the ballot box.

As one who has spent a career as chief lobbyist for a Fortune 25 corporation, I am acutely aware of the consequences of purposely misleading members of Congress or the state legislatures.  Those who are selling the “virtues” of the national popular vote in state legislatures all across the country are seriously misleading and misinforming legislators.  When the legislators finally see the truth of the matter they will not be pleased.  More and more states will consider leaving the NPVIC.


Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College.  He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.

2 Responses to "The National Popular Vote Fallacy"

  1. Daniel Hunt   Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    The current debate on the Electoral College ignores the fact it was eviscerated eighty seven years ago. Article I Section II Clause III states; “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand”. This was a ratio set by the Founding Fathers there was to be no more than thirty thousand per Representative. There can be fewer than that number per Representative but thirty thousand was the maximum.

    James Madison explained the figure in Federalist Paper #56: “it seems to give the fullest assurance that a Representative for every thirty thousand inhabitants will render the latter both a safe and competent guardian of the interests which will be confided to it”.

    This premise was born out of the belief by the Delegates that the more Representatives in Congress, the greater collective knowledge they will possess to create comprehensive Federal Legislation:

    “Divide the largest State into ten or twelve districts and it will be found that there will be no peculiar local interests in either which will not be within the knowledge of the Representative of the District”.

    The purpose of thirty thousandfigure is also explained by Madison:

    “The foresight of the Convention has accordingly taken care that the progress of the population maybe accompanied with a proper increase in the representative branch of the Government”.

    Moreover, the delegates favored increasing the number of Representatives with the population to prevent an oligarchic government run by a select few as expressed by Madison in Federalist Paper #58:

    “The People can never err more than in supposing that by multiplying their Representatives beyond a certain limit they strengthen the barrier against the Government of a few”.

    Based on the ratio in Article I Section II Clause III there should be approximately eleven thousand Representatives per Congressional District since a Representative represents the former.

    However, on average there are nearly 710,000 Constituents per Congressional District. This begs the question; What happened to dramatically increase the number from a Constitutional maximum of thirty thousand to almost 710,000 thousand?

    The answer is in 1929 Congress decided to affix the number of Representatives at 435. They used the 1910 Census as their last measuring stick since they could not agree on implementing the 1920 census. In doing so Congress violated Article I Section II Clause III. They essentially changed the U.S. Constitution without complying with one of the Amendment processes specified in Article V and in doing so also violated that Provision. The result is the very oligarchy James Madison and his fellow Delegates feared.

    Each Representative has far too much Power because they represent far more People than the U.S. Constitution permits. The adverse effects include but are not limited to Gerrymandered Districts, too much diversification within a District for one Representative to represent and extreme difficulty for any Constituent to communicate with the Person who is supposed to represent them. All these problem will go away by restoring the thirty thousand maximum.

    The fundamental violations of Article I Section II Clause III and Article V have rendered the Electoral College unconstitutional since 1929 and every Presidential election since 1932. The issue of a national popular vote versus the Electoral College is a moot point given the above facts. The former has already been rendered useless by Congress’s unconstitutional actions in 1929. People should be more concerned about restoring a Constitutional Electoral College per the requirement in Article I Section II Clause III than current discussion.

  2. Brian S.   Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    The national popular vote person is completely right… currently there are two things that affect voter power (how much your vote is worth):

    1) The number of people who vote relative to the population of the area, since the federal system gives weight based on population not the number of people who vote.
    2) How close your state or district is to the tipping point in a winner take all system.

    Switching to using districts instead of states does not change this fundamental problem as the National popular vote guy is pointing out. It may actually make the problem worse.

    Changing to allocating electors proportionally would be better, but there would be rounding errors since each elector would represent a part of the population and the the voter to population power discrepancy would still exist on a state by state basis.

    Truly the only way that every vote cast is equal is if it is a national popular vote.

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