Professors had mixed responses to a ballot initiative that proposes to award Michigan’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Associate Professor of Politics Khalil Habib said the initiative is “an idiotic idea.”
Professor of Political Economy Gary Wolfram said the National Popular Vote is “an attempt to alter the incentive for presidential campaigns.”
The Yes On National Popular Vote campaign proposed the National Popular Vote initiative Sept. 27 through a petition and legislation. If enacted, the measure would award all 15 of Michigan’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Due to a slow rate of population growth, Michigan lost an Electoral College vote after the 2020 U.S. Census.
Before the measure goes into effect, according to Bridge Michigan, the states that sign on to the National Popular Vote must carry a total of 270 electoral votes, the minimum to win the presidency.
Hillsdale College faculty had mixed responses to the proposal.
“Any Michigan politician supporting it should be voted out of office or sent packing to New York or California, since that’s who benefits from destroying the Electoral College,” Habib said.
Urban centers would determine the election, should a compact of states implement the national popular vote, Habib said.
“It essentially gives Michigan’s electoral votes to large Democratic population centers, which is not representative democracy,” he added.
Wolfram said he is open to the idea of a national popular vote.
The current voting system “results in very few states having presidential campaign events,” Wolfram said. “For example, California is about 64% Democratic. If you were a Republican running for president, would you ever campaign in California?”
Wolfram said he thinks the National Popular Vote initiative may be a “spark” to reconsider the current method of conducting elections.
“Under the national popular vote, a Republican would have an incentive to campaign in California as there are a lot of voters there and getting 45% of them would be valuable,” Wolfram said.
According to the National Popular Vote website, the initiative petition must receive 340,047 signatures before being brought for a vote before the people of Michigan.
State Rep. Matt Koleszar, D‑Royal Oak, introduced identical legislation, House Bill 5343, in the Michigan House of Representatives on Sept. 28.
There is some confusion over the idea of a national popular vote, Wolfram said.
“It is a compact among the states. This compact can be disbanded at any time by agreement of the states who form the compact,” he said.
“It does not get rid of the Electoral College.”
Associate Professor of Politics Joseph Postell said he disagreed.
“The National Popular Vote compact would essentially abolish the Electoral College,” he said.
According to Postell, a national popular vote would take the focus off of swing states, which have a diversity of interests. Instead, the area of focus would simply shift to states with larger populations, he said.
“Candidates would tend to focus on states like New York, Texas, and California to a much greater extent,” Postell said. “Candidates would tend to neglect states such as Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin where the margins of victory within the state are closer.”
Postell said the Founding Fathers hoped the Electoral College would exercise independent judgment in elections, rather than simply following the popular vote.
“The Framers wanted to avoid electing presidents who win office by demagoguery and practicing what ‘The Federalist’ called ‘the little arts of popularity,’” he said. “One might argue that the National Popular Vote compact would make it easier for such presidents to be elected, though we seem already to be pretty far down that path.”