SHARE
“I voted” stickers in English and Spanish, Vir­ginia, USA, November 2014. Courtesy | Orga­ni­zation for Security and Co-operation

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.”