- National polls find plurality support for getting rid of the Electoral College, but not enough to force a change in the Constitution. A Civitas poll of North Carolinians finds similar results.
- North Carolinians oppose joining the national popular vote interstate compact.
State senators Wiley Nickel (D-Wake), Jay J. Chaudhuri (D-Wake), and Joyce Waddell (D-Mecklenburg) have sponsored S104, a bill that would require North Carolina to join the “National Popular Vote” interstate compact.
What is the Electoral College?
Like so much of the U.S. Constitution, the Electoral College is a product of compromise, this time between those who wanted a national popular vote for president and those who wanted to have the president chosen by Congress. The compromise ultimately provided a body of electors, selected by the states, who vote for president. While the specific method of choosing electors is left to the states, all states choose their electors based on that state’s popular vote for president with all but two (Maine and Nebraska) award all their electoral votes to that state’s popular vote winner.
Each state is given electoral votes equal to its total number of representatives and senators in Congress. While that arrangement is roughly proportional, it gives smaller states some overrepresentation. The District of Columbia also gets three electoral votes, courtesy of the 23rd Amendment. By tying the outcome of the presidential vote to state-by-state outcomes, the Electoral College injects an element of federalism into an otherwise unitary national election.
What makes the Electoral College controversial is that several times the winner of the popular vote lost the Electoral College vote. That happened most recently in 2016 when Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote based in part on unexpected wins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin despite losing the popular vote nationwide.
How do people feel about the Electoral College?
Most national polls on the electoral college tend to show a plurality support its replacement with a national popular vote, with some polls showing majority support for abolishing the electoral college and others showing that less than half believe so. Support for the Electoral College has increased some over the past decade and there has also been increased partisan polarization over the issue, with more Republicans supporting the Electoral College and more Democrats wanting to end it.
The results of a Civitas Institute poll of 500 likely voters, conducted by Harper Polling March 14-17, found similar results among North Carolinians:
Support for the Electoral College tends to fall along expected lines. Republican voters, conservatives, and people who voted for Trump in 2016 (categories that overlap a great deal) tend to be more supportive than Democratic voters, liberals, and people who voted for Clinton in 2016. While those who are the most actively politically– as measured by how many times they voted in the last two general elections and the last two primaries — are more likely to support keeping the electoral college, there is otherwise no strong pattern between being politically active and support for the electoral college.
Pushing a bad solution: the national popular vote interstate compact
While polls tend to show pluralities favoring a national popular vote over the Electoral College, there is nowhere near the groundswell of support needed to push an amendment to the Constitution. The need to gain approval by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states, makes passing such an amendment unlikely. Even Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who was among the senators who introduced an amendment to abolish the Electoral College on April 3, admitted that abolishing the Electoral College is “not going to become law anytime soon.”
To get around that, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the national popular vote interstate compact to make an end-run around the intent of the electoral college by having member states base their electoral votes on the nationwide vote for president rather than the vote in their respective states. The compact goes into effect when enough states that have joined the compact represent a majority of the Electoral College.
While most states that have joined are deeply Democratic, somewhat moderate Colorado recently joined, which is part of a bigger push to get more moderate states to join the compact. That push came to North Carolina in the form of S104 which would join North Carolina to the compact. The legislation was sponsored by Wiley Nickel (D-Wake), Jay J. Chaudhuri (D-Wake), and Joyce Waddell (D-Mecklenburg). I have previously explained why S104 is an awful piece of legislation:
[S]enators Nickel, Chaudhuri, and Waddell are pushing legislation that would make North Carolina politically subservient to states with larger media markets and make the wishes of North Carolina voters subservient to those of voters from other states. Our votes are ours and those senators are wrong to try to make our votes irrelevant.
The March 14-17 poll found that North Carolinians agree that S104 is a bad bill:
The poll found that, not only do a majority of North Carolinians oppose the national popular vote compact, the number of people who strongly oppose it (45 percent) dwarfs the total number of supporters (29 percent). The opposition crosses party ID (most Republicans and unaffiliated voters and a plurality of Democrats oppose it) and ideology. It also crosses demographic divides such as race, sex, and age.
S104 is a bad bill on its merits and most North Carolinians oppose it. It deserves to die ignominiously in committee.