Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-432

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING AN AGREEMENT AMONG THE STATES TO ELECT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BY NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE.

Vote Date:

3/15/2013

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/25/2013

File No.:

334

SPONSORS OF BILL:

This bill was raised by the committee based on Proposed H.B. No. 6213

Co-Sponsors:

Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, 3rd Dist.
Sen. Andrew M. Maynard, 18th Dist.
Sen. Steve Cassano, 4th Dist.
Rep. James Albis, 99th Dist.
Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, 18th Dist.
Sen. Edward Meyer, 12th Dist.
Rep. Gregory Haddad, 54th Dist.
Rep. Roberta B. Willis, 64th Dist.
Rep. Peter A. Tercyak, 26th Dist.
Rep. Brandon L. McGee, 5th Dist.
Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter, 38th Dist.
Rep. Joe Diminico, 13th Dist.
Rep. Brian H. Sear, 47th Dist.
Rep. Matthew Lesser, 100th Dist.
Rep. Kevin Ryan, 139th Dist.
Rep. Bob Godfrey, 110th Dist.
Rep. Geoff Luxenberg, 12th Dist.
Sen. Andres Ayala, 23rd Dist.
Rep. John "Jack" F. Hennessy, 127th Dist.
Rep. Edwin Vargas, 6th Dist.
Rep. Toni E. Walker, 93rd Dist.
Sen. Eric D. Coleman, 2nd Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill would enact an interstate compact, The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote, otherwise known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact, which would require states which are members of the compact to allocate the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate with the largest total of popular votes nationwide. This compact will take effect when enough states to represent a majority of the Electoral College (currently 270) have joined the compact. This proposal is supported and represented by a non-profit organization, known also as National Popular Vote (NPV).

By allocating votes to the winner of the popular vote, the Interstate Compact would effectively institute a nationwide popular election. Proponents argue that this would refocus presidential campaigns and boost participation in all states, create more democratic and equal elections, and decrease the likelihood of close tallies or problems in key districts from affecting the outcome of the national election.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State of Connecticut

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the Sates (SOTS) submitted testimony in support of this bill will lead to Connecticut having a more relevant role in presidential elections, and by preventing constitutional and policy crises caused by candidates winning the Electoral College without the popular vote, as has happened in the past. This bill is consistent with the US Constitution's provisions regarding interstate compacts and the right of states to decide how to select their presidential electors. NPV would also lead to more balanced attention from presidential campaigns in terms of visits and grassroots party activity. Connecticut's role would evolve beyond that of a fundraising state as the candidates move to turnout voters in densely populated northeastern states like Connecticut. These changes would improve our presidential elections

(Denise Merrill, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Senator Gary D. LeBeau, 3rd Dist.

Senator Gary D. LeBeau testified in support of this bill because he believes that every vote should matter and be equal in a presidential election. The system of “safe” state/ “swing” state is a broken system which focuses on a decreasing number of states. The Electoral College does not reliably reflect nationwide popular vote, allowing presidents to win without winning a plurality of the vote nationally. This disenfranchisement hurts political participation. NPV is the only viable way to create a system based on a plurality of the popular vote.

(Sen. Gary LeBeau, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Representative James M. Albis, 99th Dist

Representative James M. Albis testified in support of this bill because the NPV Interstate Compact will ensure that “every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.” This bill conforms to the requirements of the US Constitution that the states decide how to apportion their electoral votes, and exercises Connecticut's rights in this regard. This compact would force presidential campaigns to pay attention to more states than just the “swing” states, forcing candidates to face a “national electorate.” Federal grant dollars inequitably allocated to swing states would be more fairly proportioned. Furthermore, the bill would decrease the risk of voter fraud would be greatly decreased because the chances of fraud in key districts changing the winner in one state (as occurs under the Electoral College) would be far less likely to affect the outcome of the entire election. Finally, the bill is simply about equality and the General Assembly should take the opportunity to protect everyone's vote.

(Rep. James Albis, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Barry Fadem, President, National Popular Vote

Barry Fadem, President of National Popular Vote, testified in favor of the bill because it will ensure “that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.” Mr. Fadem responded to several concerns of the committee, firstly that the proposal is legal and constitutional as states have discretion as to how they allocate their electors. Secondly, small states are not disadvantaged under the compact, they would receive presidential visits along with larger states instead of being largely ignored as they are now. Large cities would also not be the only target of campaign visits as 81% of Americans live in rural America. Thirdly, states not joining the compact are not adversely affected, as their votes still contribute to the national popular vote total used by the compact states to elect the President. Finally, the chances of electoral recount problems would not be increased as each state would still have to certify their election before the Electoral College meets.

Mr. Fadem also addressed why Connecticut specifically should join the NPV interstate compact. Firstly, the attention paid Connecticut by presidential campaigns would increase both in the number of candidate visits and the amount of campaign advertising in the state. Secondly, voter participation would increase, including turnout (according to comparison studies of battleground and non-battleground states). Grassroots activities and party structures would also expand and improve to handle the increased activity which would benefit other races important to the parties. Thirdly, Connecticut is a major source of fundraising to campaigns which spend the money in other states, under NPV more of those donations would stay in the state. Finally, Connecticut voters support NPV programs by 74% according to the latest poll.

Transcript: (GAE Public Hearing Transcript, Feb 25, 2013)

Testimony: (Barry Fadem, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Sean Scanlon, President, and Mike Smith, Vice President of Political Affairs, Connecticut Young Democrats

Sean Scanlon and Mike Smith, President and Vice President of Political Affairs for the Connecticut Young Democrats submitted testimony in support of this bill because the bill would protect the vote of each citizen and make sure it is counted fairly. Under the current Electoral College system, it does not matter if a candidate wins the state by 50% + 1 vote or by a much higher margin. Each additional vote above the threshold does not count. Campaigns do not invest in states where they are confident they can win a plurality of votes. Under the NPV interstate compact, the extra votes would influence a national tally, encouraging presidential candidates to work to gain every vote.

(Sean Scanlon and Mike Smith, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Susan E. Pease, PhD., Board of Directors, Common Cause in Connecticut

Susan E. Pease, PhD., Dean of Arts and Sciences at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and member of the Board of Directors of Common Cause in Connecticut submitted testimony in support of this bill because NPV “addresses the core tenet of democracy, one person one vote.” The current Electoral College unfairly boosts state party activity, grassroots activism, and civic engagement in certain states while neglecting others. This problem goes further as “swing states” receive more federal attention from sitting government officials because of their role in elections. Furthermore, Americans support a national popular vote system by a clear majority: 62% of Americans nationally, and 73% of Connecticut voters according to a 2008 Gallup Poll.

(Susan Pease, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group

Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) testified in support of this bill because “it is the best way to ensure that the basic principle of one person one vote is respected.” The NPV is part of a large tradition of reforms enacted to “help us better live up to democratic ideals on which we were founded.” Connecticut has a good record of fair elections with its direct primary system and the landmark Citizens Election Program (CEP). Furthermore, while Connecticut is not a “swing state”, it is a major source of campaign donations to both parties, the vast majority of which are spent out of state. The NPV would make sure that more of this money is reinvested in the political engagement of the state.

(Tom Swan, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Hugh C. Mcgill, Research Professor and Dean Emeritus, University of Connecticut School of Law

Hugh C. Mcgill, Research Professor and Dean Emeritus at the University of Connecticut School of Law testified in support of this bill to address legal questions of the bill and the NPV compact. Firstly, it is possible to implement national popular vote election procedures without a constitutional amendment. The US Constitution requires an electoral college, but allows the states to decide how to allocate their electors. Secondly, while it appears under Article I, section 10, clause 3 of the US Constitution that congressional approval is required for an agreement among several states to be binding, a consistent line of Supreme Court decisions over 120 years has created a different precedent. This bill should pass because the original design of elections has shifted gradually in response to “deep shifts in our national political consciousness.” This is not the first step we have taken toward a more democratic election system.

(Hugh C. Mcgill, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Christine Horrigan, Government Director, League of Women Voters of Connecticut

Christine Horrigan, Government Director of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, testified in support this bill because the “direct-popular-vote method” is essential to representative government. The President and Vice President are the only public officials, who represent the entire country, therefore every citizen should have an equal vote in electing them. NPV will also help guard against electoral fraud and gerrymandering and should be enacted in the interest of preserving “the democratic idea of making each vote count.”

(Christine Horrigan, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Paul Filson, Director, Service Employees International Union Connecticut State Council

Paul Filson, Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Connecticut State Council testified in favor of the bill because “Grassroots organizing is vital for any group of people hoping to have an effect on politics” and in “a 'safe' state like Connecticut, the benefits of citizen engagement are practically erased”. As candidates only need to win 51% of the vote in a state to gain its electoral votes, candidates with a comfortable lead will devote no resources to the state, and will not show up and engage with Connecticut voters. Contrary to popular belief, the Electoral College does not benefit all small states, some (like New Hampshire) get a lot of attention because they are close, others (like neighboring Vermont), are ignored. Finally, the Electoral College poses risks for injustices like the 2000 elections and leaves the election vulnerable to various attempts to rig the vote. We should elect the president like we do all other offices, with a popular vote. Then, “Our votes will counts and so will Connecticut.”

(Paul Filson, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Alex Taubes, Yale Law School, Common Cause in Connecticut

Alex Taubes, Student at Yale Law School testified in support of the bill because
“the President of the United States should be accountable to the whole nation- not just the voters of “swing states.” The Electoral College was originally designed to protect the rights of states, and the NPV would give the states equal footing with regards to presidential election. NPV doesn
't favor certain states, “its about getting rid of the red state, blue state divide and making every vote count equally.”

(Alex Taubes, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Marta Daniels, Chester

Marta Daniels testified in support of the bill because it makes the vote of every citizen count equally. Furthermore, NPV is the only “firewall we have to protect CT citizens and their vote against the rigging of future national elections that will unfairly skew the outcome of our next presidential race.” This bill would serve as a form of election protection, preventing against voter disenfranchisement from partisan redistricting, vote rigging by parties changing Electoral College rules, and partisan voter suppression efforts.

(Marta Daniels, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Jacob Wasserman, Yale University

Jacob Wasserman of Yale University submitted testimony in support of the bill because “in a fair democracy, one person should get one equal vote” regardless of where they live. Enacting the NPV interstate compact will avoid future attempts to further rig the Electoral College and make the system less fair and democratic.

(Jacob Wasserman, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Abigail Johnson, Yale University

Abigail Johnson of Yale University submitted testimony in support of the bill because the NPV would change the way presidential campaigns are conducted, giving states like Connecticut more attention. This would also encourage voter participation because many voters feel disenfranchised and that their vote does not matter. The NPV interstate compact would help ameliorate those concerns.

(Abigail Johnson, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Emma Goldberg, Yale University

Emma Goldberg of Yale University submitted testimony in support of the bill because “in a nation that prioritizes egalitarianism, every voter should have an equal ability to influence the political future of our country...” Furthermore, the current Electoral College system creates varying levels of interest from voters based on their home state and its relative competitiveness. This is particularly apparent for young people, who are discouraged to vote when they think it will not count.

(Emma Goldberg, GAE Public Hearing, Feb, 25,2013)

Laura Puopolo, President, Democracy Matters Chapter of SCSU

Laura Puopolo, Student at Southern Connecticut State University (CCSU) and President of the University Chapter of Democracy Matters submitted testimony in favor of this bill because it would make people's votes count more equally. In her experience voters are apathetic, particularly young voters, because of the Electoral College system. NPV would help keep people involved in the democratic process, increase participation, and prevent voter apathy.

(Laura Puopolo, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Bill Cibes, Former State Legislator, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, and Chanceller of the State University System

Bill Cibes testified in opposition to this bill because it would “substitute the will of outsiders for the determination of Connecticut citizens.” Under NPV, Connecticut would be required to allocate its electoral votes to a candidate whom the voters may not have supported. An example of this would have been in 2004, when Connecticut voters cast ballots for John Kerry by 54%, but under NPV the state electors would have been forced to vote for President Bush. The NPV interstate compact would diminish the voting power of Connecticut because it would diminish the benefit Connecticut gets as a small state from having two extra electoral votes (smaller states have more electoral votes per voter). This advantage is compounded by the “winner-take-all” provision whereby 50% + 1 vote of the state's voters can allocate all of the electors. This means that a smaller number of votes per candidate in a small state lead to a higher proportion of the total electoral vote. Under the current system, the voting “clout” of Connecticut voters is 66% higher than under NPV. Furthermore, under NPV Connecticut would get no more attention from presidential campaigns, as candidates would focus on regions with far higher populations. NPV would also increase the influence of money in politics as the need to buy national advertising would increase. Finally, any change this radical should occur by constitutional amendment, not by “a backdoor mechanism which would circumvent the extraordinary majority requirement demanded by the Framers.”

(Bill Cibes, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

John Hetherington, Former State Representative

John Hetherington testified in opposition to this bill because it would open up the possibility that a fringe candidate could “succeed over a divided field of mainstream contenders” as the winner of the national popular vote would not necessarily require a majority or “even a substantial plurality”. The NPV has no runoff provisions like France which elects a president by a national popular vote. Secondly, NPV will create delay and uncertainty as each state would have to certify the individual state results. Furthermore, if electors choose not to follow the compact, chaos could result without penalty as the constitution allows electors to vote the way they like. Finally, Article 10, Section 10 of the US Constitution prohibits compacts between the states without the consent of Congress. While this provision has been ignored, it could provide grounds for a lawsuit in the future.

(John Hetherington, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Trent England, Executive Vice President, Freedom Foundation

Trent England, Executive Vice President of the Freedom Foundation testified in opposition to this bill because it departs from the historical precedent of allocating a state's electoral votes based on the political will of the people within that state. While methods of appointing electors have varied throughout the years, the NPV proposal would be a radical change from the historical precedent of giving the state (either through its government or its people) a voice in electing the President. Furthermore, NPV's interpretation of Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution is overly broad, providing for scenarios which completely ignore the will of the people in the state. Presidential Electors belong to the people of each state, and enacting the NPV proposal would ignore them. Furthermore, there are many technical problems with NPV; it does not establish an actual “national popular vote” but relies on each state certify its results, it could create the first national recount, but has no provisions for such a recount. The compact could create conflicts between the states but has no provisions adjudicating those disputes, and the compact provision limiting a state's power to withdraw is probably unenforceable which could leave the compact vulnerable during an election year. Finally, the Electoral College moderates our elections by keeping them focused on evenly balanced states, the independence of state's election administration allows them to experiment with new ways of administering elections, and the Electoral College forces presidential campaigns to rise above regional political problems to build a strong national coalition. These are all good benefits that the NPV would destroy.

(Trent England, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Sean Parnell, Lobbyist, Freedom Foundation

Sean Parnell, Registered Lobbyist for the Freedom Foundation testified in opposition to this bill because states using the NPV interstate compact could be unable to determine an accurate national vote total in order to allocate their electoral votes. States often fail to provide an accurate vote total for presidential elections until well after their official reporting deadlines. This is not a problem unless the election in that particular state is very close, but on a national level it could make a big difference as the difference between the finalized election totals and the early “certificate of ascertainment” could make a difference in close national popular vote counts. For example, in the State of New York in 2012, President Obama gained another 300,000 votes above the initial certificate and Governor Romney gained 80,000 further votes. New York was not close so that did not affect the election, but it could make a difference for compact states waiting on New York's tally. In addition, while compact states may make an extra effort to insure their initial counts are more accurate, there is no incentive for non-compact states to do so, and compact states would still have to count on the accuracy of their totals. Furthermore, each state's varied election laws would make the system vulnerable to inter-state litigation over which votes should be counted, and which should not.

(Sean Parnell, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Luther Weeks, Executive Director of CTVotersCount

Luther Weeks, Executive Director of CTVotersCount, testified in opposition to this bill because the NPV compact may have “unintended, unrecognized, and unappreciated consequences.” The 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act which govern declaring the President are already problematic and the Compact would exacerbate this. There is no timely way to compile an official national vote tally in order to accurately determine the winner in a close election. There would be no national audit or recount available for close elections. Finally, with NPV there is the continued risk for partisan action by Congress or the Supreme Court in any close election, such as happened in 2000.

(Luther Weeks, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Curtis Gans, Director, Center for the Study of the American Electorate

Curtis Gans, Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because it would increase the chances of recounts and pose a risk for a President elected with less than 50% of the vote. Furthermore, the power of national media and television advertising would be increased as it is one of the few sure ways to reach all Americans, with the resulting increase in power to those with the funds to purchase national advertising. A national vote would decrease grassroots activities, undermine federalism and pluralism, acting as a disincentive for candidates to use traditional organizing, speak to smaller interest and minority groups. Voter participation would decrease because citizens would feel their vote did not count in a national election decided by millions. Finally, NPV amounts to the actions of a few states attempting to impose “radical change” on the rest of the nation.

(Curtis Gans, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Tara Ross, Author

Tara Ross, Author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because it would be detrimental to the country and small states like Connecticut in particular. Furthermore, the NPV interstate compact itself, because it does not go through “a formal constitutional amendment process” has its own problems. Logisticially NPV is problematic because it tries to blend the results of 51 different elections, making variance between the laws a problem. With no runoff provision enforceable in all states, there would be no clear solution for close elections or elections that do not produce a majority. Finally, NPV is not a permanent solution like a constitutional amendment. States can join or leave as they please, which could cause confusion as to whether or not NPV is in effect for a given election.

(Tara Ross, GAE Public Hearing, Feb 25, 2013)

Reported by: Ted Fisher

Date: 04/15/2013