Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5434

Title:

AN ACT ADOPTING THE INTERSTATE COMPACT TO ELECT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BY NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE.

Vote Date:

3/24/2017

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/22/2017

File No.:

487

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep. Matthew Lesser, 100th Dist.

Rep. James M. Albis, 99th Dist.

Rep. Liz Linehan, 103rd Dist.

Rep. Gregory Haddad, 54th Dist.

Rep. Josh Elliott, 88th Dist.

Sen. Gary A. Winfield, 10th Dist.

Rep. Michael D'Agostino, 91st Dist.

Rep. John "Jack" F. Hennessy, 127th Dist.

Sen. Mae Flexer, 29th Dist.

Rep. Robyn A. Porter, 94th Dist.

Rep. Bob Godfrey, 110th Dist.

Rep. Susan M. Johnson, 49th Dist.

Rep. Diana S. Urban, 43rd Dist.

Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, 116th Dist.

Rep. Michael Winkler, 56th Dist.

Sen. Beth Bye, 5th Dist.

Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, 95th Dist.

Rep. John K. Hampton, 16th Dist.

Rep. Joseph P. Gresko, 121st Dist.

Rep. Kim Rose, 118th Dist.

Rep. Peter A. Tercyak, 26th Dist.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, 136th Dist.

Rep. Larry B. Butler, 72nd Dist.

Rep. Roland J. Lemar, 96th Dist.

Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, 130th Dist.

Rep. Christine Conley, 40th Dist.

Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, 133rd Dist.

Rep. Michelle L. Cook, 65th Dist.

Rep. Steven J. Stafstrom, 129th Dist.

Rep. Chris Soto, 39th Dist.

Rep. Derek Slap, 19th Dist.

Rep. Joe de la Cruz, 41st Dist.

Sen. Steve Cassano, 4th Dist.

Rep. Mary M. Mushinsky, 85th Dist.

Rep. Linda A. Orange, 48th Dist.

Rep. Kevin Ryan, 139th Dist.

Sen. Terry B. Gerratana, 6th Dist.

Rep. Dorinda Borer, 115th Dist.

Rep. Chris Perone, 137th Dist.

Rep. Edwin Vargas, 6th Dist.

Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth, 126th Dist.

Rep. Kelly J. Luxenberg, 12th Dist.

Rep. Brandon L. McGee, 5th Dist.

Sen. Martin M. Looney, 11th Dist.

Sen. Bob Duff, 25th Dist.

Rep. Rick Lopes, 24th Dist.

Rep. Angel Arce, 4th Dist.

Rep. Henry J. Genga, 10th Dist.

Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, 18th Dist.

Rep. David A. Baram, 15th Dist.

Rep. Toni E. Walker, 93rd Dist.

Rep. Hilda E. Santiago, 84th Dist.

Sen. Catherine A. Osten, 19th Dist.

Rep. Mike Demicco, 21st Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

To allow the citizens of Connecticut to commit the state's Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Denise W. Merrill, Secretary of the State

Secretary Merrill testified to the fact for the second time in five presidential races, the candidate that lost the election, won the popular vote. She believes that this discourages citizens from voting and undermines their faith in the election process. She supports the national popular vote because it is fundamental to the democratic principle of one person, one vote.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Martin Looney, State Senator, 11th District

The bill has bipartisan support by both Republican and Democratic controlled legislative chambers. Polls show that nationally more than 70% of people support a nationwide popular vote for president. In Connecticut, 2 recent polls show that 73 and 74% support the NPV. Additionally, it is supported by 80% of Democrats, and 67% of Republicans and 71% among other voters.

Senator Looney argues that the Founding Fathers did not debate the winner-take-all method of giving electoral votes to the president during the Constitutional Convention, nor was it discussed in the Federalist Papers. There were no political parties back then, so it was assumed that electors were better suited to choose a president. Sen. Looney vehemently disagrees that the citizens cannot be trusted to directly elect the President.

Finally, he asserts that that winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance in a way that puts states like Connecticut at a disadvantage because it is not a swing state. He cites an analysis of “battleground” states that shows that they receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declaration, more Superfund enforcement exemptions and more No Child Left Behind laws exemptions.

Mae Flexer, State Senator, 29th District

The Electoral College system discourages voter participation because presidential candidates spend their time courting the voters in swing states, rather than in states like Connecticut. As a result, voters do not feel their vote matters and it is less likely that they will vote.

Under the current system, where the votes of states count more than individuals, the vote of a person in Wyoming, has 3.91 times more voting power than a more populous state like Florida.

Sen. Flexer notes that her constituents sent scores of emails supporting the popular vote.

Susan Johnson, State Representative, 49h District

Rep. Johnson argues that the President of the United States should be elected by the people and that every person's vote should count. The states should ensure that their electors cast their vote for the person who won the national popular vote. The NPV would not be implemented unless the states with the necessary 270 electoral votes have joined in a compact by passing the NPV legislation.

League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Inc., (LWV)

The direct popular vote method for electing the President and Vice President is the best for representative government. The legitimacy of our electoral system is often called into question when a candidate does not win with a majority or plurality of the vote. The organization argues that the Electoral College system contributes to the fact that many presidential candidates ignore certain states in favor of “battleground states”.

Lisa Kelly, Action Together Connecticut

Every vote in every state should be equal. Citizens become frustrated and do not participate in the election process when they feel their vote doesn't count. The compact has bipartisan support and has been passed in 33 legislative chambers across the United States.

Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director, Common Cause of Connecticut

The current system of “winner take all” is flawed and a barrier to an active electorate. The National Popular Vote would put Connecticut and other states on level playing ground with other states, like swing states. Presidential candidates that visit a state actually increases voter turnout (from 3% to 10% and as high as 35% among young voters). Additionally, the idea that the “founding fathers” decided to go with the Electoral College, rather than a direct election is based on an agreement based on a pro-slavery bias. The founders also assumed that the ordinary citizen did not have enough information to make a wise choice for president.

The NPV doesn't eliminate the Electoral College and is not unconstitutional. Common Cause supports the proposal because the winner of the most votes in the election should actually win the office, like every other elected official in our country.

Michele Jacklin, Board member, Common Cause of Connecticut

As a former political reporter and columnist for The Hartford Courant for 25 years, she covered five presidential campaigns. It was rare to see a candidate come to Connecticut, rather than to fundraise. She argues that numerous studies confirm that the Electoral College results in candidates spending almost no time in states that are perceived to be solidly Blue or Red states. Rather, candidates spend their time and efforts in the battleground states. Additionally, since Connecticut only brings seven electoral votes with it, it is largely seen as insignificant. She believes citizens in Connecticut feel disenfranchised and that their votes are meaningless.

Tom Swan, Executive Director, Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG)

CCAG supports the National Popular Vote compact so that the principle of one person one vote is ensured. A recent example in Connecticut is the enactment of a direct primary system and the passage of the Citizens Election Program. CCAG also argues that the Constitution state should lead the way in protecting the integrity of our citizen's votes in Connecticut and throughout the country.

Martin Mador, Legislative Co-Chair, Sierra Club, Connecticut Chapter

Mr. Mador argues that it is time to move to a direct election by a majority of voters. National Popular Vote is advocacy for democracy. He argues that it is an embarrassment to our country that considers it a “model of democracy” that five presidents have been elected with less than a majority of the popular vote.

Colleen Shaddox, Political Action Chair, Together We Rise CT

The National Popular Vote Compact would make the Electoral College obsolete without the burden of a Constitutional Convention. Eleven states have already passed it. Connecticut is a winner-take-all state that has traditionally gone blue, presidential candidates pay littles attention to the state.

Barry Fadem, President, National Popular Vote

The NPV bill is law in 11 states, comprising of 16 electoral votes, including small states (RI, VT, HI, DC) and medium sized states (MD, MA, WA), and large states (NJ, IL, NY, CA).

In 12 closely divided “battleground” states within 3% of the national outcome received 110% of the general-election campaign events in 2012. Two-thirds of the events were in just 4 states and 38 states were completely ignored.

The winner-take-all method was not debated at the Constitutional Convention and not used by a majority of states until the 11th presidential election (1828). Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution gives states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes in Article II, Section I.

Dr. John R. Koza, Chair, National Popular Vote

Existing federal laws, existing state laws in every states, and the provisions of the National Popular Vote Compact prevent hypothesized scenarios from being successfully executed. Federal law requires creation an delivery of a certificate containing the popular vote count for President prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. If a refusal of a rogue Secretary of State to certify his own state's popular vote count would disenfranchise his state. Voters favoring the about to be disenfranchised candidate would obtain a court order compelling compliance with federal law.

Additionally, independently of the federal requirements, every state has a law that gives a statutory deadline for certification of the popular vote count by a specific date. Voters could obtain a court order compelling compliance with state law.

If these hypothetical situations occurred, any one of the eight Democratic Secretaries of State could have thrown the Presidency to Al Gore in 2000.

Johnathan Perloe, citizen leader, Equalize Vote CT

Of the nearly 400 general election campaign events in last year's election, 94% were held in the battleground states. Only one was held here in Connecticut. It makes no sense that because of the winner-take-all method of casting electoral votes that approximately 70% of the nation has no say in selecting the president.

Additionally, public polling show that nearly of Connecticut votes prefer the NPV to the electoral college. Equalize Vote CT has been working together with many groups such as Pantsuit Nation groups, the Women's March on Washington Ct organization, chapters of the League of Women Voters, Democracy Awakens CT and many more.

Luther Weeks, Executive Director, CTVotersCount

Supports the National Popular Vote amendment only if it provides for uniform franchise, requires sufficient voting systems, audits and recounts nationwide.

Kurt Fuchs, President, and Stephen Karp, Executive Director, National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter

The Electoral College is an archaic system that is undemocratic. Adoption of the Interstate Compact would make every vote really count and encourage voters in “safe states” to come out to vote because their vote will hold equal weight with every other voter in the election. It will also make Connecticut more influential since normally, the state is taken for granted and it does not currently have a great influence on the election.

Leon (Tom) Carpenter, Simsbury, CT

Mr. Carpenter testified that the Interstate Compact would make all states relevant in a presidential election, not just battleground states. He cites that Connecticut received one visit from a presidential candidate after the conventions (out of 399 campaign events. Only 12 states represented 375 of those visits. Essentially, he argues that those states, representing only 29% of the electors, had a disproportionate amount of attention by the candidates. While the rest of the states, representing over 70% of the Electoral College were ignored.

Finally, the idea that the founders believed that the average citizen is unqualified to vote for the president is no longer valid. Every persons vote should count.

Marta Daniels, Chester, CT

Ms. Daniels testified to three main arguments in her urging the committee to vote in favor or adopting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. First, she believes that while the Electoral College allotment by congressional district sounds fair, it is not because of the gerrymandering that allows one party or the other to be safe. Additionally, she contends that the NPV issue is not a result of the 2016 presidential election; it is an 11 year old, non-partisan effort to equalize the vote for everyone. Finally, she asserts that if someone proposed the idea of the Electoral College in modern day, that is would not be popular.

The following Connecticut residents wrote in support of Connecticut joining the interstate compact to elect the President of the United States by national popular vote because they believe the current system is archaic and the will of the people should be heard.

Alexander Taubes, Fairfield, Andrea Torres Levien, New Haven, Yale Law School, Michelle Peng, Vice President, Yale College Democrats, Daniel Vernick, Legislative Captain, Yale College Democrats, Makayla Haussler, Legislative Coordinator, Yale College Democrats, Josh Hochman, President, Yale College Democrats, Zach Glass, Legislative Captain, Yale College Democrats, Sharon Farmer, Burlington, Linda H. Pompa, Oxford, Jean Koeppel, Morris, Stephanie R. Paulmeno, Old Greenwich, Byron Ruby, New Haven, Garrett Sullivan, East Haven, Stephen A. Myers, Riverside, Joanna Swomley, Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent, New Haven, Marina Cramer, Middletown, CT, Stacey Spartz, Enfield, Gail Shea, Pawcatuck, Elizabeth Richards, New Haven, Gail Janensch, Bridgeport, Chris Sullivan, Branford, Winona Zimberlin, Manchester, Frederick Souza, Stonington, Laurie Gorham, Gales Ferry, Suzanne Koblentz Goodman, East Hampton, Stacey Zimmerman, SEIU CT State Council, Dr. Nancy Dahl, New Milford, Dency and Dick Mann, Fairfield, Calvin E. Cordulack and Faith Held, Stamford, Lisa Labella, Trumball, Daniel Zimberlin, Glastonbury, Jorge Fernandez, Hamden, Susan DeSilver, Northford, Danielle Morfi, North Haven, Rita Evancha, North Haven, Rozanne Gates, Westport, Sharlene Walbaum, Professory Quinnipiac University, Marilyn Horn, Durham, Pam Hogarth, Durham, James Root, Charlotte Rossi, Ron G. Wallace, PhD, New Britain, Kira Keiffer, Westport, Charles Wailonis, Ansonia, Maybeth Morales, Watertown, Michael Barker, Trumbull, Jacob D. Runyan, New Milford, Catherine Lutz, Professor Brown University, Stonington, Mark Solomon, Hamden, Janice Wenzel, Danielson, Laurence Morgenstein, Wallingford, Frances Southworth, Westport, Karen Tracy, Stratford, Peter McKnight, Fairfield, Susan Miller, Windsor, Tom Haggerty, Pawcatuck, Toni Kenner Pepe, Danbury, Meg Furniss Weisberg, Guildford, Janice Eastman, Ph.D, Glastonbury, Carole Young-Kleinfeld, Wilton, Patricia L. Beechy, Strasbury, OH

Additionally, the committee received over 80 emails from constituents that urged that Connecticut adopt the interstate compact to elect the President of the United States by national popular vote.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Michael Ferguson, State Representative, 138th District

Rep. Ferguson has co-authored an article with Dr. Patricia Crouse and a Michael French, a student from Western Connecticut State University, The National Popular Vote Compact: Undermining States' Rights. The article argues that the NPV Compact violates the interstate compact clause of the Constitution. While supporters of the NPV have argued if they introduce a bill in Congress which grants consent to the compact on behalf of the District of Columbia, that is would then “imply consent” to the overall compact. Rep. Ferguson states that this argument is flawed since the District of Columbia is not a state and that the Congress would need to give explicit consent, rather than implicit.

Rep. Ferguson also argues that the NPV Compact would give the federal government too much power over the states in the election process. He cites that recounts may be an issue whereas states have their own rules, but if federal recount standards were made, that it would usurp the state's power.

Robert C. Sampson, State Representative, 80th District

Rep. Sampson asserts that being in favor of one person; one vote is in effect, ignoring the will of an entire state. Additionally, he argues that our country is a representative republic, based on the principle of individual liberty. Each state joined voluntarily with the understanding that they have sovereignty over state issues. He strongly believes that the NPV would nullify votes and eliminate state sovereignty.

Tara Ross, Author, Lawyer

Ms. Ross testified that eliminating the Electoral College would create more problems, legally and logistically. She asserts that the National Vote Compact is flawed and would create more problems. For example, it would be difficult to combine 51 different state (and D.C.) election processes into one national outcome. One of the three original constitutional lawyers who proposed an NPV system, has now acknowledged the difficulties this would create. Additionally, she asserts that voters would be disenfranchised because their votes would be counted differently, based upon different ways states would count votes. Finally she also believes the NPV circumvents the constitutional amendment process, and as a result would bring many legal problems and much litigation.

Furthermore, Ms. Ross believes the Electoral College is a great benefit to the United States electoral system. Presidential candidates need to build a national coalition of voters, hence discouraging them from focusing on one region or group. Additionally, it encourages Americans to work together. Rather than a direct election system that would result in multi-party presidential races and creates a fractured electorate. Finally, the Electoral College is a system where there are few disputes, fraud is minimal and where election results can be tabulated quickly.

Andy Schatz, Westbrook, CT

Mr. Schatz testified to the fact that the National Popular Vote may be unconstitutional and poses a risk to leading to elections of fringe candidates with small percentages of the total vote and in effect, destabilizes the government. He asserts that the NPV does not require that the popular vote “winner” receive a majority, or near majority vote. He worries what contentious elections would do to the legitimacy of an administration and democratic principles.

He also asserts that the two-party system brings stability and in effect helps the people come together in compromise. He believes that broad coalitions help to protect minority views and domination by factions. Finally, he argues that individuals with extreme views, with only perhaps 30 – 35% of the vote under an “any plurality” system, like NPV, would have a chance at winning the presidency.

Sal Gilbertie, Bridgeport, CT

Mr. Gilbertie testified that the Electoral College preserves the integrity of the United States as a Republic. He argues that in elections without the Electoral College, states with larger numbers of voters would dictate the issues. And for Connecticut, that would mean that the citizen's voices would not be heard. He believes that large numbers of the electorate would become disenfranchised and people would become demotivated which would have grave political and economic consequences.

Patricia A. Crouse, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, CSCU

Dr. Crouse co-authored an article with Rep. Ferguson (see notation above). Dr. Crouse argues that, “every vote, in every state, will matter” is a impracticable. The only way she believes that every vote count is to amend the Constitution and abolish the Electoral College. She contends that the NPVC in essence will make our election system invalid by going around the system set up by our founding fathers to amend it.

Finally she argues that allowing the NPVC essentially gives up state sovereignty and gives too much power to the federal government.

Kevin Hooper, Student of Political Science, University of New Haven

The agreement will disenfranchise the residents of Connecticut and undermine the stability of the United States. He argues that states like California and New York already outweigh us 12:1 in electoral power and that the popular vote would only make this gap widen. He also argues that it is healthier to have a leader that has support from places of great geographical diversity, rather than relying on areas of dense areas of supporters.

John P. Flannagan, Hamden, CT

Mr. Flannagan argues that HB 5434 disenfranchises the voters of the smaller states. He cites that the Founding Fathers concerns about a majority overriding the rights of a minority. The system has worked well for almost 24 years and if there is a need to change the system then we should change the constitution through the amendment process.

John Chunis, Rocky Hill, CT

The founding fathers created the Electoral College to ensure that small, less populated states would have some influence and power over the larger populated states. The Electoral College is still valid today. Mr. Chunis cites the last presidential election in which our voice as a small state matter in comparison to the weight that 10 states, making up 51% of all voting eligible people (United States Election Project) had on the election results.

He argues that if the election were based on the popular vote, that Connecticut's population of eligible voters would rank at only 1.11% of the total. Furthermore, with the 7 electors from Connecticut, our vote is worth more (1.3% of all the 538 electors).

Marianne D Berthiaume, Waterbury, CT

Ms. Berthiaume is concerned that those who believe their candidate lost want to change the system rather than accept the final election result. She argues that with absentee ballots, that it would be nearly impossible to know the results of an election on Election Day.

Nicholas Lupacchino, Eastford, CT

The Electoral College was set up by the founding fathers so that large states would not overpower the smaller states and determine the winner of the Presidential election.

John Pepe, Danbury

He opposes the Compact because it circumvents the Amendment process under the Constitution. The compact would create a tyranny of coastal states versus states in the middle and be a step towards “tyranny of the majority”. He fears that sparsely populated states would be ignored during the campaign process.

Reported by: Susan DeBisschop

Date: 4/9/2017