After blowback from conservative readers, Columnist Scott Morefield has doubled down on his defense of the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV). I took him to task on Monday for implying that the Constitution is only good if it benefits the Republican Party. (I think it’s the other way around.) This time, Morefield engages in multiple sleights of hand.
First, and quite a tell, he lectures that “very little is black and white, especially not this.” He then lays out a hypothetical: “Would you trade a national popular vote for, say, a ban on unsolicited mail-in voting and ballot harvesting, a Voter ID compact between the states, and a repeal of the 17th Amendment?” At this point, it seems like Morefield, in his mock bargain with the political left, is conceding that NPV really is a bad idea that threatens election integrity and federalism.
Alas, Morefield misses the point even as it stares out from his own writing. Instead, he claims that anyone who would entertain such a deal must care only for political outcomes. “If you would make that trade,” writes Morefield, “it’s not so much the idea of a national popular vote per se that irks you, but rather the negative political ramifications you fear it could portend.” This is illogical: if someone is faced with three bad policies and accepts one as the only way to stop the other two, the only thing we know from those facts is that the person judged the sum of the two to be worse than the third. All might still be awful and, in the absence of the hypothetical trade-off, well worth opposing on principled grounds.
Worse than his illogic is his logic. By making all this only about political outcomes, Morefield suggests the sole reason to oppose election fraud is to help Republican candidates win. Turn that around and it’s rather ugly.
In fact, Morefield inadvertently raises two pertinent and related objections to NPV. The first is not merely election fraud, but that fraud in one state could steal votes from other states, and the second is nationalizing elections.
Imagine: NPV is in effect in 2024, California mails unsolicited ballots to anyone who might be eligible to vote with no identification required or limits on ballot harvesting. The votes come in and turnout in California has jumped to never-before-seen levels that Democrats call “historic.” The unusually high turnout there gives the Democrat ticket the most popular votes nationwide—forcing other NPV states to cast all their electoral votes for the Democrats. Even if other states distrust the results in California, according to NPV they must trust every other state with no ability to verify the honesty of their election practices.
Even one of the creators of the concept behind NPV, Vikram David Amar, has criticized the compact for failing to address differences and potential conflicts among the states. This leads to the second concern—federalism—which Morefield alludes to by referencing the 17thAmendment. The Electoral College keeps election power in the states; a direct national election would create a need for centralized control over elections. The above 2024 hypothetical shows why. In such an event, Republicans would demand that something be done to stop one big state from stealing the election—and that could only involve shifting power up. If you want a national election, you will also wind up with national control over that election.
Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly called for abolishing the Electoral College, and connected the issue to creating “national voting.” She understands that abolishing the constitutional system, or nullifying it with NPV, would help the left achieve its HR1/SR1 objectives.
At the end of his column, Morefield brings in a ringer to help him answer his handpicked objections. Stay tuned—I will address them all in a future post.