tv Discussion on National Popular Vote Election Part 2 CSPAN October 13, 2019 3:55pm-5:21pm EDT
>> it is my pleasure to introduce the moderator. we will have a panel on how will candidates messages and platforms change with the popular vote? >> i want to introduce our panel. michael steele, former chair of the rnc. i was looking back at the states that were visited most by donald trump and hillary clinton in the last election.
ohio, north carolina, florida, pennsylvania democrats wish that she had visited wisconsin more. visited wisconsin more. if we did change the system, what would be the impact of campaigns and their strategies? >> they visited the large states. cramermused when senator of north dakota defended the electoral college, saying, this would make north carolina irrelevant -- north dakota irrelevant. presidential to politics, north dakota is irrelevant right now. let's say we had a presidential election that was looking awfully close in terms of popular vote. then every vote would count. and candidates would have an incentive to try to maximize the turnout in places like north dakota. when we dissected hillary clinton's loss, one of the
things that kept coming up was not whether or not she visited pennsylvania or michigan but that the analytics on the team said go to the places where your votes are. going to places where she could have made a difference, they ignore those areas. if you are looking at a reality where the votes count, as they do in states, the smart thing to do is to go everywhere. make sure that you can get votes in counties that you will lose. we would see television ads in places like north dakota, which are very cheap. you would see a ground campaign. , asou are going to lose richard nixon did in 1960, one vote per precinct, and you know if you can vote to -- shift to votes for precinct, you're going
to go everywhere. the paradox is that the major defense of the electoral college , that it gives clots to small states, is exactly wrong. small states would have a lot more clout if we had a national popular vote. >> you have been in the war rooms of campaigns. primaries, to states like north dakota, are they even discussed? >> no. [laughter] they are not. they are not. you do measure how much money you can get out of north dakota. like myes a donor state home state of maryland if you are republican. you only come to maryland if you want to have a fundraiser. you're not going to campaign for votes the way norm layed out. that is an important thing to
understand. the way the system is designed. what we have wound upwe are notn the united states of america. we are holding elections in the battleground states of america. so you're only talking in any given presidential cycle between eight and 12 states that the presidential campaigns give a damn about, because the rest of it is just flyover or it is donor. you're not going to take the time or spend the money. because you are going to concentrate on those winner take all states that you need, as dictated to by the current political cycle or other things that you look at and say, michigan in the last cycle would have been a battleground state had hillary effectively, but
she kind of took it for granted, and donald trump did not. that speaks to the nature of this particular effort. it does open up the prospects, it forces candidates to have to pay attention to every state because every state becomes important. so if i am running for president as a republican, all of a sudden california is equally important to me as my home state of maryland, or florida, or ohio. why? because i am about turning my vote. getting my vote. yeah i might lose the vote in , california, but that vote is now added to a bigger number that will help me in a national campaign. we talk a lot about national races here in the united states, and you know this is a national , campaign, national polling. at the end of the day, polling only cares about a handful of states, and if you're not one of those states, you are not going
to see the benefit. my friend at the time of the 2008 cycle, michigan was a big player until the mccain campaign decided to pull out. but down ballot as well. you can see there are connections here beyond just the presidential and why making a platform available to every voter to participate, everyone gets to play and everyone up and down the system benefits from it. >> breanna, how would this, if we went to a national popular vote, how would it affect voter turnout? i talked to a republican in
maryland who said my vote does not count in the presidential. but a lot of people feel that way. would it help it significantly? breanna i absolutely believe it : would. we see that one of the key reasons why people don't turn out to vote is because they feel that their vote doesn't matter. it is in apathy that continues to grow. campaigns are not reaching out to you and it is a vicious cycle that continues. i think virginia is a good example of how we can correct this where in 2000, virginia was solidly republican, so nobody hosted any events there. flash forward to 2016, virginia is a contested state. so you saw 23 presidential events there. that means that individuals in virginia ended up turning out more in a battleground where you work seen as safe. you had about 66% turnout in virginia, up from 2000. states like texas that are traditionally considered safe
and you don't host events, you saw voter turnout around 50%. so people actually turn out at the national popular vote would contribute to that. >> just to follow up, critics say the candidates would just go to the big cities. brianna: right. i think it is definitely an increase from what we see now because candidates completely ignore 40 or so states. right now they are just focusing on 10 battleground states like michigan, pennsylvania, wisconsin. if we switch to the national popular vote, you would have to reach out to individuals in more diverse areas. so you would be reaching more of the mass because the current system foregoes about 80% of the electorate. >> jesse you have a book coming , out in the spring on this. what did you learn what did you , hear from people on this topic? >> so it is interesting, the book looks at the history of the electoral college and attempts to change it over the years, but
i end with a chapter of talking to campaign managers and field directors from the last 20 or so years from both republican and democratic campaigns. and what was fascinating to me is almost to a person, they all wanted a national popular vote. >> both sides? jesse: yeah both sides. , there were a couple exceptions, you can buy the book to find out about it. but the vast majority understood how this warps american democracy. i think, one of the things that is interesting to me is in a previous panel, a professor was talking about a risk -- the one in three risk that a person who doesn't -- who wins the popular vote nationally does not become president. it struck me, like why are we calling that a risk? if the electoral college 's defenders are right, and this
this is a system that is there for a good reason and it was put there by the framers of the constitution and has been with us for more than two centuries, why is that a risk? what is the problem with having a popular vote -- i think the answer is pretty obvious. nobody feels that that is a legitimate way to elect a president. republicans don't feel it if it could not happen to them and democrats have not felt that way when it happened to them. campaigns understand this. they don't want to campaign in battleground states only. they do it because it is politically smart. they know how to spend. they have limited time and money and they are not stupid. they know they got to spend it in ways that maximize their chances of winning under the system we have right now. in contrast, if you have a popular vote, you would have a system in which -- as all the other panelists have been saying -- candidates was suddenly be free to go to the places where
the votes were, and that is not just mean big cities. one interesting pieces of research i have seen comes from the national popular vote, these are people who are running the compact that has been gaining steam over the last few years. what happens in battleground states right now is a proxy for the national popular vote. we are speculating on how the national popular vote election would run. there is a pretty good answer to that which is we can see it happening in battleground states. battleground states are elections in which every vote counts the same, and the person who wins the most -- gets the most votes wins. that is what a national popular vote is. how do campaigns actually run their elections in battleground states? they go everywhere. every campaign manager i spoke to said this, this is campaigning 101, you don't just live in the city, you go everywhere. if there is 30% of the population lives in urban areas, you spent about 30% of your time there.
if 25% live in rural areas, you spent 25 percent of your time there. it happens again and again and you see it in every battleground states. that's a pretty good illustration of what we would see with a popular vote election. >> there is another i think important area to consider here. it's not just where you would go to spend the dollars, it's how you would campaign. in our tribe allies, polarized time, there is no incentive to reach out to people on the other side. but if you are trying to get every vote and moving into the rural areas, democrats would have an incentive to be more sensitive to the issues and the concerns of the rural voters. change rhetoric and policies. michael talked about california. we now have a sort of national republican campaign led by the president in a war against california, trying to undermine everything that california is
doing. if you are out to get a sizable number of votes in california, you aren't going to do that. it is not just about whether you are going to pay attention by campaigning and putting in money. the -- you are going to change the way you talk and the way you put in your policies at a time when we desperately need those changes. >> michael, you are on tv all the time. how would this change how the media covers campaigns? michael: that is a good question because the media has various stress tests they go through to figure out where they want to send their people. and which states they want to concentrate their time, very much the way that campaigns do. you are looking at the value added. am i going to spend the time in, in north dakota when the candidate is just going there to
do a flyover or a donor event? the answer probably is going to be no, they are not. if the candidate is actually going to go there and campaign and spend time, i think what you would see is the media would have to adapt their strategies have to adapt their strategies as well. because their goal is to follow the candidates, right? and report the news they are making or not making. i think that you would see some change in how the on ground reporters do their job, where they go, and the decisions that their editors are going to be making in terms of their assignments and where they send them. this idea that you now open up all 50 states as a voter playground is a fascinating and important one, i think, if we really believe that the system should allow for everyone to
vote and every vote to matter and every vote to count. you either believe that or you don't. this notion that candidates under a national popular vote would somehow concentrate their time in urban centers is just silly. because clearly the person who said that or thinks that has never run a campaign or been a candidate. you are not going to get votes if 50% of your population that you're going after is in one place, and you leave the other 50% to your competitors, what do you think is going to happen to you? you are not going to win. because that 50% of the vote that you are concentrating on is still split up between the other candidates running. you don't have the market. no candidate corners the market on every vote in the jurisdiction. that is why when we open this process up and say to the voters you are now in play. , candidates will take note of that. the media has to follow. they are going to follow the script, following where the news lines takes them. they will follow where the
candidates begin to make some noise. you get a republican candidate, sticking with the california example, who suddenly sees a bump in the numbers, yes they are behind but they are competitive in california, you don't think the press is going to cover that story? california, they will lose it anyway? know, they are going to cover that story. it feeds the narrative downstream. it's very much the way the system is set up now. what do we anchor our elections on? two friggin states. iowa and hampshire. you have people writing stories, if you don't win iowa or new hampshire, your campaign is over. tell that to the people running in nevada, running right now in places like california and florida. the idea is to open the process up a lot more to engage the voters for sure, but also to bring those other components of the process, the media and the political system in line with
what the voters are doing. >> brianna, you have traveled the country to talk to young voters. which communities do you think are underrepresented the most? brianna: so traditionally it is communities of color and other marginalized groups that have been underrepresented in our electoral process. the students of color feel it. they live in california, think that their vote doesn't matter. they live in texas, which has traditionally been considered a safe state. having that in mind, you feel sorry, everyone. you definitely feel as if these candidates don't really represent your values. much to what my co-panelists were saying as far as candidates focusing on battleground states, they focus on fringe voters in these battleground states that allow them to capture a sliver of the margin so that they can win electoral votes in the state, whereas if you actually care about the millions of people living in california or
texas as you would in a popular vote, you would actually have to change the narrative of your candidacy. you would not be able to win on a racist, xenophobic agenda. you would have to win based on the voters that would contribute to your overall victory. >> jesse, we were talking about some history backstage, in 2000, amazing how there was no violence after that contested election. but everyone thought that it would flip. that gore would become president but then bush would win the popular vote. we saw the flip of that. and then in 2004 it was important for the bush team to win the popular vote, which they did. so the question is, do you think that donald trump is going to focus on the national popular vote in 2020? jesse: well, it depends on which day you ask him. there is, you know, trump has said that he won the popular vote, he would have won the
popular vote if millions of illegal voters had not cast their ballots, and that he would win the popular vote if he campaigned differently. i don't know what his position is on the popular vote today. i do think, you know, going back to what jim quoted at the beginning of the event, he tweeted the electoral college is a disaster for democracy on election night 2012. you know, when he tweeted that, it was 7:00 p.m., and the reason he said that is that it briefly like the early returns were coming in like barack obama was going to win electoral college and mitt romney could win the popular vote. all it takes is a hint that it might flip for people to get very upset about the system we have right now. i think that what you are referring to is the 2000, 2004 election, also very instructive. there is reporting from before that election that that election, as bob just said, was looking like it might go the
other way. there was a lot of reporting that it might be a split election before the vote, but that it was going to go the other way. people thought that george w. bush would lose the popular vote and win the electoral college. there is reporting that george w. bush's -- some people in george w. bush's campaign were working on a strategy to essentially do what the hamilton electors did in 2016, a public push, a sort of a pr blitz to get the electors to go to the popular vote winner and say that the electoral college is this an -- this anachronism from the 18th century, and we need a president elected by the people. they obviously didn't have to take that route given how it turned out, but four years later because they had lost the popular vote, they became, the bush campaign team became perhaps the only campaign in american history that actively sought to win the popular vote. no other campaign probably has or ever should go for the -- lar vote as long as
it would be crazy to do that. the bush team understood the issue of legitimacy that we have been talking about and they understood how important it was for him to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the country after what had happened in 2000. the ended up winning by 3 million votes, roughly the hillary clinton margin in 2016. so they managed it. can i just make one other point? this goes to what the other panelists have been saying. norm and michael were both referring to california, which is a great example. california, people know how many people voted for trump in california. 4.5 million people voted for donald trump in california, not a single one of them mattered on the real election day, december 19, when the electors cast their ballots, right? because of the winner take all rule. the winner take all rule, which came up in the last session, which is really at the heart of the inequity that's created by our current electoral college
system. 4.5 million people is more than hillary clinton's entire national margin. none of those people counted. so i think it is really important to remember how many more people, and this is not from the perspective of campaigns, but from the perspective of turnout and involvement, how many more people would feel involved and would feel like they mattered under a popular vote regime. brianna was mentioning communities of color where right now, there are huge swathes of people that just don't count. throughout the south african-american voters in the , south, the vast majority have not seen their vote represented by a single electoral vote in generations. all of a sudden you have a popular vote, and black voters in the south would matter just as much as white voters in wyoming and in north dakota and west virginia. it completely alters the calculus of a how a campaign happens. mr. steele: to that point, which is really the heart of it,
is when you are looking at it from a candidates perspective, your entire engagement changes. because 4.5 billion voters out of california are added to a bigger number that you are trying to -- a goal that you are trying to reach. the voters on the ground have something, if you will, some skin in the game. we all know the frustration of west coast voters. elections are called just as they are getting off from work. and so their incentive is to go home and have dinner. right? because anything after 5:00 doesn't matter. there is still another three hours worth of poll time going on. and the candidate wants those voters to turn out but the voters are like for what? , you are not going to win my state, my vote doesn't count, it doesn't matter, i'm going to dinner. right? now all of a sudden it's a different ballgame. now you have a turnout machine from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in
california if you are a candidate running. because all of a sudden now you have gotten the early return. you know what is coming. you know the candidates, we get the return at noon, at 5:00. we have a sense of what's going on here on the east coast. the west coast is a second thought. it isn't considered at all in most cases. i have talked to enough california legislators and candidates to know, particularly if they are republican, what their day is like on election day. and what their turnout models are like, they kind of stop after 5:00. it really is a huge way to incentivize the voters and to reengage the system in a way that we haven't ever. all of a sudden now, every vote is in play if i'm running, and i'm going to add the vote to the votes that i'm getting on the east coast, in the south, the votes i'm getting in the midwest and i'm going to cobble , together, like george bush did, i am going to cobble
together my majority vote by tapping into every precinct and every voter in the country. bob: that also affects congressional elections. they say wait a minute, i'm -- i need that motor that might have voted for me but is going to dinner. >> just to follow up up on your question to jesse, donald is the first president probably ever who has only focused on a base, and reinforcing a base, not caring about the nation as a whole, or trying even to make a pretense to broaden that out. believing that the distortions of the electoral college give him leverage. in three or four days he is going to minneapolis to do a rally. he is going into ilhan omar's district, and you know that it will be the rodent infested kind of rhetoric that we have seen before. there are two goals here. one, put minnesota in play -- bob: which he nearly won --
norman: which he came close to winning by appealing to the iron range, the rural part of the state and the iron range. this is my home state, in fact. if we were looking at a national popular vote, i think the whole premise of his rhetoric and his policy would have to adjust if we assume that he is focused not just on making more money while he is president, but also winning reelection. so you are going to be careful about what kind of rhetoric you use in minnesota because you may turn out even more of the voters who are appalled by that rhetoric. to go back to california, we have these devastating forest fires, and trump basically dismissed it but also made sure that federal aid did not go to california. you are not going to do that if you are out to maximize your vote in california because you need it to compete for the national popular vote. so, it changes an awful lot of
the calculus of not just candidates, but a president if you suddenly have to look at the world in a completely different way. brianna: that brings up an interesting perspective. you were talking about minnesota. we know in 2016 michigan and pennsylvania were the top states that helped to solidify the candidacy for the president. and with that perspective in mind, we know that those states are over 80% white. switch touals, if we a national popular vote, would really have to change the narrative and how they go about according diverse voters is so they are appealing to the middle and the moderates, not just the extreme individuals representative of one demographic. mr. steele: you mentioned something i think is key to appreciate and put into context. that is the behavior not only of candidates, but of incumbent presidents when it comes to where they are going to put federal resources in a
presidential campaign cycle. so during the obama years, we had a hurricane that came into the gulf. and the posture of the administration was one of we are going to watch it, we're going to watch it, we are going to watch it. then it shifted to the western coast of florida and it was, dammit, we have to make sure that there are resources available. why? because the battleground state of florida is much more important in making sure that you let the people on the ground know that we have got your back and covered you than the folks in the louisiana or elsewhere. so how these resources get allocated is also a factor. it is not just the vote, per se. it is also the dollars, federal dollars and how they are spent in presidential cycles by incumbents and the promises that
are made by candidates that are running to sort of let people know that i got your back and i am with you. whether it is federal aid on education, no child left behind was a program out of the bush years. [speaking simultaneously] >> medicare part d. michael: medicare part d, who was that for? you can begin to contextualize and understand exactly how all of this fits together and then by undoing that system, this current system in a way that makes it more competitive, exposes the entire country to the very same resources and the very same level of scrutiny that candidates give of florida or ohio, iowa or whatever. i think you do a big service for the people of the country as a whole.
bob: i think that is an excellent point and we could go down the list of -- disaster declarations are particularly upsetting. this is as someone said on the , previous panel, this is a time when americans are actually in need and sometimes maybe their lives are in danger, so playing politics with that is particularly dangerous. even just in the normal course of business, federal grants, presidentially controlled funding, and even in some cases legislation, which is harder to pin down because obviously there are a lot of factors as to why any bill passes congress and moves through. medicare part d is one example. let's say george w. bush takes it up and gets it passed. last i checked, republicans were not fans of massive government entitlement programs, but who does medicare part d help? older people who need medicine and need access to medicine. where do those people live? a lot of them live in florida. both parties do this. this is not just a republican game.
one of president obama's first major actions was to bail out the auto industry. where is the auto industry? the steel tariffs, go down the line and you find a fascinating correlation, let's say, we will not immediately say causation, but a correlation between the kinds of decisions that presidents make with their money, the money that they control, and where the battleground states are. this isn't to say that those are not legitimate needs. this is to say -- not to say that none of that matters. it's to say that the overbearing focus on those parts of the country is a distortion of american democracy and that if the presidents, if presidents look at the nation as a whole and as a place where they needed to win support everywhere, the decisions about where money went would be more in line with what the nation needed as a whole. >> michael, you are a republican, you're not a fan of the president. do republicans say to you privately, why do you support this? you know, we are not going to win the national popular vote.
this has happened to the last five and we have, on the winning end. stop talking about it. michael: it's interesting. not really. it is something that i think in particular, when you look at recently, certainly working with and being involved with the folks at national popular vote, and being in the room with republican legislators who are really, you know, conscientiously looking at this and considering it, weighing it, and even taking up legislation in their chambers, not just from you know a minority position, but you know, from being in the majority, because they -- the smart one knows, demographically, and otherwise, how the country is changing. we want to be competitive. we want to be able to win in places that we once won like
california, certainly states in the west. as you look at just, you know, areas close to me, virginia, which was a solidly red state, now is not. you have got to look at these realities and say, well, how do we compete on this new battleground, if you will, that is being formed? a love of republicans, you do have some, you know who do the but for. if we had this, bill clinton would have been president or whatever. you know? hillary clinton would have been president. but that argument really doesn't stand up. folks are not necessarily looking at it through such a narrow prism. that is it's surprising, because , i thought they would at first, but that has not been my experience and my conversation with them. they see it as a way to address coming changes in the country, and looking at the idea that, yeah, they would like everyone in their community to vote as well because it ultimately
benefits them. the one thing i have always said to republicans, when i was county chairman, state chairman, national chairman, is never be afraid of the voter and never be afraid to put out the policies and the values and the positions that you believe in. that is ultimately what they are going to gravitate towards. so, all the machinations won't to change the underlying requirement that you still have to talk to voters, you still have to make a case. you can do what you want with gerrymandering and voter suppression, do all these things, but at the end of the day, you still have to confront that voter, and i think a lot more republican legislators, particularly at the state level see that, and you know, are coming around to this idea of, you know, elevating the idea of a national popular vote. >> in 2012 after the republican loss, reince priebus, chair of the republican party at the time, commissioned his famous autopsy.
quite a word to use for your party. turns out in some ways to be a more accurate word. but remember that that was basically, oh my god, we are losing the demographic battle, we have got to change. we need to do something on immigration. now i think it was an inadequate response. it was basically pass a comprehensive immigration bill and then we are fine. but it was reince priebus who as chief of staff to donald trump ripped up the autopsy, threw it in the wastebasket and they moved in a different direction. imagine if you have to compete as a party for the national popular vote. -- popular vote, with a different set of circumstances where you are going to have to compete much more widely. you are not only going to push for a comprehensive immigration bill, but you are going to change the rhetoric that you use about immigrants. you are going to have to look at
a broader range of policies that you can change so that you can compete for minority votes. and it alters the landscape in far more ways than i think we have been thinking about. if you are going to compete as a national party, you are going to have to actually focus on solving problems for people in the country instead of inciting discord and division. so if i think, we're looking at a panacea, and there is no panacea for what is an enormous cultural divide and, now, something much worse, but if we are looking for something to alter the landscape of our politics and our governance, this is where you start. brianna: and to really build off my co-panelists have mentioned, we have seen a policy agenda that is more reflective of our communities so that you are not just focusing on extreme voters that would put you across the
edge in michigan in , pennsylvania. it's about seeing real policy reform that focuses on the everyday citizen. you would see more people caring about gun violence prevention, more people focusing on immigration, more people focusing on border security or a way to stop separating our families. that is what your base is made out of. you would actually have a larger base that you would have to cater to instead of just a few voters in a few states not representative of the u.s. as a whole. >> >> i think what all of this points to is two things. one, the answer to those republicans who say that we would lose the popular vote, yes, if you continue down the path of this sort of racist, xenophobic, revanchist party, you will. you will. the country is changing and you are aiming for a smaller and smaller slice of it. that was just saying, that is not the only direction you can go in, and in fact a popular vote forces parties to approach a broader constituency. and i think that that is really
the key here. which is that the way that we select our presidents, the way that we designed our electoral system shapes the kind of candidates that we get. it's not just policy, it's candidates. you wouldn't end up with certain types of candidates who were not able to speak to a broader coalition of people on both the left and the right. you know, it looks, we look very divided right now, but there are candidates in both parties who could speak a lot more effectively to a much broader swath of americans if they had to, if that's what the rules required. michael: i think that's an important part. if you look at the conversation right now, the democrats are going through the primary. so you have a great pressure within that primary system right now between the more progressive candidates, bernie sanders, elizabeth warren, and the more "traditional democrats," even
folks like a kamala harris or a pete buttigieg. certainly joe biden and amy klobuchar. you have this sort of tension. one of the effects, i think, which i would be very curious about in terms of how it ultimately plays out, i think it will play out this way, our primary system will change, too. because our primaries right now are geared towards the lowest common denominator because the parties know that only this much of our entire voter pool is going to show up and vote. so you are driven by that energy, you are driven by those positions, right? that are maybe anti-immigrant or wanting to take away private health care. and so, you have this system in which everything is forced into a very narrow tunnel in a primary. then you kind of open up to a general you see these candidates , trying to pivot and backstroke
and swing and move to sort of deal with a broader electorate which is now looking and focusing at a camp, looking at an election and saying -- you are going to do what with my health care and what did you say about immigrants? it becomes something where i think a candidate now running for national office, i think it will be true for statewide offices as well, governors and other officials, will pay more attention to how they make that case. because right now the candidates make the case for iowa, new hampshire, nevada, south carolina. right? under this system they would have to make the case for all other 46 states and let people know, yeah, i'm coming out to california next week. so i hear you, i'm going to be in missouri after that, in tennessee. and they become well-rounded, they become better versed. you will get a lot of bubble up
from the state level on issues. not just california being the leading edge in policy and change at the state level. so i think that overall it will refashion the way candidates not only behave in terms of getting votes, but how they behave in terms of addressing issues. bob: we are going to open it up to questions in about five minutes, so get ready. along those lines, i remember john mccain was basically a media.t shooter with the at one point he said ethanol was a joke, finishing fourth in iowa, it didn't help him there. that was the beginning of his comeback, but it shows how it can affect policies of candidates. jesse, you studied this issue. you mentioned backstage that there was a vote in congress many years ago on this. where to you see this movement and give us a little history on it? jesse: one thing that is remarkable is that we do think about this right now is a very partisan issue, just like everything else in america. but it hasn't been. for most of american history,
there has been no partisan valence to the question on how we should elect the president. there was actually a remarkable level of support going back to the constitutional convention. you know the most influential , members of the convention in philadelphia wanted a popular vote for president. that is james madison, james wilson, gouverneur morris. the people we generally identify with framing the essence of the constitution. they wanted a popular vote and couldn't get it. there are a lot of reasons for that which i won't go into here, including slavery, including the fight at the time between smaller states and bigger states, which wasn't as big a fight as you might think, but it was one. and then a few other concerns about what people could actually understand or know or learn about the candidates for national office. going up into what bob was referring to, this effort in the 1960's at the height of the
civil rights movement, most people don't remember this happened but there was a , concerted effort to abolish the electoral college and replace it with a popular vote starting in the mid-1960's. in 1969, the house of representatives actually passed a bill to abolish the electoral college overwhelmingly by something like 82%, easily clearing the threshold for an amendment. it got to the senate. it looked like they might have the votes in the senate too. the states were clearly on board. 80% of the public wanted a popular vote for president. this is 1968, 1969. it gets bottled up in the senate. you know who bottled up in the senate? strom thurmond, sam ervin, the same people who were, you know, filibustering the civil rights act a future years earlier. their brett is buttered. they blocked it until it died in the senate and it never went anywhere. at the time, it had the support of richard nixon after he became
elected president. it had the support of george w. -- hw bush, congressman. it had the support of bob dole. this was not a partisan issue because people understood that majority rule was the essential foundation of a democracy. and i think that it is unfortunate that all of the splits have gone in one direction, as i think the professor pointed out in the last session, that it does not necessarily have to go that way, and we have seen republican presidents as recently as a -- seen republican presidents as recently as george w. bush winning by a substantial margin in the popular vote. something like since 2002, which is only 17 years ago, 47 states have elected republican governors. republicans do not have trouble winning popular votes. it is, i think it is a misunderstanding of how the incentive structures of our
current system have worked the way campaigning happens, and leading to the kind of candidates we have, making people think that somehow republicans cannot win a popular vote. i think that is actually a misunderstanding. bob: we will open it up for questions. if you can raise your hand, the mic will come to you. if you can just keep your questions short and identify yourself. >> this is somewhat hypothetical, but given the current president's limited popularity in our country, if all of a sudden a popular vote went into effect for the 2020 election, do you think there would be more interest from the republican party in considering alternative candidates? >> alternative candidates. michael: presumably by that point, the cutoff date under the compact would be july. so you know if it happened right
, around that time, then pretty much your primary season is done. right? but if it happens before that, the remaining states coming into the pact, let's say it happened in february or march during the legislative sessions. i don't know, you have three candidates in there already. it certainly will change the dynamic of how they would run. -- would run a little bit given the window that they would have. i think, again, the question of how it would play out in a primary situation is a little bit gray, grayer, i think. because you do not know how many candidates we get in, get out, how donald trump himself would articulate his campaign at that point. he has said that if there were a national popular vote in 2016, yes, i would have been in california, and i would have campaigned differently. he recognizes the requirement
that he would have to change out of the more traditional electoral college model into a national popular vote model in terms of a general election, -- election. what it would do in a primary, i think that would be a matter of timing of when the compact is fulfilled and the states are in. later in the process clearly will have an impact on the primary early in the process, and it probably could. either way, i think donald trump would campaign differently regardless. >> hello. my name is carol baum. i am wondering if you could say something about the strategy for achieving enough states, and also, what you see as the biggest obstacles to achieving the 270 electoral votes? >> so you know, in writing this book, i spent a good deal of
time with people involved in the compact effort, and they are a broad mix of democrats and republicans who have been doing this for over a decade. and they have spent a huge amount of time going state to state and working with legislators. you know, if not convincing all of them, at least trying to redo -- reduce some of the knee-jerk opposition to the compact. they have actually passed, in several houses, i can be corrected on this by some of the members here today, but it has passed in at least one houses in several republican states, i think including oklahoma. i am trying to think of the others right now. georgia. and one or two others. it is, you know, there was a sense of before the split election in 2016, they were actually on the cusp of possibly getting it enacted in georgia, in utah, in arizona, and states that are sort of trending purple. and the republican leadership
seeing, uh-oh, if we don't do this now, we will be on the wrong side of winner take all rules. and so, you know convincing republican -- convincing people in republican led states -- i am trying to avoid using red and blue because it is a harmful way of looking at our country, like a state only has republicans or democrats in it. it is an artifact of the winner take all rule. all states are purple states. in states that have a majority of republicans or republican leadership, how do you convince them this is a good thing? i think part of that gets back to your question, which is the sense of, oh, we're going to lose the popular vote. that is what everyone cares about in the end. people really just want the system that is going to help their candidate win. if you have a popular vote that is really up for grabs, i think you can start to win over the republican-controlled states. it is, those last 74 electoral votes are going to be a heavier
lift than the first 196. but i don't know if any of you have any other thoughts on how you convince right now, in this moment, how you convince republican lawmakers to adopt a compact that, on the surface, looks like something that would hurt them. michael: i think that in some of my conversations with folks, one of the things that folks are cognizant of is the demographic changes that are occurring. you know, states that were, for example, comfortably red, to use that term, certainly comfortably with i guess republican control, texas is demographically changing. republicans cannot afford to lose texas. just cannot.
not under this current system. is just, you lose texas, there is no roadmap to 270. there just is not. i don't the math does not work. , all of the sudden, you have to have a way to look at, ok, what is the alternative in terms of being competitive in a demographically changing environment? i have got to get my vote from someplace else. if my home is no longer the most reliable place to anchor my vote, and it is now more competitive, and i have to start building on these numbers, i have got to get outside the box. that is what this forces you to do. you cannot just stay in one place. you have to now look at how michigan and a missouri and washington state and oregon, and other places, where your numbers may not be that strong, but the numbers are enough there to add to what you are doing in texas and what you're doing in michigan and what you are doing in ohio, to come together in a
presidential race with the kind of success you need. i think the more republicans are recognizing that, as you noted at the beginning, the election turnout, the outcome of 2016, a lot of republicans are like you, yeah, we need to get ahead of this curve, right? well, the curve is still there. you still have got to go around the curve. i think what 2016 did was just install the inevitable. the democrats -- changes are still happening. he states that were once -- the states that were once reliably one party or the other are less so today. to really tackle your question, i think it is important to realize that in two of the past five presidential elections where we have seen this, there has been one party that has been successful. lost thebush won, popular vote. 2016, trump won and lost the popular vote. so i personally do not see the system changing or a needed
until it really comes back and is harmful. you definitely see it becoming a politicized issue where democrats have really lost this twice now and are a little bit bitter and realize it needs to change. you might have to have a loss like that on the other side to push people to the national popular vote. >> a couple more questions. >> hello. jeffrey jacobs from a grassroots group. thank you. and i am wondering if we consider the national popular vote as a beta test before an constitutional amendment, would it be easier to pass a constitutional amendment? >> no. no. [speaking simultaneously] [laughter] >> just real quick, the constitutional amendment process is messy. and i think, given the political climate that we are in today, it would open up a lot of doors that we do not need to open and
create a lot of distraction. what i love about this process is it is direct. it is going to the state legislatures. it is what our founding fathers intended us to do, because they empowered those states individually to set the stage for how they want to elect a president. if my state decided in this upcoming session that in order to get the electoral votes for maryland, you need to stand in the middle of, you know, the annapolis harbor and recite the constitution, that is what you have to do. right? that is what you have to do, because that is what the state wants you to do. that is perfectly ok. so to be able to go in and negotiate and have this conversation directly with the state is cleaner. it is more direct. and it is no different than the states that decide we want to
hold a lottery, powerball, and we all entered into the compact together and we abide by the rules that we set in place. someone who plays in maryland contributes to the winner in oregon and vice versa. so that to me is an arrangement among the states that is a lot cleaner. i think it is consistent with what the founders intended. >> i will give you one caveat though. we are dangerously close to a call for a constitutional convention. i am scared to death, because we're not going to have a james madison or a ben franklin. we are going to have a sean hannity or michael moore, and god knows what violence they will do to fundamentals of the constitution. but if there were a constitutional convention, obviously that would be easier. you would have to still get three quarters of the states to go along with it, but you could put it out there in a way that would not be achievable
otherwise. but pray that we do not have that venue. >> and i want to add to that question. you know, this came up in a previous panel, but it is really important and i want to reiterate it. the national popular vote compact is using the constitution as it was designed to be used. this is not -- people might have heard the last panel say let's do it the right way. i am not sure what that means, the right way. you know nobody is complaining , that winner take all rules is not the right way, but states adopted those the same way they would adopt the compact, which is we are deciding for ourselves how we are going to allocate our electors. the other point that was made in the previous session was that this is how every major advance in the franchise or american history, virtually every advance that happens, it happens at the state level first. giving women the vote. giving poor whites the vote. voting for the senate.
voting directly for senators . all of these things bubbled up from the states and then became entrenched in the constitution, that is how it happens. that seems like a fairly natural way for that to go. is importantink it to note that not every state is a winner take all state. there are two states that are not. they decide differently. so that is consistent with our constitution, and that is the right way for those two states to do it differently in how they allocate their electoral votes for anyone who happens to win them. so this idea that there is a right way or a wrong way is inconsistent with what the founders had intended. the right way is the best way decide individually they want to do this. >> the one thing i would add is if we get close and are finally at that point, we are going to have to focus on making sure there are not faceless electors.
that you know, it has been a , minor problem up until now. every once in a while you will have somebody who has pledged to vote for the presidential candidate who won the state who does not do that. many states have misdemeanor fines and the like, but you can see some mischief done. and we would hope that when we reach that point, states would pass implementing legislation, as well, that would ensure that when the state orders the electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, they actually do it. >> got a few minutes left. we can get one more question in. >> thank you very much. thank you very much. i am with the league of women voters. i am going to ask this coming at it from a different angle, seeing if this is an option for the people that are perhaps emotionally attached to the electoral college. what happens if we just get rid
of winner take all and we tell -- the states adopt -- hey, if it is 60% republican, 40% democratic, that is your electoral thing. and then if you cannot reach the threshold -- is the threshold of 270 in law? can we not change it? is that just an alternative option? brianna: that is a really good question. panelists havet been mentioning the constitution, article one, section two, gives the states the power to decide how the electoral college is actually given for each state. you have 48 states have the winner take all system. two states have decided to award it some other way. essentially it would just be going back to the states, whether it is a national compact or some other way, to determine what is the best way and the most democratic process of awarding electoral colleges, so that way our citizens living in the state will have their
voices heard. 270 is just an important number. you will hear other numbers. it is just the majority number. >> there actually are several lawsuits under way to effectuate what you are asking for now, which is basically to get the courts to rule that winner take all is in in violation of the 14th amendment equal protection clause as well as like other first amendment, and a few other constitutional provisions. this actually happened by the way. delaware brought this lawsuit in the 1966 against new york saying this is not fair. you give all of your electors to one candidate or the other and completely wipe us out. we do not count when new york has 20 something, electors and 29 delaware has three, delaware does not matter. this is something else. the small states think they are being protected by the electoral college. small states essentially don't matter.
so that idea that you are bringing up has been in the mix for a long time, for decades. the lawsuits right now, the class action include two in republican-led states and two democratic led states, they are not making much progress at the supreme court. we don't actually know what the justices thought about it at the time, but it answers your question that this is an effort that is underway. >> there is an important caveat here. after obama won pennsylvania, which of course at that point was quite democratic, had a republican governor, republican legislature, the legislature in part because of partisan gerrymandering, and they were making a move to change to an allocation by congressional district, which was a deeply gerrymandered congressional district model. and it was all to ensure that a republican could win even if the voters moved in a different
direction. so if this happened in a few states, it actually could be a deeply distorted model. and i would be very, very cautious about moving in that direction. >> and your question about proportional, whether everyone should move to proportional voting is interesting and more complicated than it sounds. because if you cannot divide electors into fractions, it is actually it could be a very , skewed result itself. dividing electors into fractions requires a constitutional amendment also. [speaking simultaneously] >> you get into rounding. >> i would go back to the founders in their wisdom however anceived has put in place system that we all understand the history and purpose of the electoral college. the purpose for us today is how do we work within that framework short of what you were saying about a constitutional convention?
and the states seemingly have worked out a way to do that. we will enter into bilateral, trilateral, you know, multilateral relationships and agree this is how we intend to behave and to perform in an electoral process for the presidency. and i think that, i am much more willing to trust that than to throw it open to a national convention and get into proportionality and all these other things. i think the states themselves would have a hard time saying yes to. >> this might work the same way the 17th amendment did, which is it bubbles up from the states and then you get a constitutional amendment. and you can imagine if we had the popular vote compact enacted, you might see politicians say this is too complicated and a cleaner way would be to have a constitutional amendment to create a national popular vote.
brianna: it is worth mentioning the electoral college was brought about because the founding fathers did not trust everyday people, everyday citizens like you and me, to vote for president. so considering the next step in so considering what is the next step in our democracy, it is claiming our voice in the right to vote and directly elect our president. >> this was a fantastic discussion. please thank our panelists for joining us. [applause] >> thanks, everyone. so, next on our program, nelly gorbea. yes, you guys have to leave. [laughter] >> secretary of state of rhode island. she was first elected in 2014, then reelected in 2018.
she is the first, and maybe the only, but certainly the first hispanic ever elected to statewide office in new england. nelly gorbea. [applause] sec. gorbea: good morning, everyone. so, it is up to me to wrap this all up. thank you, james glassman, steve, bob cusack, matt, everybody who put together this conversation today. you know, i am a real big believer that our best policy solutions come when we get together and have a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and perspectives around the policymaking table. and this is a particularly important conversation on a key evolutionary moment for american democracy.
now, it might seem quaint to some, but i believe that government should be accountable to the people that it serves and that all voters should feel that their voices are being heard. and i was elected as rhode island's secretary of state in 2014, and i ran because i wanted to make government work for everyone. as a latina, or latinx i guess is the term now, as a puerto rican, as a woman, i am personally aware that u.s. democracy, while wonderful in many, many ways, is definitely a work in progress, and has always been so. and sadly, despite the work done over the past two centuries, that feeling that government can work for everyone is missing in many parts of our country right now. except for in a handful of
states, the battleground states, most people do not think their vote really matters in the presidential race. that is why i think we are seeing this groundswell of support growing for the national popular vote interstate compact. polls show that two thirds of americans want the president to be elected by popular vote. that desire has sparked several efforts over the years, from dr. john koza and the national group, to common cause, and of course making every vote count. while these groups may have different versions of how the popular vote system would work, and i know the current panel talked a lot about some of the differences and approaches in how we might get there. i think we can agree on why this reform is needed. and i will venture out on that one. for me, the most striking argument for the popular vote comes from our young people. now, i have made engaging young voters a really key part of being secretary of state.
in the 2018 election, in fact, rhode islanders saw a 64% increase in 18 to 20-year-old voters, which in part mirrored something that was happening already in our country. now, one way i have been able to engage young people in voting has been through high school class elections. this really comes to demonstrate how our democracy is supposed to work. that is where rhode island's small size is actually a real get toet, because i literally travel all over the state. and in those travels, as i have schools,ozens of high i am able to do things like put their classmates' names on real ballots and have them vote on real voting machines, so they get this very personal experience of what it means to vote. and you can tell that there is a certain joy in seeing their names or the names of their friends on the ballot and being
able to do this thing. and they know that their vote will have consequences. somebody is going to be really psyched the next morning or that afternoon, and somebody is going to be really depressed. and so, with this, we try to introduce this concept that voting matters. now, as i go through this, and when we have a conversation about elections in the u.s., it is more times than i care to say that this question about the electoral college will come up as i am talking to young people. they want me to explain how it can be that after so much encouragement to vote, when it comes to the president of the united states, their vote doesn't matter. it is not like what we were showing them in the classroom. plain and simple, the electoral college makes it so much harder to help people feel that voting in civic engagement is really important to democracy. and unfortunately, a lot of these kids' parents feel like
their votes also do not matter in a deeply blue, small state like rhode island. people do feel ignored by presidential candidates. which is why rhode island passed the national popular vote interstate compact in 2013. and support for the compact is growing. there are many other states that are joining this. in fact, when rhode island joined, the compact accounted for 132 electoral votes. now it is up to 196, with another 90 or so i guess pending. so we are approaching that critical moment where we might have the 270 electoral votes that are needed for it to take effect. that means that we are at an important point right now, where we need to come up front and discuss matters. one, we need to, first and foremost, get across the finish line and make the popular vote a reality. and two, we need to figure out how we are going to count the votes when that happens.
and i say that because how does a secretary of state, how we are going to count the votes is of particular concern to many of us. so, i think one of the most important messages, when it comes to getting this compact passed, is that the popular vote is not part about partisan politics. ok, you can laugh, that was a joke. but it really should not be. this is not about the 2016 election, this is not a response to that. it goes -- it was in the works for much longer. support goes back years. in 2007, "the washington post" did a poll and found there was support for the popular vote. 60% of republicans, 73% of independents were all in favor of this. there is even gallup polling that goes back to the 1940's showing that the majority of the public supports the popular
vote. so, what's the holdup? well, i think we have heard a little bit about that, but really what it comes down to, and i say this as a mom, change can be really scary for people. i get it. here is something to keep in mind, though, when somebody tells you, why can't we change the structures of government? our democracy was actually designed to change with the times. just look at the constitution. it was meant to be a living document. there are reasons over the last two centuries where it has been amended. and i know that we are not necessarily talking about amendments, but there are 27 times and counting where it has been amended. it was designed and our form of government was designed to evolve as our country grew and changed. i know that critics of the compact rule say it is not constitutional amendment, and i hear that.
all way inner take which we allocate the electorate is also not in the constitution, and it was adopted later by 48 states. and states are free to do that, of course. they can also enter into a race -- into arrangements like the compact. why? because the constitution gives states the freedom to change and evolve with the times. and by the way, there was just a reference here to the 17th amendment. in 1913, as recently as 1913, we changed the way we had u.s. senators elected instead of appointed. so, reminding people that our democracy is always evolving is a really important part of this conversation. and actually, that is a real positive. those changes have led us to a time of universal suffrage, where everyone's voices are supposed to be heard equally. we have moved from a time when
all men, i should say all landowning men of a certain race, were created equal, to all citizens are created equal. unfortunately, that equality is not reflected in our current system, using an electoral college. a national popular vote is the next logical step in the evolution of american democracy. that brings us to the question at the heart of this conference. what would be different if america used the popular vote to elect our president, and how would we count those votes? well, we may not have all the answers yet, and i know there are different proposals on how the mechanics would work. i am not here to go one way or the other on these, but really to just point out how in the case of rhode island, some of the questions that this would raise. throughout my life, as i was saying before, i found that by having these conversations where we do not necessarily agree on everything, we can find a way through.
those conversations were really important. so, as secretary of state, i am at the crossroads of this national vote conversation. i am called on to support elections that count votes in a fair and impartial way. the national popular vote interstate compact raises some interesting questions about the duties of my office. right now, under rhode island law, i collect vote totals from all our cities and towns and add them up. then i certify the votes for the presidential candidates and certify the electors for the winner's party. we send information to the archivist of the united states here in washington, d.c., under federal law. if the compact becomes effective, i will still be responsible for certifying the votes in my state, but each secretary of state will also have to include the national count of all votes. that means i will have to send rhode island's results to all the other member states, and they will have to do the same. that sounds simple, but what about non-member states?
if they are not bound by the compact and do not share the results with member states, how do we make the process work? it has been proposed that we create a centralized place where non-members would deliver their votes in a timely manner. that means that after i send my vote tally to the archivist of the united states, i could look at what every other secretary of state has sent. i would add up all the votes for the presidential nominees in every state, and the one with the biggest number would be the national vote winner. then for the party's whose nominee won the national vote, even if that does not win the plurality in rhode island. under the compact, i am required too - and this is in quotes -- to treat as conclusive an official statement containing the number of popular votes in a state for each presidential slate made by the day established by federal law for making a state's final determination conclusive.
end of quote. this means that if non-compact states make an official statement of its popular vote total, i am required to accept that total as correct. i then have to count it when determining the national popular vote. but the compact is not binding, as i mentioned before, on non-member states. so to make this process work without an approved federal mandate, we are going to need a two step process. every secretary of state will have to provide me and every other secretary of state with vote totals in time to take all the votes, add them up before we appoint the electorates. everybody is with me, right? the second problem is, what do we do about rank choice voting. thank you, maine. in other words, what about maine? how would i determine what counts as a vote for president in maine, where voters would be ranking their preferences for
president in order? well, maybe maine should design that. that is what the national popular vote interstate compact requires when it says that i as secretary must treat an official statement containing a number of popular votes within a state. so i would not be getting into maine's business, i would accept maine's statement into the greater country. those are some of the greater issues that came up at the annual meeting of the national convention of secretaries of state in new mexico this past summer. it was, shall i say, a very spirited debate. they are conversations that are are going to continue to keep bringing up because we need to be ready. if and when the compact becomes effective. that is also why events like this are so important, to draw more voices into the conversation, more perspectives, and more background so we can
figure this all out. in rhode island, we have a long history of thinking carefully about important issues. we were the first colony to declare independence, and the last of the 13 states to ratify the constitution. we thought carefully about the national popular vote interstate compact. we think it is best for all americans, even if it means a popular republican, in my case -- i am a democrat -- winning the national vote could win the electorate from a deeply blue state like rhode island, under the compact. rhode islanders feel ignored by the system, and many other states feel the same. and if all votes counted equally in a presidential race, no matter where people lived, candidates would have to campaign for every vote everywhere. there would be advertisement in local papers, far and beyond what there is right now. on local tv and radio and
throughout local media. and open "get out the vote" offices everywhere, run by candidates. that would be a welcome change from the current system, where almost all the money goes to a few controlling states, if you will, in the process. having more americans feel like their vote matters is a big win for democracy. no matter who they vote for. voting is woven into the fabric of our country. i am proud that rhode island has adopted the compact, and i encourage other states to do the same. it's clear that americans want their voices heard with a national popular vote. now, let's just figure out how to get it done. thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much. and i think one of the things that you were emphasizing, madam secretary, is the fact that this
is going to happen. it's moving. and as you said, there was that debate, discussion among the national association of the secretaries of state, and i thought it was really important that you encouraged events like this one. i mean, there are details that have to be worked out and we need to talk about it, we need to debate it, we need to discuss it. let me just hit three highlights. we had a terrific group of people up here. i thought, just in my personal experience, trying to convince the senate, the state senate in connecticut, what jesse said was so important, that there is a gut feeling that you are not really legitimate if you do not get the popular vote. you know, the connecticut legislature, the connecticut senate was divided evenly. in the end, we won that vote, to i think that very simple argument was tremendously important.
people understand this in their got. -- gut. the second thing i want to highlight is something norm ornstein said. if you are looking to change the landscape of your policy and government, this is where you start. i think that is absolutely true. and then finally, sam wang said, we are building a democracy to last for another 200 years. and i think all of you in this room are really on the cusp of that. you are helping to build this democracy that is going to last another 200 years. so i want to thank katie gardner and the hill team for just a great job today. thank reed hunt, who's the chairman of making every vote count, whose idea this was. and especially tha coen, for -- thea coen, for putting this
all together. and thank you all for being here. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ announcer: a new c-span poll shows that american support -- americans support a large number of changes. agree thatber president or candidates should release their tax returns to appear on the ballot. while only 26% of republicans agree, three quarters of democrats and 57% of independence support the idea. there is greater partisan consensus on passing laws that require people to show government issued id before voting. the poll indicates 78% of americans support such voter id laws.
this includes significant majorities of republicans, democrats, and independents. in addition to requiring candidates to release the tax returns and passing voter id laws, majorities of americans also favor making election day a national holiday, randomizing the order in which candidate names appear on the ballot, automatically registering all citizens to vote, and allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after they have served their sentences. you can dive deeper into the numbers at cspan.org. announcer: president trump has ordered a withdrawal of about 1000 troops from northern syria after turkish military attacks on kurds in the region. the sunday morning news shows focused on the president's order. we start with defense secretary mark esper. sec. esper: it's a very terrible situation over there, a situation caused by theks