The Massachusetts Legislature’s End Run around the Constitution
By Jerry A. Kane
The Massachusetts Legislature passed a new law designed to uproot America’s democratic republic and replace it with a pure democracy. The Massachusetts Legislature decided, 28-to-9, to toss the Framer’s Electoral College system for a system based on the national popular vote to determine who wins the presidency.
“What we are submitting is the idea that the president should be selected by the majority of people in the United States of America. Every vote will be of the same weight across the country.”—Senator James B. Eldridge, an Acton Democrat
Under the new law, the candidate who receives the most votes nationally will automatically get the state’s 12 electoral votes, even if a majority of Bay Staters vote against the nation’s more popular candidate. For instance, had the new law been in effect in 1972, Massachusetts voters and their electors would not hold the distinction for being the only state among the 50 to have voted against Richard Nixon and for George McGovern for president.
“If the principle of one-person-one-vote is to mean anything, the candidate who wins a majority of the votes should win the presidency.” Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)
On first blush, Nelson’s appeal to the one-person-one-vote principle might sound balanced, yet it’s doubtful he’d be willing to abolish the U.S. Senate or the Supreme Court based on that same principle.
“[S]tates are represented in the Electoral College roughly in proportion to their population: Each state has as many electors as it has members of Congress – from just three for the smallest states to 55 for California. But in the Senate, all states are equal, which means all voters are not.”—Jeff Jacoby
The Framers of the Constitution abhorred mob rule, which is why they rejected “pure democracy.” They understood that the tyranny of the majority would run roughshod over the interests of individual states.
“The Electoral College (like the Senate) was designed to preserve the role of the states in governing a nation … We are a nation of states, not of autonomous citizens, and those states have distinct identities and interests, which the framers were at pains to protect. … The Electoral College is the best system for picking a chief executive suited to a nation like ours: a geographically large, ideologically diverse, socially complex federal republic.”—Jeff Jacoby
The Founders created a republic, not a pure democracy. The Constitution limits unchecked power, including the capriciousness of the majority. Neither the Senate, nor the Supreme Court, nor the president is elected on the basis of one person, one vote. That’s why a state like Montana, with less than a million residents, has the same number of Senators as California that has over thirty million.
Bypassing the Electoral College would ensure domination by the country’s densely populated areas and larger cities. Presidential candidates and political parties would no longer need to spend time and money campaigning in sparsely populated regions.
For well over two hundred years, the Electoral College has kept the country from chaos and anarchy. If the Founders had intended a pure democracy, they would have created one.
Doing away with the Electoral College will further divide the country into warring factions. Discontented groups would file endless lawsuits contending voter fraud and contesting ballot counts.
The 28 Massachusetts legislators who want to do away with the Electoral College system have every right to do so by amending the Constitution. Otherwise, their back door scheme not only evades the Constitution, but it also takes the country further away from its roots as a democratic republic.
Sources cited in this commentary include: Mass. Legislature approves plan to bypass Electoral College by Martin Finucane, The brilliance of the Electoral College by Jeff Jacoby, and In Defense of the Electoral College by John Samples.