Changing How We Elect Presidents

It is vital to our nation not to give Democrats another four years in the White House.  The usurpation of congressional authority by executive decree would be reaffirmed and, of course, expanded as well.  Hillary would appoint more leftist nebbishes to the Supreme Court, and our national security policy would meander again, guided only by political expediency.  Not only would individual liberty suffer, but the sovereign rights of states would, too.

Almost as importantly, our nation needs to return to a federal system in which the sovereign rights of the states have true protection.  Under the Constitution, the two senators from each state were to be chosen by the state legislature.  That power was foolishly removed as one of those notorious “progressive” reforms, so that the check that states once had on congressional overreach was lost.

Often forgotten is the second great check that the Constitution grants to states as a guard against a rogue federal government.  Article I, Section 1 provides (emphasis added): “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives[.]”  No change in the Constitution has taken this power away from state legislatures.  Each state legislature could do what most did in the early days of our Republic and directly choose the presidential electors rather than allowing voters to choose these electors.

What would happen in 2016 if each state legislature reclaimed that power?  Republicans control 31 state legislatures, which have 305 electoral votes – 35 more electoral votes than are needed to elect a president.  Democrats control a paltry 11 state legislatures with only 141 electoral votes.  The other states have divided legislatures.  In other words, a united Republican Party could win the 2016 presidential election based upon the state legislative elections of 2014.

Even if Democrats responded in kind and Democrat-controlled state legislatures chose electors, the electoral vote tally would be 305 Republican to 141 Democrats, with the remaining 92 electoral votes, presumably, chosen by the voters in those states as in the past.  One of those states, Kentucky, is a reliably conservative state, and its 8 votes would be won by the Republican candidate.  Another state, Iowa, is tilting Republican as well, so its 7 votes could also easily be won with a good candidate.  That would give the Republican 320 electoral votes, or 50 votes more than needed to win the election.

The structural change in American government would be even more profound than just winning one election.  State legislatures would become again very important in national government.  Because the votes of state legislatures are not secret, voter fraud – a real concern for conservatives – would no longer be possible in choosing presidential electors.

Presidents and aspiring presidential candidates would also have to tailor their campaigns toward the rights of state governments.  Indeed, the whole process of “nominating” party candidates might end.  Instead, those who wanted a state legislature to choose electors who would vote for them might be summoned in an open committee meeting by a joint and bipartisan state legislative committee and asked pointed questions under oath and on the record about whatever members of the state legislature considered important. 

Just think how quickly Hillary’s campaign would melt if, say, the Ohio Legislative Committee for Appointing Presidential Electors summoned her to appear and answer questions about the Clinton Foundation or her involvement in Benghazi.  Hiding behind the leftist national media would no longer work.  Instead, the local media in Colorado or Iowa or New Hampshire or Oregon would now have the power to seek, through state legislators, answers to their questions and concerns.

The staggering expense of presidential campaigns could be diminished to almost nothing.  The state legislative elections would now be the important elections.

Would these state legislators become a new danger?  Democratic republics will always have problems with vain politicians who abuse their offices, but state legislators are much closer to voters and more likely to be judged by people who actually know the candidate from work or church or school than federal elected officials. 

Some state legislative candidates can, and sometimes do, visit most households in their district during their term in office, and nearly all state legislators must take seriously voters who are really angry at their votes or conduct.  State legislative elections also cost much less than federal or statewide elections – an average of only $79,000 per general election.

This is a reform that is really a reversion to the original intention in the Constitution of having a federal government substantially restrained by state governments.  It is a reform that Republicans ought seriously to consider before 2016.