As the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement steps up its effort to impose a direct election for president, attempting to enlist states with a sufficient number of electors to constitute a majority (268) and to bind them to the winner of the national popular vote, those states considering the proposal might first reflect on the nightmare aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Because there was a difference of less than 1,000 tabulated votes between George W. Bush and Al Gore in one state, Florida, the nation watched as 6 million votes were recounted by machine, several hundred thousand were recounted by hand in counties with differing recount standards, partisan litigators fought each other in state and federal courts, the secretary of state backed by the majority of state legislators (all Republicans) warred with the state’s majority Democratic judiciary — until 37 days after the election the U.S. Supreme Court, in a bitterly controversial 5-4 decision effectively declared Bush the winner.
That nightmare may seem like a pleasant dream if NPV has its way. For under its plan, the next time the U.S. has very close national vote, a recount would not be of six million votes in one state but of more than 130 million votes in all states and the District of Columbia, all with their own rules for conducting a recount.
The horror of a potential national recount is only one of the dangers direct presidential elections poses. Among the others:
• By its very size and scope, a national direct election will lead to nothing more than a national media campaign, which would propel the parties’ media consultants to inflict upon the entire nation what has been heretofore limited to the so-called battleground states: an ever-escalating, distorted arms race of tit-for-tat unanswerable attack advertising polluting the airwaves, denigrating every candidate and eroding citizen faith in their leaders and the political process as a whole.
• Because a direct election would be, by definition, national and resource allocation would be overwhelmingly dominated by paid television advertising, there would be little impetus for grass-roots activity. That, in turn, would likely diminish voter turnout.
• Similarly, because a national campaign mandates a national message, there would also be a smaller incentive for coalition-building or taking into account the characteristics, needs and desires of citizens in differing states and regions.
• NPV supporters claim, accurately, that a direct election for president would reduce or eliminate the possibility that a fringe candidate (like a Ralph Nader or Ron Paul) winning five percent or less of the vote in a single state could serve to defeat a major party candidate from the same side of the political spectrum. But the much greater danger to American democracy is that direct elections may make it possible for a president to be elected by no more than 30 percent of the vote, regardless of his or her suitability for office, so long as there is sufficient money and a clever media advisor behind the effort.
Full Article: Curtis Gans: Why National Popular Vote Is a Bad Idea.