tv Electoral College Debate at Steamboat Freedom Conference CSPAN September 4, 2019 7:00pm-8:02pm EDT
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let's talk about the electoral college and the popular state impact. thank you for the introduction. i'm proud to be a senior fellow. >> him and that is to explain those dues but not to spoil anything for tonight and i am enjoying today with the distinguished panel. may be a lot further to my left. [laughter] the principal and ceo of progressive public policy and from karl rove. and one of the most important players of colorado politics you have ever heard of.
foundation and among other issues to help develop the guide to the constitution his work has been published in the wall street journal and christian science monitor. he has a law degree from george mason and ba from claremont mckenna. [applause] so i thought we would start talking about the electoral college and the interstate compact so correct me if i'm wrong on the specifics i believe colorado is the 12 state? is that correct quick. >> in jurisdictions. >> i read there were 181 otelectoral votes. >> 196. >> my numbers are dated so
that is what is joining the interstate compact which only takes effect if only 270 of those states have agreed to the interstate compact which says that the electors in the states would not follow the traditional electoral college system but instead cast ballots for the winner of the national popular vote so i thought we could talk about that compact and what it means a and a couple of minutes for each to offer opening remarks and if you could talk on what the electoral college is and what the interstate compact is and if that would be the effective abolition of the electoral college or if that is the ultimate goal. >> first of all thank you to jennifer and rick i probably
am the leftist person in the room and i am proud of that but i do want to say truly important for people in my world i think we should have more people t here i don't believe the country is separated as it is painted out to believe and from those anecdotal conversations thank you for having me.th >> i'm happy you did a great job explaining the compact. the interstate compact contract that states inter- into by passing legislation and that you will agree 10270 electoral's and with all 50
states and district of columbia and there are two categories of reasons why. and actually the electoral college. with a winner take all rule. three quarters of the states that ignored today three quarters 96 percent of the campaign visits in 2016. so why would anybody care about that because it excusesic policymaking with medicare part d the largest increase in was a by a republican
president republican congress and it was for the whole the state of florida. the largest sba loan during the obama term went to a ricotta cheese factory and ohio with battleground states and non- battleground states and the gramps grants coming from the federal government so to believe that every vote in every state should count spin i thank you so much i completely agree and spending so much time on the electoral college going back into the 19 nineties over the last ten years partly because and with
those democrats that agree with me frankly an issue to move on but to go back to the beginning of the electoral college and also the national popular vote. and then to go back to the convention and james madison stands up was and love to have a national popular vote for president. so many say you can't do that it was not a concern but with the constitutional convention so this was the same concern
that madison said the problem with the national popularul vote and those that are permanently vested with those big populations so in theory i might like that but in theory it might look good but in theory if it works in practice. it would be a disaster but it was entrenched with the executive branch and the biggest population centers. and also providing those benefits to say it's even better than i thought it would. and by those who want to abolish the electoral college and for those who don't that
is certainly part because that it leaves them in place to manipulate that and then to say we want to get with the electoral college so let's come up with the interstate compact and then to do what we want as the founder of the national popular vote a very smart computer scientist in california has lots of winnings and then the run around the constitutional amendment process with the state-by-state waiver process of the united statesre it keeps controlee of elections at the state level and prevents a population centers from controlling the executive branch and for those reasons
we should keep the electoral college as it is. >> that simple fact and this is the winner take all rule. whoever wins the most popular vote all the electors go to that presidential candidate for that state. it isn't part of thesc discussion and it is never mentioned in the federalist papers. and then to excuse public policy making a better for the united states without winner take all rule so the other thing i want to mention it is great to talk about at the constitutionaltu convention but
in the end they could not agree what was written in the constitution is simpleasll language each state shall appoint and that constitutional to be held by two different supreme court's to have that exclusive authority to determine how they are chosen. this is exactly what the founding fathers intended so the states can do it the way they wanted the winner take all rule is if your state then you were giving a path of your electors with the winner take all that goes to the supreme court and they said it could disadvantage you then it
does. >> i have toan confess i am here from a different part of haver springs while we this but my uber driver i said i am moderating a debate he said you mean the racist institution that is an artifact of our history of the slaveowning country? [laughter] so respond to that. but there is a perception theon electoral college weighted in favor of less popular states. >> and many people say to the legs congresswoman aoc that has said the same thing.
and while it is true that race-based slavery is the country itn of our is not true that it was the primary motivating factor behind the compromise - - connecticut compromise if you think of the math behind it. just to elect the president. with that compromisee with congress and it is a strange argument on - - i the people make one to the north and one to the south and they both have slavery at the time of
the founding in the process of abolishing that like alexander hamilton. this is not the reason why we have the electoral college and frankly if you go forward ind wstory and look at the post civil war election the racist vote suppression and at least one election so whatever the founders intentions were with the electoral college of what it protects those minority interest in it freed the slaves and protected them so look at that history also. >> but i think what congresswoman aoc is talkingd about i think she is a danger to the party. [applause]
>> and that comment and then when they were trying to do the constitutional amendment to get rid of the electoral college and the agreement that was made from senators in new york and senators in the south and to protect those on the battleground states that the theme that keeps running through the comment that big cities will control and you
have to think about what the country look like at the time of the founding fathers. thirteen states you only have 11 other states after the two big ones now we may have two big states are 11 big states they all represent then the other 388 states and with big cities the top 10 percent than the 80 percent of the population so the idea that big cities or big states control the election so that assumes that big cities and big states and historically when you take a look at the large estate that was the
remainder of the 38 states but what that says to us is the country is pretty much 5050. another example with those urban centers in the united states and rural areas in that same percentage flip the rest of the country lives in the outside urban areas and with those historically presidential elections have been 5050. so the country is 5050 and that rural areas are not controlling it just asle much. >> and you can see this in political science and also if you work for a candidate the
problem is in the district and those that are very but every voter was mathematically equal in the campaign. you would be crazy to treat every voter the same. and then not to get as much attention. and then it is just a common sense matter. and that political organizing means that and everybody is mathematically equal. numbers.is the real
so who here thinks you live inli a state that has more people in it than the three biggest metro areas in the country? anybody?li sorry that is incorrect. thirty-two.8million california's 41 million. and the three biggest from the census bureau has more people in california. and then there were 15 million. and certainly and just be careful not to make this a partisan debate. there are urban republicans and world democrats and what
we should protect is a system and then where you are already popular and then build that coalition based around the biggest metro areas in theoaonet country.ng you cannot build a coalition like that and have a run for the presidency because you catered to a big candle of the country.n >> so now we are at the heart of the debate how people are represented in the counts but we are talking so much about what would happen in with those presidential systems but so a new history in the change of the elections and prior to
1914 us senators were elected legislators and those directly and have the opportunity as well people in other states and then cast those directly but that wasn't always the case. so is there any evidence? what can we learn from that? doesn't change policy making in any way? >> first off given that i'm from colorado and democrats have everything, here including a completely democratic legislature, let's go back and to really good senators. >> so putting that aside how
do you protect small states and confusion of the constitutional convention and compromise of how the senate would be comprised and how that is separate from the electoral college. a lot of people combine those two and they shouldn't. and then that was designed to protect states. and that was part of the debate for the compromise that they made based on population. so the compromise of 1850 those were picked by the state legislature from the electoral iollege that wasn't made until
september 4th where as the 1850 compromise was done on jul. is that good or bad? i think we need to be careful how to have a process for now we have five elections when the candidate won the electoral college and not the vote and those are very recent we will have more of those in the upcoming future just because our country is so closely divided. imagine what would happen if we want electoral college and had the popular vote but lost the presidency? it would be an unfortunate
situation. so every vote in every station account in every election. >> people on the left have been saying that and jfk was the big defender. 's if we ever have an election likee this and 2000 and rolls around so this rebuttal only a couple things mattered. in any election would have gone differently. and as every state matters in every m election but it seems to be more law-abiding.
and that reality of a constitution and the checks balances and i often use this analogy so talk about the ecosystems. and they make that change in the ecosystem. and that 17th amendment.the 17th amendment created the direct election of us senators to change the constitutional system. and if you go to washington dc right now and walk out of union station to the united states senate there is a couple of buildings on the right i am sure colorado has a contract lobbyist. they lobby for state governments because but it was
in our constitution from the beginning and was taken away. it was intentionally designed to steer money around government to take those legislators and governors not controlling t those funds because what was written brilliantly about this to make them in a competent and more power to the federal government that is made possible by the 17th amendment it is the right argument to have. of course it doesn't mean everybody is magically equal but it just means different places get more attention and others would get less. >> we have been talking about the state's power to direct electors to vote in a certain way or not. why the national low
interstate compact so why not go about this a different way that maine and nebraska doesn't have winner take all. and what those implications would be rather than interstate compact if they just started to follow that model if more states that go to the states popular vote but then other votes are apportioned by district. what does that mean for the electoral college of they took it upon themselves or additional states to follow that model? why not lobby for change that way? >> it is a good model for maine and nebraska because they are small and not gerrymandered and basically a democratic or republican leaning state made the calculation that basically one congressional district so it
can attract more attention to their state in a highly gerrymandered state, it is reducing the power of the state so winner take all is a calculation that maximizes the states power that's i most have gone towh that. it's good that states have thatab power. it wasn't about whether they could ignore their people but do they have the power to decide how to put the will of their own people not just the winner take all. so in my mind if you want something that is more mathematically equal proportional it is a reasonable way to do that what youropopo don't want to do is se don't care how you voted in
colorado at al all. we will give away our electoral votes based on people and other states and by the way if you think another state is doing something nefarious with your elections the national popular vote is 100 percent trust but not verify system and other states just have to be taken at their word. >> the overall themes i think we all need to remember and i have a lot of respect for him we were getting along really enll prior to the debate. [laughter] is that he is ignoring thewe essential problem is the winner take all rule because it focuses policy attention and electoral attention to 122
states and they are not picked by ase magical formula of how that was set up that makes them important it is solely because they arere competitive in presidential elections. so that means all these other states are left out. also what i find fascinating talking about the new deal and what is going on and to transfer power from the states to the federal government. this is the most state -based constitutionally conservative approach you could have in order to elect a president because it preserves the electoral college. some of those horrible's the national popular vote happens and states can still go back and reverse out of the national popular vote compact you couldn't do that with a constitutional amendment preserving power how much more tenth amendment can you get
than that so if you go to a congressional district plan you will go from battleground state to battleground congressional districtsri it is that simple but to even begin proportionally all states have to go to proportional at the same time. of individual states go proportional over a period of time that they are just giving away their t electoral votes. the other piece how do you count if there is an odd number how do you divide that? the simplest approach is to take the power vested in the constitution to the states that exclusive power they can appoint the electors how they want and in a way with the national popular vote. >> so with those swing states think about it this way.
if you are swing senate district a lot of those lineup as muchuld be just where those swing senate districts or congressional districts everybody has power in congress and several people who have been there a long time. you can't take the politics out of politics but the idea is ripping state lines out of elections doesn't mean you will have porkbarrel spending or not have candidates in congress or the white house still trying to do things in their political interest. is just not true for court doesn't work that way as a candidate with all the votes are equal - - is not how politics will work we wish it is different so what we should be interested in is how things actually work on the ground. >> i will let you respond and then put the audience on t
warning start thinking of your question questions. >> if only what he was talking about it's true it's still clear with battleground states and the amount of additional resources and how that is skewed with public policy. take the resources out of the equation for the purposes of argument let's grant what he talks about in the terms of many in the swing districts made it happen then how do you explain medicare part d with a republican congress and republican president? how do you explain the steel tariff in pennsylvania or the bp disaster in the gulf? hee beaches of texas and louisiana and mississippi and
alabama and the beaches of florida president obama was in florida the next day. that is the skewing of public policy in colorado i'm a democrat president obama 2008 through 2012 came to colorado so many time we had difficulty getting people to show up. oh my god he's here again? [laughter] and in our party he is revered. we have got to remember on the skewing and the winner take allis rule. >> first i want trent to explain medicare part d and the things that electoral college is responsible for. >> here's what happens if you take away the electoral college, and david duke and karl rove they say i don't
need you anymore. i would just go out and start talking toeoeo people and with t 350 million i wish we could do that. then they would all sit down and build a campaigngn strategy i think it would have to be where is the most people. not so much what people believe but how easy it p is. and how it is to change certain people's minds so in the suburbs of houston are where you thank you can swing 500,000 votes if something happens in houston or
pensacola and those people are set in their ways you still have politics. i don't like porkbarrel spending and more concerned with the way that congress works and the way it doesn't but people go through the wargame process so how do you do that? and the fact that you do it some ways. >> only an arithmetic does that support what he says if you one example how her presidential campaign would be run for all 50 states then take a look of what happened in ohio. ohio is an example the battleground state the presidential candidates have to win and when they are
running in 2012 they visited every single county the percentage that the state got was based on the number of people that they had their. there wasn't one county that didn't receive one type of visit or money and we will have the same thing happen with the national popular vote now if every single state and county with a going to stop in your state? no. but those 30 states that get ignored in a presidential election at least now they will get something and totothing is better than nothing. >> there are a lot of questions in this room so please raise your hand.
>> this week the tenth circuit in denver made a decision which was to say that electors cannot be bound to vote by state statute which is in conflict with the washington state supreme court decision that says yes you can so what are the implications for the national popular vote debate as well as the electoral college? >> i will warn people that there is reporting on this that is not correct. so there was very little effect over the interstate compact because electors are not really elected officials they are nominated at state political party conventions
the colorado democrat and republican's they nominate the electors and what the contact would do is not tell them how wto vote but change which electors get elected. so if the republicans win the popular vote or vice versa then they would be elected and the reason why the issue sounds like a bigger deal than it really is because whether or not they will be imprisoned for how they were supposed to vote they have pledged to their party to vote for the partyhe nominee. so they have been trying to send a message. but i do expect.
>> and i agree with trent it is not as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. that just means we'll have better vetting within the state convention as who they are pickingti ki. keep in mind that language of the constitution says to the legislature shalle appoint they fppoint in terms of adopting those have allowed them to do this election. another interesting fact is prior to the last election the last presidential elections there were 22000, 991 electoral votes cast of those 22991 thereth were 17 this is a problem that people make out to be much bigger than it really is. >> next question. >> this is an interesting debate but we have to go a little further.
it deals more with voters. voter id is that proof of citizenship or residency and last but not least, proof of life ff. [applause] >> actually as i am very troubled by the republican states and voter suppression tactics that are happening. [booting] >>, but that is a difference with the constitutional amendment national popular vote by compact but it would
require you create a federal election process under the compact the states that still run all of the election so they still want to do those requirements or whatever they can they are not prohibited from doing that. i got into this because i worked in election security policy and we recognize this to election integrity directly and indirectly with the interstate compact. the challenge ine this debate he likes the electoral college people at the national vote they prefer that it goes away look at the history behind the h amendment actually there was a similar strategy until people threw up their hands
and said we will abolish the role of state legislatures and give you what you want because you created so much confusion so now my view is there are so many people that even if it is not this is a reality. california has jurisdiction if they want citizens to vote not in presidential races that california votes entirely by mail with same dayis registration the ballots only have to be postmarked on election day which means a day after election day while they areme counting we know exactly how many they need that is how the governor's race was stolen in washington state they just found the right number of votes that they needed to steal the election. so trust every other state
they would certify its own version of the national popular vote you wouldn't have certified as there are states inside the compact and into trust every other state with no power to verify nobody would put up with this people would demand the federal government take over the elections because that is your only act of self-defense for no fraud. you have to do that. >> if only what he was saying were true. on the california peace a number of republican supporters will say over and over if you do the national popular vote you will see an increase of republican voters
turn out because a lot of republicans don't vote it doesn't matter their vote does not get counted so let's remember by going to a national popular vote both sides have the incentive to start voting we can argue about voter suppression but with the certification problem that would be a problem under the current system and is not in the current system because the constitution and federal law lays that out very clearly it is counted once it is certified from alles hearings. that has to happen before the electoral college. we are not seeing this problem today so why do we see it at the national popular vote? >> i want to ask about the legitimacy of the two systems do think it is a problem whenle recent elections were the popular vote doesn't match the outcome of the electoral college at a time when americans generally have the least faith and a lot of big institutions including our government. but on the flip side i have
heard the argument the interstate compact but as many as 13 times in american history elected president has won a plurality of votes so what happens in a situation like that if there is no majority winnerr but a plurality winner if that calls into question the results of the election or the winners of plurality if they would accept that outcome as legitimate quick. >> we have had is number as many of 18 none of that has been below 38 guess which president? one of the greatest, abraham lincoln. look at this country and the history of voting there is no indication that there will be a problem with that. but the problem you look at the gubernatorial election with 5000, there will be a
problem of candidates being able to win we would have seen it after the election. >> but you cannot say we don't need that system right now because the history we have is the history shows we would not have a problem if we have the system. do you follow that? the electoral college shapes the ecosystem of our politics which trickles down to the state elections including the governor's race. and bill clinton said at least the electoral college required that they draw the plurality from the geographically distributedm area. you could win by 38 or 31 percent from california, new york and illinois you could win in a efew more states and regional
or just the south. that is what is dangerous escause if you win thet' pluralit plurality, that is not dangerous. and this is why other countries that used a national popular vote so look at france and those that did not like the fact in the finalid round they were forced to choose between someone who got 21 and 23 percent the majority were against the two candidates in that popular vote system. >> one more question from the audience and then we will take closing remarks.
and voter id talks about the legitimacy of the two systems so it looks like i have a question in the back. >> this is a very important debate but i think it loses sight of the bigger issue which is there is a lot of voter alienation in our country. if we don't move back to a system where every voter feels his vote count, then we will lose the war. i think as we move along with this issue of the national popular vote, it's important to keep in mind there are other issues that are more important like gerrymandering. if we don't get rid of it then there will be more voter
alienation. if we don't get rid of voter suppression in this t country there will be more voter alienation and this younger generation going forward that is really important. they feel alienated. >> i cannot agree more on gerrymandering. there are a number of democracies and measures that we need to do and one is address that issue to the extent that we can to take the corruption out of the process.in i also agree with the first point we have to make every voter feel like their vote counts that is why not take the most conservative approach that is constitutional and state based and preserve the
electoral college in order to make sure each of those votes count and that voter feels like their vote counts when voting for president president. >> i do feel a lot feel alienated or discouraged weather at the ballot box or elsewhere there is discontent with the political system on both sides but i do want to ask trent to respond to that and what is the deciding of the huge overhaul of the system if americans felt their voices were heard? >> it is a great and important question the proof is france and canada so canada is indirectly electing a prime minister but is not just about the swing states in the northeast if you look at the culture in new england then they have good turnout so
there is something going on but it is not just about this but as important as the issue is but to test the election system so disenfranchised may mean your civics teacher didid not teach you. i think what makes it worse social media is a part of it but that cable news cycle that puts all the attention on national issues one of the reasons i left dc is because i feel we have to focus more on states and communities and in
to say i just want president to represent me what does that mean? that is a silly idea. [applause] but i can make a difference in my city or state. 's why wouldld encourage those to shift the focus on the government closest to us to get people engaged where it matters most. s s n the meantime you are still allowing 12 states to control the election 94 percent of visits go there the vast and it skews with my federal policy is making but the french election is like the california primary election. it has nothing to do with the primaries and then to compare no matter which method that we do.
us by forcing that's why jfk became such a strong defender of the electoral college. if the democrats could have won the white house based on voter suppression those are two of those elections when democrats would have won the white house and with that original intent it is so much better to have a system but that you just can't win by you cannot just campaign in michigan or wisconsin or pennsylvania.
talk to people. these are good things about the electoral c college. and then to win at the state level where something goes wrong in the election it can be dealt with by congress mckee power over elections these are really good and practical a blessings and they should be preserved. >> the power with his argument on plurality it's a greater problem under the current system. one example is to take those battleground states in 2012 and 2016 you can win the presidency because you thetl electoral college to the national percent of popular vote that is 24 percent if you think plurality is a problem under national vote it's much
bigger under the current system the other flipside the argument he is making ppliterally you can apply to winner take all and it makes it worse. for example i hope he runs a republican c campaign under the current system he will spend a ton of money going after utah that is reliably read every dime in utah you are wasting that's a problemen today three quarters of the states don't get a thing and to say that is representative that will pet protect democracy ignores the truth and under the currents system we are skewing public policy and how money is distributed. so the best ways to make sure every vote counts every vote
in every state with the state based conservative constitutional preserve the electoral college approach like the compact. >> that was interesting i do have a framed certificate from my great grandfather who was the electoral or once upon and time. and then the state legislature joined us for the popular vote and in 2020 we'll have a ballot referendum for us in colorado to weigh in if we want our state to stay in the interstate compact or not. so that debate is the debate we are having here today will determine if i am fortunate enough to follow in my grandfather'sot footsteps and who were determine the nature of that of how representatives are elected for. [aease join me to thank our panelists.
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