Stop National Popular Vote
Fiscal Responsibility, Government Accountability, Return to Constitutional Values and Principles
Statement from Represenative Brian Newberry
Full Name: Brian C. Newberry
Office: State House (RI) - District 48, Republican
First Elected: 11/04/2008
Last Elected: 11/06/2012
Next Election: 2014
Home City: North Smithfield, RI
Not sure exactly why we are going to debate this issue now when we should be dealing with the budget and other more important issues, but since it has come up, here are excerpts from a letter I wrote to members of the House and Senate on it - please excuse the odd numbering below, some glitch about copying and pasting from an auto-numbering system. I am interested in people's thoughts as the issue is fascinating regardless of one's view:
Before both the House and Senate Judiciary committees this coming Tuesday for a vote is the “National Popular Vote Act”. For those of you unfamiliar with this bill, it is a perennial piece of legislation that has come to the Floor of the House and Senate before. It has both passed and not passed the House. It has been vetoed in the past as well. In 2008 it passed the House by a single vote. The last time it came to the House Floor, on June 18, 2009, it was defeated by a vote of 45 to 28. Including only those members still remaining in the House in 2013 the vote would have been 29-12 against, including “no” votes from most of the current House leadership.
To anyone interested in American history and questions about governmental authority and power, which presumably includes everyone receiving this e-mail, it is a fascinating issue with some valid arguments to be made on both sides, which makes for an interesting debate a break from some of the usual, more practical, stuff we handle. However, as those of you who know me well are aware, I strongly oppose this bill. Back in 2009 I wrote a lengthy six-page letter to members of the House in advance of the floor vote. For those of you interested, I have reprinted the text below. It contains most of the arguments I would make against the legislation and will make should it come to the Floor this week or next. I only add that the letter was written in June 2009 and I have not updated it.
I would like to add four points to my original letter for your consideration:
When it comes to issues of constitutional balance, Rhode Island was not only the last signatory to the original Constitution - and only after insisting that the Bill of Rights be included – but, given our small size, strikes me as the last state in the union which ought to be ceding any of our constitutional prerogatives to some sort of larger national collective. This bill is one step removed from asking Rhode Island to give up our two US senators, something we would never agree to. As a practical matter, because adoption of the national popular vote model does not require approval by all 50 states, merely approval by a majority of the states with 270+ electoral votes, it is entirely possible that this legislation will become law of the land with or without Rhode Island's approval. Therefore I see no reason to approve it.
Given how heavily Rhode Island has tilted Democratic in recent presidential elections and appears poised to do for at least the foreseeable future, I would find it highly ironic indeed if a legislature as heavily dominated by elected Democratic officials as ours would pass legislation that would result in compelling Rhode Island's electoral votes to go to a candidate that received 40% or less of the public opinion in the election. It simply seems inappropriate to me that if Rhode Island votes for Democratic presidential candidate with a 63% margin that Rhode Island should still send Republican electors to cast the state's electoral votes. It is in fact a direct attack on the will of the people of Rhode Island if not necessarily the will of the people nationwide.
There is no mass popular wave of support for this bill. Rather, following the 2000 election, a small group of billionaires combined their resources and essentially Astroturfed an organization to push for legislation all over the country. While I do not feel this is relevant to the merits of the bill itself, I mention it only because I find it ironic that so many of the people who push for adoption of this legislation tend to overlap with the same people who regularly bemoan the influence of money in our politics, routinely argue for more public disclosure of political donors and, in general, object to the over wielding influence of “big money”. This may not be the most critical issue facing any of us, but it is hard to find a better example of an issue that is only an issue at all because a small group of secretive rich people made it an issue.
Finally, as you may have noticed this year, the national popular vote movement has hired an additional lobbyist, the former chairman of the state Republican Party. They have also made repeated efforts to bring a former Republican Majority Leader from the Minnesota Legislature to lobby on their behalf and both of these individuals have put the hard sell directly to me. One point they make, which is undoubtedly true, is that if national popular vote became the law of the land, both national political parties would immediately have a strong incentive to launch extensive get out the vote operations in states that they normally ignore from a presidential perspective. In other words, if we approve this legislation, we increase significantly the chances that the Republican National Committee will devote substantial resources to building a Republican operation in Rhode Island. From a selfish point of view, the idea building the Republican legislative caucuses in the House and Senate means I should welcome this. I suspect most of the people reading this e-mail, particularly those of you who can look forward to tough general election races each year in November, probably would not.
Thank you for your attention to this issue and I urge you to vote against it should it come to the Floor of your respective chambers.