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Politics

Former California GOP State Senator Urges Maine To Join 'National Popular Vote Compact'

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Willis Ryder Arnold
/
Maine Public
Former California state Sen. Ray Haynes is in Maine to urge the state to join the so-called 'National Popular Vote Compact.'

Supporters of the "National Popular Vote Compact" are touring Maine for the next three days. States that agree to join the compact pledge to give all of their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote nationally. 

The League of Women Voters of Maine, which backs the proposal, invited former California state Sen. Ray Haynes, a Republican, to make the case for the compact Monday in Bangor.

"If you join the compact, you make your vote important," Haynes said. "Every single vote, in every single state, is important in every single election. Under the current system, 80% of the people are completely ignored in a presidential election. This makes sure that never happens again, and I think that's an important value." 

The compact has, so far, been approved by 15 states and the District of Columbia, representing 196 electoral votes. Once it's approved by enough states to equal the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, it's supposed to take effect. 

But Haynes says congressional approval might also be needed. He'll appear in Waterville Tuesday and in Portland Wednesday.

Originally published March 9, 2020 at 1:13 p.m. ET. 

Haynes spoke March 9, 2020 with Maine Public's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.

GRATZ: Sir, welcome.

HAYNES: Good morning.

So how would the National Popular Vote Compact work?

The states that enter into the compact agree to award their presidential electors to the person who gets the most votes in all 50 states. It takes effect when we hit 270 electors - 270 is what it takes to win the presidency. So that's how you guarantee the presidency to the person who gets the most votes in all 50 states. But the bottom line is you will make every single vote in every single state important in every single election. The state won't have to wait to be a battleground state, or in the case of Maine have a battleground district, such as the Maine 2nd Congressional [District] seat. Every single voter becomes important immediately.

How many states have signed on so far?

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia. Just to put that in perspective, that's 196 electoral votes is what's in it right now. That means we need 74 more for the compact to become effective.

You're a Republican.

Correct.

Your party won the last presidential election, even though your candidate lost the popular vote. Why do you support this?

It's real simple. First of all, I think every single vote in every single state should matter in every single election. That's the overriding principle. That's better for the Republican Party over the long term. If we have to campaign to every single voter in every single state, that's better for us as a party. Now, my Democrat friends who are also in support of this think it's better for the Democratic Party. And I think that's how an election ought to be - you ought to line up one team on one side of the football, the other team on the other side of the football, have a fair fight, crash heads and figure out who wins under fair rules. The current rules, I think, favor a few states over a majority of the Americans. And I don't think that's a good thing.

This system would preserve the Electoral College.

Correct.

Why?

Article 1 Section 4 of the Constitution really limits Congress's power over election law. Election Law is, for the most part, a function of state law. The Electoral College makes sure those circumstances stay limited - because we don't have a national election Congress has no national interest in implementing an election law. And if you're a Democrat, you don't want Republicans writing election law, and for the real simple reason if Republicans got in there, they'd think you need three forms of ID and a concealed carry permit before they would allow you to vote. If you're a Republican, you don't want Democrats writing election law because the Democrats would write the law to say, "Well, gee whiz, as long as we can still read your name on a headstone you get to vote." The great thing about election law is Maine has its own set of election laws, California has its own set of election laws, Alabama has its own set of election laws. And I think that's how it ought to be. And the Electoral College makes sure it stays that way.

Now, what do you say to voters in a state that's part of a compact that one year for president votes for the Democrat for president - maybe overwhelmingly - but the Republican wins the overall vote; and then in the end, this state, which voted for the Democrat turns all its electors over to the Republican candidate?

What you're talking about a serious problem for some folks, but what you're trading is making your vote important, as opposed to making your vote relevant to your state. Real simply stated, when you're going to buy a car, you want to make a decision:  Do I want the car or do I want to keep the money? Is the money more important than the car? The question is, is your vote more important than making sure your state votes the way you want it to vote? Under the current system, 80% of the people are completely ignored in a presidential election. This makes sure that never happens again. And I think that's an important value.

Reading an essay you wrote about this raises one more question: If the needed states do agree to this, is there a role for Congress? Does it have to give its consent for this pact to come into existence?

A strong argument can be made on a constitutional decisional level that Congress is not required to consent to this because it doesn't involve a federal Interest. That being said, because the Constitution says what it says and I'm a literalist myself, we will seek congressional consent. I believe we will get it because at the time this takes effect, we have a majority of both houses of Congress. The states being involved in it being a majority of both houses in Congress, and the members of Congress will have to be voting against their state's interest if they don't want to approve it.

Ray Haynes is a former Republican state senator from California. He is the key speaker on a three-city tour in Maine this week on behalf of the National Popular Vote Compact. The tour continues in Waterville today [Tuesday] and Portland tomorrow [Wednesday]. Senator Haynes, thank you.
 
Thank you. I appreciate the invitation.