Join us, as our young campaign volunteer teaches his classmates the reality behind the "National Popular Vote" scam…
Young Pavel Syerov, Jr. (Paul to his friends) was walking through the Student Union after class, navigating the many tables with sign-up sheets and volunteers, just trying to get a cup of coffee, way at the other end of the dining hall (he still had one more class, in an hour, and wanted to be conscious for it!).
“Save the Trees!” read the first banner. Then “Save the Dolphins!” read the next. Then “Save the Earth.” And of course, “Save the Owls!” On and on it went, looking for signatures, looking for volunteers, looking for love…
Every other group was either fighting to reduce our carbon footprint or fighting to help propagate carbon-based life forms.
He’d tried to explain the inherent contradiction to them all a dozen times before, but they always proved too interested in picking up the other volunteers to pay any serious attention to the subject matter, particularly to logical explanations that they were wasting their time on this hogwash.
Today he was in on a mission – get a tall latte and have time to enjoy it before his next class – so he wasn’t about to get distracted.
But halfway through the gauntlet of sign-up tables, Pavel saw a new sign – a new group – new for this campus, anyway: “Join NPV! Work for the National Popular Vote!” And the three wide-eyed freshmen behind that table looked twice as sincere as anybody else in the place. Pavel stopped cold, and stared.
“Help stop cheating!” said the blonde in the center. “Bring honesty to our elections!”
Pavel briefly calculated whether this next conversation would positively or negatively affect his odds if he asked her out (yes, all single men make that calculation before conversing with attractive women, whether they admit it or not), and decided to go ahead. The issue is too important, and besides, if she’s this gullible, he’s not interested anyway.
“Explain!” Pavel demanded, as cordially but firmly as he could manage. “How does the single largest encouragement for massive vote fraud in the history of the Union help bring honesty to our elections?”
One of the boys at the next table recognized Pavel from his Comparative Political Systems class, and he nudged his colleague, whispering “Watch this. It could be good.”
The blonde at the NPV table smiled and said “You don’t understand. We’re AGAINST dishonesty. We’re AGAINST the idea that a loser in the popular vote can still become president because of the outdated electoral college system!”
“Okay,” Pavel said, as calmly as he could. “Let’s begin with you telling me why the electoral college system is outdated, and then we’ll move on. What’s wrong with the Framers’ original plan?”
The blonde looked confused. “The who?”
“The Framers,” Pavel repeated. “The people who wrote the Constitution.”
“Oh, you mean the Founding Fathers,” she answered.
“No, I mean the Framers. ‘The Founding Fathers’ is a collective term, a reference to an entire generation of American leaders in the last third of the 18th century.”
Pavel paused, to let her do the math and figure out that he was referring to the late 1700s. “The Framers are a specific subset of that group, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. They ‘framed’ the nation’s government, like homebuilders, doing the preliminary framing that a house is built around. So, all 55 of them – Hamilton, Madison, Washington, Sherman, Morris, etc. – are called the Framers.”
Pavel didn’t really realize it, but his voice was rising a bit, and he spoke, as always, with a level of clarity and confidence unusual in an era of non-absolutes, in a college of closed and unquestioning minds. The surrounding tables had grown quiet, as more and more of the other students – some of them fellow poli sci majors who’d seen him around, others complete strangers – turned their attention from their mindless causes to the impressive young man who spoke with conviction and proud patriotism.
The girl stammered and said “Oh, okay, well, the Framers then. What about them?”
“What’s wrong with their plan?” Pavel asked again. “What do you have against the electoral college?”
She looked to her seatmates to help her out, but neither had a clue. The talking points they’d been given seemed to just assume that anyone would think the electoral college was inherently unfair, so all you have to do is make the allegation, and everyone is sure to nod their heads in agreement… just like any other allegation of sadness, unhipness, or unfairness delivered in this unfortunate era of judgment by the unjudicious.
She stammered and replied “Well, it’s not fair! The real winner can lose the race to the person who won fewer votes!”
Pavel smiled. “Do you know why the Framers set it up that way?” Seeing the blank look on her face, he looked to her colleagues. Equally blank. So he continued. “The Founding Fathers – as a generation – were afraid of what they called The Mob. They were afraid of unfettered democracy too, of anything that smacked of letting a single plurality of the public decide anything at all. It’s dangerous. To meet this concern, the Framers therefore built layers into the system they designed.”
“The House of Representatives is ‘the people’s house’ – the place most reflective of the majority of the public. They’re elected every two years, from 435 districts, as close to mirroring the public will as possible. Right?”
The surrounding kids nodded their heads in agreement. So far, so good.
“The Senate was meant to be the states’ house – the place that owes its allegiance to the fifty state governments. For our first 120 years, the states picked their senators, and it was up to the states themselves how they were chosen. Some states had their legislatures elect the senator… some had a governor-led commission choose the senator… there was a variety. It was up to the state.”
Pavel knew this was going to get complicated, so he kept checking the eyes of his audience to make sure he wasn’t losing them.
“The idea was that the senator wouldn’t be conservative or liberal, exactly, but he’d side with his state, and the body in general would side with the states against the federal government whenever it wanted to expand unconstitutionally. The senators were never meant to report directly to the people; they were intended to report to the people’s state governments, as a solid check on Washington DC’s appetite for growth. Right?”
He paused, awaiting the obvious question. He only had to wait ten seconds.
Hesitantly, seeming afraid to ask a stupid question, the boy to the blonde’s right asked “But don’t we vote for our senators now?”
“Yes indeed,” answered Pavel. “Because of the worst single amendment to the Constitution ever imagined.”
“The 18th?” piped up a fratboy from a couple tables over, to general laughter.
Pavel shook his head, chuckling. Might’ve known that the only amendment these kids would know by number would be the one that banned the sale of liquor.
“No, it was one amendment earlier,” Pavel answered. “The 17th. The one that turned the Framers’ plans upside down. Since the 17th Amendment, the Senators are popularly elected. So they’re no different than the House, except that they represent bigger districts and can become insulated from the voters because of their six-year term. In the case of big states like California, Illinois and New York, in fact, their senators represent several times as many people as we had in the entire country back in the Founding era.”
Pavel asked if anybody knew what the population of the entire country was, way back in 1787. The replies came in from all around him… “a million?” “a hundred thousand?” “No, not that many, maybe 20,000?” “No, there were way more than that, maybe 50 million?” Oh boy.
“The population of the first thirteen states, at the time of the Constitution,” said Pavel, slowly, “was about four million. Just four million people. Of those four million, about 700,000 were slaves. And there were another 150,000 native Americans, outside the census. Our Founders believed that you must never have a direct election in which those kinds of enormous numbers directly elected a candidate to anything, whether senate or president or governor. The idea was that groups of hundreds, or thousands at most, would vote for each state rep or state senator, because they could get to know the candidates… and then those people – the legislature in Richmond, or Providence, or Annapolis – would thoughtfully, through discussion and debate, select their state’s U.S. Senator from people they knew, and probably knew very well.”
A girl from the table behind him exclaimed “You mean Wisconsin is bigger than the entire country was back then? There are six million of us!”
Next to her, a Texan proudly said “There are 26 million of us Texans!”
Not to be outdone, a Californian shouted “I’m from, like, the Valley, and we’ve got, like, 38 million in California! We’re, like, the best!”
Pavel took back control, chuckling “Well, you’re the most populous, anyway. ‘Best’ is rather subjective… Only half of our states today are smaller than the entire country was at the time of the Founding. Fully half of our states have populations of over four million, a number that our Founders knew was completely unworkable for a popular vote election. Too few of the voters could ever actually get to know the candidates and form a rational opinion of them.”
“Anyway,” he continued, “the point is that our Founding Fathers thought that the selection of candidates should occur very cautiously, and shouldn’t really be in the hands of great crowds. They wanted deliberation. An individual voter might be swayed, in the secrecy of a voting booth, by a wide smile, a sharp figure, a good head of hair, a good dresser or slick talker… but if you have to defend your choice in public debate, out loud, those kinds of reasons would fall apart. The Framers knew that if they wanted the wisest, most practical, most ideological patriots to win elections, they had better protect such decisions from the whim of the masses, by instituting layers. The loss of the US senate, through the error of the 17th Amendment, was a direct blow to the heart of our system.”
The blonde at the NPV table piped up again. “I’m sorry, but what does all this have to do with the electoral college anyway? Are you trying to change the subject?”
The audience looked back at Pavel. “No,” smiled Pavel, “I’m just building my case. We need to understand why the Framers created the electoral college in the first place, if we are to understand whether it’s still relevant today, and whether an alternative is desired.”
"Okay, I get it,” said the blonde. “So they wanted the House to be democratically elected, and the Senate to be selected in layers. Okay. So what?”
“So they did want there to be some democratic aspect to the system… but they also wanted to make sure that every higher level – by population, frankly – would be decided by a more deliberative body. The Supreme Court Justices would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The heads of the cabinet departments would also be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Nobody of power could be appointed by the president unless he got past the Senate too.”
One of the kids at the “Save the Dolphins” table looked like he’d had an epiphany. “So what you’re saying is, the turnover of the Senate plan in 1913 didn’t just overturn that one body; it actually overturned the Founders’ plans for everything else, too! In my high school civics class, they talked about how the Framers’ plans were overturned by the 17th, but I never realized how much that one change bled into other things!”
"Exactly,” said Pavel, nodding sadly. “The original plan was that the Senate was selected by the state capitols, so the state capitols essentially had the chance to approve federal judges, to approve ambassadors, to approve the Supreme Court, to approve Cabinet Secretaries and the Attorney General. Whatever the executive branch did, during our first 120 years, they could honestly say they did with the approval of the state governments. This beautiful, brilliant balance allowed Congress and the state capitols to share power neatly and logically. The system demonstrated ‘the consent of the governed’ very well. Until the 17th Amendment.”
The blonde shook her head. “Oh, what’s the big deal… the appointments are still MADE by the president, and he was never elected by the state capitols, so what’s the difference?”
The “Save the Dolphins” kid jumped in to field that one. “The President isn’t going to appoint anyone who he KNOWS can’t make it through the Senate. The mere fact that the Senators reported to the states acted as a brake on presidential overreach.”
Now the Texan joined in. “Yup, do you think any president would appoint a Secretary of the Interior, or Secretary of Energy, or administrator of the Bureau of Land Management, who would try to move in and nationalize state lands, if those appointees had to get through a Senate that reported to Austin, and Salt Lake City, and Cheyenne, and Topeka?” The Texan chuckled a moment before continuing. “Any senator who’d vote for those appointees would be a lame duck by the time the votes were counted. So the old way virtually guaranteed that the president would stay within the bounds. It was a much bigger check on the size of the federal government than any of us realized.”
The blonde was getting tired of all this. It was her table, after all, and everybody else was getting their say… and she didn’t have any more signatures to show for all this time!
So she said “Enough of this. If you don’t get back to the electoral college, I say we just declare that you’ve conceded the point.”
She crossed her arms and sat back in a huff. The rest of the crowd looked to Pavel expectantly, and, as always, he smiled, looked everyone in the eye, and started in…
“Okay, so we’ve established that the Framers intended for there to be no single democratic election in which millions of people picked one person in a secret ballot, right? They wanted these big elections to be filtered through layers of other representatives, thoughtful people who would be less likely to make a choice influenced by reasons that wouldn’t hold up if stated out loud. Right?”
Pavel looked around, and everyone was nodding their agreement. So far, so good.
“And we’ve established that the states were supposed to have a say in the big stuff, that the states were meant to have a possible hand on the brake. With the loss of the original plan in which the Senate served that function, this makes the need for the Presidential selection process to include that function even greater, doesn’t it?”
Pavel looked around. Again, everyone was nodding. It makes sense, in context. The Senate no longer does what it was supposed to, so we need that control somewhere else. Virtually all ten of the tables were riveted to his talk, even the kids seated with his back to them. He was in the direct center, which had both good points and bad points…
Pavel was going to have to have a word with the professor teaching his drama elective; this business of giving a “theater in the round” performance was a heck of a lot harder than facing the whole classroom directly! He never realized…
“Good. So now let’s look at the electoral college. Who knows exactly how the votes are allocated?”
“Easy one!” shouted the Texan, ready to show off a bit. “With two exceptions, the winner of the state’s popular vote gets a number of ‘electors’ representing the state’s congressional delegation. If you’ve got ten congressmen and two senators, that’s twelve electors. If you’ve got one congressman and two senators, that’s three. And if you’ve got 36 congressmen like we do in Texas, that’s a delegation of 38 electors!”
“Exactly,” said Pavel. “You see how the electoral college is weighted? The inclusion of electors for the senate seats was designed to give the smaller states more weight than their population would indicate. Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota have small populations; though they have only one congressman each, the electoral college gives them a vote of three each. One of the Founders’ great fears was that a few huge states would be able to push the little states around. The design of the electoral college protects those small states. Taken together, those three states would be worth less than three votes in a strict popular vote matchup, but in the electoral college, those three states, taken together, are worth nine votes. As a block, those three are worth as much as the much more populous South Carolina, Alabama, or Colorado taken alone.”
The blonde muttered “Good enough reason to dump the electoral college right there. That’s not fair at all.”
Pavel acted like he was taken aback, though he had known this response was coming. “And why isn’t it fair?”
“Well, DUHH,” sneered the blond from NPV. “Everybody should get the same vote. One man, one vote. It’s the only way.”
“Ah. One man, one vote, huh?” Pavel pressed on. “Do you believe every citizen should pay exactly the same tax payment, no matter what they do or how much they make?”
“Of course not!” she said in a huff. “If you make more, you’re worth more, so you should pay more. If you make less…”
Pavel smiled as he finished her sentence for her. “Then you’re worth less?”
She stammered. “No, I didn’t mean that… if you make more, you can afford to help the government more, that’s all.”
“Yes indeed,” said Pavel. “And if you make less, you can contribute to the country in other ways. The Founders knew that our nation would be a mixed economy. We needed farmers and ranchers, merchants and manufacturers, writers and bankers, fishermen and soldiers. They knew that a certain type, or group of types, would congregate in the big cities, and others, just as important to the country, would live out in the countryside. They knew that some states would be overwhelmingly dominated by some, and others would be overwhelmingly dominated by others.”
Pavel looked around. People were still paying attention. It never ceased to amaze him. He continued.
“The Framers knew that a government elected entirely by population might wind up being city-heavy, more so every year. They knew that city folks might not take the country folks’ needs into account, or vice versa. This system gave ranchers and farmers and loggers and fishermen and other rural interests a fighting chance to play a role in our government. In the selection of a president, it wouldn’t be enough for a candidate to just make the big city factory owners, bankers, lawyers and merchants happy. A candidate would have to demonstrate that he would address the needs of the rural groups as well. It was brilliant. You couldn’t win on Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia alone. You needed the countryside. The inflation of their votes through the electoral college was deemed worthwhile because the Framers knew that their economic sectors merited substantial representation in the government too, more than their strict population might have indicated.”
Pavel looked at his watch. Oh boy. His next class was two buildings over, in twenty minutes. Better find a way to wrap this up… and he still had an important point to make.
He polled the room:
“Who thinks the electoral college made sense then?” All the hands went up… except for the NPV table.
“Who thinks that in this even more diverse country, with even more different types of people and professions and ethnic groups, the electoral college still makes sense today?" Again, all the hands went up… except for the NPV table.
But the blonde wouldn’t give up. She practically shouted “But our system preserves the electoral college! It just takes out the unfairness so that presidential candidates pay more respect to the small states that they disregard today!”
Pavel looked around first, then looked straight at her. “How? How are the rural ranches of Wyoming going to attract more attention than they do today, if their votes are suddenly worth a third as much as they were before?”
The girl from Wisconsin chimed in. “That’s right, NPV’s claim doesn’t make any sense at all! If Wyoming’s worth three times its real population now, how could it possibly earn more attention if its weight was cut to a third of that? The assertion is nuts!”
NPV’s blonde could see that she’d lost the room, and she resorted to reading directly from the cue cards that NPV had given her, her voice rising as she recited: “The NPV bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.” She put down her card and shouted “It’s the only fair way!”
Pavel saw kids at the other tables rolling their eyes… and he said “Look, I’ll explain what the NPV is. It’s an end run around the constitution. They know they can’t get an amendment passed to overturn the electoral college, so they’re convincing the legislatures of state after state – eleven so far, I think – to just agree to give all of their state’s electors to whoever the cable stations report on election night was the national popular vote winner. So if Wisconsin went 60/40 for the Democrat but a Republican won the national popular vote, Wisconsin would give its electors to the Republican. If Wisconsin went 60/40 for the Republican but a Democrat won the national popular vote, Wisconsin would give its electors to the Democrat.”
As Pavel saw horror in the eyes of the kids at every other table, he took another poll.
“Show your hands, folks: Who thinks a state legislature has the right to give 100% of their states’ votes to the person who actually lost in their state? Anybody???”
The blonde held up her hand. She was alone, until she elbowed both of her colleagues, and they, sheepishly, raised their arms halfway up. Not another hand went up in the place. Pavel sighed a sigh of relief, as if to say “my work here is done…” but he was too optimistic on that score.
The student at the Dolphins table – the one who had Comparative Political Systems with him – asked the question “At the beginning of all this, you said that the NPV was a huge encouragement for vote fraud. What did you mean by that?”
Pavel looked at his watch again. Oh boy.
“Well,” he began, hesitantly, hoping to find a way to get this done quickly, “Are you familiar with vote fraud?”
“Sure,” came the reply. “Chicago’s famous for it, but there’s lots of it in New York, Los Angeles, all over the place. I remember whole wards in Cleveland and Philadelphia that reported 150% turnout and 100% Obama votes in 2012, a statistical impossibility!” He shook his head sadly. “Yup, there’s no question about it. There’s a lot of vote fraud.”
“Okay,” said Pavel. “Now how many votes do you think they steal, in those Democrat cities in Democrat states?”
The boys at the Dolphin table looked at each other, then back at Pavel. The spokesman answered “As many as they need, I guess.”
“No, I don’t assume so…” he looked up at Pavel, hoping for an affirmative look. “They have to fear prosecution, so they steal as many more votes as they need, then stop, right?”
“Yes,” answered Pavel, nodding. “They steal as many as they need, in a Democrat state, to tip a close statewide or local election to their side. Maybe all they need is a few points, maybe a little more. There’s no need to steal millions of votes more, and have the fraud be that noticeable. There’s no percentage in it. No reason to risk it.”
This time it was the Texan whose eyes lit up, and flames started shooting out of his ears. “If all that matters is the national popular vote, as one great big bucket, there’s nothing to stop the crooks in the big cities!” His fist came crashing down on the table in anger. “Why, Chicago or Philly could steal an extra million that they don’t need, and just claim turnout was really great that year, and completely undo all the legitimate votes of ten swing states! Cleveland and New York could overwhelm the entire West!”
“Exactly right, my friend,” said Pavel. “That’s why the NPV is supported by Democrat big cities. It’s designed to give corrupt cities with political machines and a history of vote fraud the ability to overwhelm honest states. It’s designed to give the party bosses the answer to the question ‘why not steal as much as we can?’ There was never a need before but if the NPV takes off, there’ll be a reason. Once stolen votes can have value beyond your state lines, and help your party outnumber the votes of other states, you may as well steal millions more, if you can get away with it.”
The girl from Wisconsin was really losing her temper now. “Another corrupt federal judge overturned our voter ID law last week. The Attorney General is trying to force states to stop enforcing laws against felon voting… and he dropped the prosecution against the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia who were caught, dead to rights, scaring voters away from polling places with clubs. The Dream Act is designed to create millions of new Democrat voters, by illegally legalizing illegal immigrants! They’re doing everything they can to increase vote fraud, all over the country!”
“That’s it in a nutshell, folks,” Pavel concluded. “The NPV is a brilliant scam, and I’m not going to claim that all its supporters are doing it consciously, for this reason, but there’s just no question. As long as there is vote fraud, the NPV is the absolute beneficiary of it. Not only is the NPV wrong, and immoral in every way… it is the greatest encouragement for vote fraud in history.”
Pavel shifted his books, nodded to the NPV table and then to the rest of his audience, and said “If the NPV is ever allowed to become law, no honest presidential candidate will ever have a chance again.”
He walked back through the building, and headed to his next class. He’d done a good thing, educated some people, maybe even changed some minds.
But darn it, he thought as he strode through the doorway and felt that cold midwest wind, he never did get his coffee!
Pavel headed toward his next class, and felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the girl from Wisconsin; she'd caught up with him.
"I think we're in the same class next hour. Euro 201?"
"Right, that's where I'm headed," Pavel answered. Crazy huge lecture halls for the survey courses. 300 kids in this one; no wonder he hadn't recognized her. "I was only in the cafeteria at all because I wanted to get a cup of coffee to get me through Euro. Never got the chance."
She chuckled as she walked aside him to class. "Same here! Want to grab an espresso after class?"
And for once, a vote really was unanimous.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer. A former Republican activist (he has been a precinct captain in four Illinois townships, and served as Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman for two years in the mid-1990s), he has now been a recovering politician for nearly 17 years (but, as with any addiction, you’re never really cured). His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.
As you have no doubt guessed, this column is a work of fiction. Pavel Syerov and the rest of the characters in this series – The Tales of Little Pavel – are fictional characters, and no similarity to any real person, living or dead, is intended or implied. Sadly, however, the political issues and explanations of vote fraud found herein are indeed painfully real.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the byline and IR URL are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on LinkedIn and Facebook, and on Twitter at @johnfdileo.
See the rest of the Tales of Little Pavel here in Illinois Review. The first of the series can be found at this link: “Little Pavel Helps Out.”