State Senate Saves the Commonwealth. Again.

by Kerry Dougherty

Here’s a morsel of good news from Richmond: Virginia will not be joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact movement.

This year, anyway.

For the second time in 10 days a State Senate committee saved us from extreme bills that had already passed the drunk-with-power House of Delegates.

First, it was the vague assault weapons bill, which would have turned thousands of law-abiding Virginia gun owners into felons. That proposal was scrapped, thanks to four bold Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who sided with their GOP colleagues.

This week, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee tabled — for this session, anyway –– HB177, a measure that would have relinquished Virginia’s sovereignty to California and New York by awarding our electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections.

It’s mind-boggling that a majority in the House of Delegates actually supported this:

“Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” a bill summary states. “The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact.”

What’s encouraging, however, is that the committee vote not to send the bill to the full Senate was 14-1, meaning that all but one Democrat joined all of the Republicans in opposition. Only Janet Howell D-Fairfax wanted to push the measure along.

Look, the establishment of the electoral college by the Founding Fathers was intended to thwart a tyranny by the masses. They wanted to guarantee that citizens in rural areas and less populated states would have a voice in the selection of the president and would not be forgotten by the federal government.

It’s genius, really.

The national movement to scrap the electoral college and marginalize so-called red states gathered steam in the past two years, pushed by bitter Hillary Clinton supporters who refuse to accept the results of the 2016 presidential election.

It’s simple. Clinton doesn’t reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because she failed to campaign in places she needed to win. Like Wisconsin.

As a result, Clinton won just 227 electoral votes to President Trump’s 304.

If the majority of states want to dump the electoral college — and that would be a mistake — they should do it the right way: by amending the US Constitution, not making an end run around it.

This column was published originally at

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37 responses to “State Senate Saves the Commonwealth. Again.”

  1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Delegate Lee Ware gave a fantastic speech on the Electoral College. It is a great blessing to have knowledgeable leaders in the G.A. He really knows history.

    1. Delegate Ware used to be a high school history teacher – and from what I have heard, a good one.

  2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    My God, there is a current member of the Virginia General Assemble who actually knows, understands, and is a fine student of history!!!!!!! John, where can we get a full copy of that speech?

    And I owe you one on lawless parents and lawless schools, and kids in Va.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    It’s my recollection that an interstate compact must be approved by Congress.

    Look at all the consternation because so many Obama voters refused to vote for the goddess of the Democratic Party in 2016. Could that have had anything to do with her campaign and character? Rather than address that by finding a better candidate in 2020, the Democrats want to change the Constitution without changing the Constitution. Maybe one of the left-side justices will find a new penumbra or emanation to fix this.

    1. Speaking of penumbras and emanations, I wonder how it came to be that we vote for president and vice-president as a “ticket” when the 12th Amendment to the Constitution clearly requires electors to name the persons voted for as president and vice-president in “distinct ballots”. To me this should preclude the use of “joint tickets”, by which each voter cats a single vote to elect both positions.

      from Amendment XII – “The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President…”

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Actually, the electors do officially cast separates votes for President and Vice-President. So, technically it is possible for there to be a President from one party and a vice-president from another. But the practice of running on tickets and voting for tickets goes back to the beginnings. Actually, the Electoral College never functioned as the Founding Fathers envisaged that it would.

        1. “But the practice of running on tickets and voting for tickets goes back to the beginnings…”

          I don’t think so. In the beginning, the guy with the most votes was chosen as president and the guy with the second-most votes was chosen vice-president.

        2. But back to my question: The use of distinct ballots is required of the electors. Why has our Constitution been interpreted in such a manner as to not require, or at least allow, voters to follow the same practice? Candidates would still be free to form “tickets” for purposes of campaigning, but voters would not be bound by those tickets.

          It works for us here in Virginia for electing our top three offices.

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Your question is a good one that I have never thought about. Probably the answer is that the 12th amendment provides for only one set of electors who vote on both president and vice-president, but separately. There is no provision for two sets of electors–one for president and one for vice-president. When you vote, you are actually voting for a slate of electors. Therefore, because the Constitution provides for only one slate of electors, you can’t have two or more sets of electors for President and two or more sets for vice-president. That would create the possibility that two different sets would get a majority of the votes; one set for president and the set for another party for vice-president.

            It would be interesting, however, to have them split like we have in Virginia.

        3. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

          Don’t forget the 12th Amendment. Election of 1800 was too much fun.

          1. Yes. The “distinct ballot” requirement is from the 12th.

            I’ve never been able top get a satisfactory (to me, admittedly) explanation as to why I, as a voter, must vote for a pair of candidates instead of being able to cast individual ballots for each position.

          2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

            We don’t want another Jefferson and Aaron Burr electoral tie vote to be settled in the House of Rep. along with A. Hamiltonian interference. What a mess.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I used to think an interstate compact had to be approved by Congress, too. I recently found out that the courts have said that compacts do not have to be approved by Congress if a federal interest is not affected.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “Maybe one of the left-side justices will find a new penumbra or emanation to fix this.”

    Or, in the alternative, maybe he or she progressive justice(s) will find new Godlike powers like those of the Greek Gods, that is powers based solely on their own raw emotion, lust, revenge, vanity, narcissism, power hunger, insecurity, self interest, and/or self proclaimed virtue based on momentary fad and self revelation that transcends all established laws, rules, customs, traditions found outside their own mind, gut, and emotion. Another words, the progressive justice will just make stuff up because it pleases that justice in the moment, and gets them attention.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Sort of like Justice Scalia did in the Voting Rights Act case, just brush aside the law enacted by Congress by saying that the members of Congress did not understand what they were voting on.

      1. In Justice Scalia’s defense, one is usually on pretty solid ground when one declares that congress doesn’t know what they are doing…


        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          totally true and totally wrong. The job of the courts is to decide the intent of Congress – not whether they were right or wrong – unless the law violates the Constitution itself – which it has.

          1. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. Are you agreeing that part of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional?

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          No one took the law, understood it, and applied it with greater seriousness and intelligence than Justice Scalia. So he rendered decisions without regard whatever for his politics and/or personal bias, and/or his and anyone else’s political agenda, so acted independent of all considerations, save for what the law mandated or required.

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            In the oral argument, Scalia suggested that the Voting Rights Act was overwhelmingly reauthorized in 2006 by Congress because the nation’s politicians were afraid to oppose it. He felt he was entitled to overturn a law enacted by Congress because he questioned the motives of the legislators. That does not sound like he was acting independently of “all considerations save for what the law mandated or required.”

  5. That is a morsel of good news – thank you for posting it.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    How about allocating votes according to Congressional districts like two states already do?

    I think the winner-take-all method can actually work against rural areas within states in states where the urban area population is more than the rural areas.

    1. “How about allocating votes according to Congressional districts like two states already do?”

      How do these states deal with the two electors who are appointed based on the number of senate seats?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        The two electoral votes based on Senate seats go to the winner of the overall state vote.

        1. Okay. That is what I suspected, but I knew if I asked on this forum one of the wise and intelligent contributors could tel me for sure.

          As far as using having Virginia’s electors use that method to cast their ballots, it beats the heck out requiring them all to cast their ballots based on the popular vote.

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I did not hear Lee Ware’s speech, so I can’t comment on it. But, as for Kerry D0ughtery’ comments, I say, “Hogwash!” She doesn’t know her history. She has only to read Federalist 68 to learn why the Founding Fathers concocted the Electoral College. To quote Hamilton at some length:
    ” It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture,
    It was equally desirable that the immediate selection should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation….A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation.”

    He goes on to say that another purpose of the use of electors was to avoid “tumult and disorder”.

    Nowhere does Hamilton even hint that one of the purposes of the Founding Fathers was “to guarantee that citizens in rural areas and less populated states would have a voice in the selection of the president and would not be forgotten by the federal government”, as Kerry Doughtery contends.

    The Electoral College is an anachronism that should be done away with. Why should the vote of a resident of North Dakota carry more weight than that of one of Virginia in selecting a President? For that matter, why should a Virginian’s vote count more than that of someone in California?

    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      Indeed you are correct. One of the unintended side effects of the Electoral College is to spread the vote across the map. Was this done on purpose? No. Is it a bad thing? I don’t think so. Everybody gets a chip in the game.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        It is fair to argue whether or not the unintended consequence of the Electoral College is good or bad. But that was not the purpose as so many of its proponents argue.

    2. Because people in California are weird…


    3. Seriously, though, if enough people want to do away with the electoral college, Article V of our Constitution provides the mechanism by which such a change may be accomplished.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Yes, there is a mechanism, but that mechanism makes it very unlikely that the Constitution will be amended to abolish the Electoral College. It would take 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and ratification by 3/4 of the states. So, North Dakota would have the same power in the Senate and as a ratifying state as California. It is very doubtful that enough small states would be willing to give up their leverage.

        1. Yes. That is one of the results of this country being a representative democracy rather than a strict democracy – and I don’t mind it one bit.

          To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.

          We are the United STATES of America – at least theoretically we are a union of sovereign states. What kind of sovereign state would want to be a member of a union in which TWO out of the other 49 members were empowered to control at least one-third of that union’s government 90-100% of the time?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Actually, I think it is up to the states for each of their own state, just as they can now allocate by Congressional District – they likely could allocate based on popular vote.

        The thing that Dick said – “hogwash” – is true. We got all kinds of folks running around talking about what the founding fathers intended and they don’t know their butt from a hole in the ground in terms of what is actually in the documented history.

        It’s more “populism” .. people get told something by some blogger and they believe it… and then pass it on to others who believe it – and then it becomes a “known fact”…

        I’m not one that thinks we should change the current system because Hillary lost. There were lots of reasons she lost including the fact that she did not see fit to connect with rural voters.

        But in terms of overall results – it’s not good when the winner has damn near 80 more electoral votes than the person who won the popular vote.

    4. Hamilton also wrote this in Federalist 68:

      “It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes.”

      Assigning all of Virginia’a electoral votes to a single candidate is virtually the same thing as choosing a single elector – which Hamilton pretty clearly opposed.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        The thing to keep in mind is that during Hamilton’s time and the other founding fathers – was how long it took to report results from elections.

        Hamilton’s involvement in the Federalist papers was in 1787. The telegraph was invented in 1830.

        So an obvious question was in practical terms – how the results were collected and communicated?

  8. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    The United States government was purposely designed with many checks and balances to make sure that no part of it, including the federal or state governments, could get too strong. Part of those checks and balances is the Electoral College. It’s designed to prevent a president from being elected by winning big in a few large states, like California and New York and not winning many smaller states. It forces candidates to campaign for votes in a wide number of states and prevents California’s insanity from driving national public policy.

    The Democrats are pissed because Hillary Clinton could not appeal to that wide number of states despite overwhelming winning in a few large states. Many Democrats still believe that it was predetermined from before time that she would win the presidency – maybe as compensation for staying married to Bill Clinton.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” In the oral argument, Scalia suggested that the Voting Rights Act was overwhelmingly reauthorized in 2006 by Congress because the nation’s politicians were afraid to oppose it. He felt he was entitled to overturn a law enacted by Congress because he questioned the motives of the legislators. That does not sound like he was acting independently of “all considerations save for what the law mandated or required.”

    Yep. What Congress does , the why behind it, their “motives”, etc are not the purview of the courts except with regard to their perceived intent.

    Many SCOTUS rulings actually say this – that their job is to interpret the law – as written – not to discern WHY it was written.

    In today’s partisan political environment – people take sides – then try to justify their views – which in my mind was exactly what Scalia was doing instead of performing the primary judicial role.

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