February 2020 Newsletter

This Month…
  • Challenges to the Electoral College Continue
  • Scholarly Resources on the Electoral College
  • The Bill for US Debt Will Come Due
  • Updated Article V Progress Report is Now Available
  • Ballotpedia Offers Important Service to Political Candidates
  • More Parties or Direct Elections – You Can’t Have Both
  • ERA Still Believed to be Active and Now Fully Ratified
  • Ranked-Choice Voting is Gaining Popularity
  • States are Calling for a National Federalism Task Force
  • Recommended Reads
  • What is an Article V Convention of States?

Challenges to the Electoral College Continue –
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) proposal continues to push forward.  It’s proponents expect it to go into effect when states holding 270 electors, enough to win a presidential election, have agreed to participate. So far 15 states plus Washington, D.C., have signed on. They have 196 electoral votes among them. Seventy-four more electors are needed.  It is noteworthy that (reportedly) 13 of the member states currently have state laws requiring their Electoral College electors to vote for their state’s popular vote winner.

Currently the following states have bills before them seeking to circumvent the Electoral College system that has been in place since 1789… and adopt what many constitutional scholars believe conflicts with the Founder’s intent.

Legend – (shows number of sponsors), followed by the date originally introduced
Florida:  HB335 (5) October 2019; and SB908 (1) November 2019.
Georgia:  SB42 (6) January 2020.
Kansas:  SB115 (1) February 2019.
Minnesota:  SB34 (2) and SB189 (3), both January 2019; HB2117 (5) and HB1941 (6), both introduced March 2019.
Missouri:  HB1591 (1), HB1949 (1), and HB1988 (1) January 2020.
New Hampshire:  HB541 (5) January 2020.
North Carolina: S104 (5) January 2020.
Ohio:  HB70 (6), February 2019.
Pennsylvania:  SB270 (7) July 2019.
South Carolina:  HB3209 (1) January 2019; and HB4277 (1) March 2019.
Virginia:  SB399 (2), HB177 (1), and HB199 (19) January 2020.
Wisconsin:  SB197 (18), and AB185 (18) April 2019.

+++

Three states are working to back away from the NPVCI movement.

In Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley has introduced SR1458.  It is a resolution “to support, protect, and defend the United States Constitution, including the 12th Amendment, and supports the preservation of the Electoral College”.

Baxley says to “consider the abolishment of the Electoral College, in which Florida has 29 electors, would further enable the destruction of the remaining balance of power between the 50 states and the Federal Government and effectively dissolve the United States constitutional republic”.

In Colorado, where it’s state legislature adopted Senate Bill 19-042, making Colorado part of the NPVI Compact, a citizen referendum seeks to overturn the measure in next November’s election.  The petition leading to the referendum was filed and found sufficient on August 29, 2019.

In New Hampshire HB1531 has been introduced with 7 sponsors.  It is “An act relative to the release of voting information in a presidential election”.  The measure would only take effect if the National Public Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) includes enough states to reach it’s 270-vote threshold.  In that case it would prohibit state officials from releasing presidential vote counts “until after the time set by law for the meeting and voting of presidential electors [Electoral College] has passed in all states”.  It is believed that this strategy would thwart the NPVIC from being workable.

Read more about the New Hampshire proposal and related efforts to head off the NPVIC effort HERE.  It is an excellent article written by retired lawyer/historian/author Tara Ross in the January 14 Daily Signal (Heritage Foundation).

Scholarly Resources on the Electoral College –
Every state legislator who is on the fence about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) should acquaint themselves with The Uhlmann Essay on the Electoral College written in 1970 by Michael Uhlmann (now deceased).  It is reviewed in detail in a new piece by Christopher DeMuth, distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute, published in the current edition of National Affairs.  DeMuth’s article is entitled The Man Who Saved the Electoral College.

Uhlmann, says DeMuth, believed that the Electoral College system already gives weight to “reasonable majoritarianism”.  DeMuth says, “as he [Uhlmann] would have predicted, and for reasons he explained, the imperfections of the Electoral College system still pale in comparison with the imperfections of every direct-election system its critics have managed to come up with”.  Read the DeMuth article HERE.

+++

Understanding the Electoral College by Gregg L. Frazer, as published January 4th in The Orange County Register (California) is another good read on the subject.  Frazer is professor of history and political studies at The Master’s University.  Find that article HERE.

The Bill for US Debt Will Come Due –
A Challenge to Political Candidates“Getting candidates to candidly address the nation’s looming debt crisis may be the biggest challenge facing Americans in 2020”, says Jay Evensen, Columnist for Deseret News (Utah).

The writer recounts the declining economies of nations like Venezuela that carry huge debts.  Then he reports: “Last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said what should be obvious to anyone who examines spending in Washington: ‘The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt’”.

He says, “No matter how people may have come to take them for granted over time, prosperity and freedom don’t come with long-term guarantees, any more than a beautiful garden will continue as such without care and maintenance”.  Read his views HERE.

+++

Blue Dogs Caution Fellow Democrats: Create & Pass a Budget – In mid-January The Hill carried a story headlined Blue Dogs push Democrats to pass budget, written by Niv Elis.

The centrist Blue Dog Democrats warned their party against foregoing a budget resolution for 2021.  “Failure to pass an annual budget is a failure of one of our most basic responsibilities”, said the Democratic caucus group’s fiscal co-chairmen, Reps. Ben McAdams (Utah) and Ed Case (Hawaii), in a joint statement.  They also said, “We cannot begin to bring down our national debt or have serious conversations about our spending priorities if we can’t even pass a budget”.

The Blue Dog caucus has called for a balanced budget amendment to rein in the federal debt.  President Trump is expected to announce a 2021 budget proposal in early February.  To date, the President’s proposals have all called for major cuts in nondefense spending and significant increases in military spending.

During January Rep. McAdams issued a separate news release wherein he said, “As I get back to work in Washington, a top priority will be urging both sides of the aisle to seriously confront our exploding national debt”.  He said, “My first fight in Congress — together with fellow Blue Dog Democrats — was to ensure that pay-as-you-go rules stay in place in the House.  This common-sense budget enforcement mechanism is a proven tool to help stop deficit increases”.  Read his release HERE.

+++

Trillion Dollar One-Year Deficit Surpassed – On January 13 the Wall Street Journal reported that the federal deficit totaled $1.02 trillion over the 12 months that ended in December 2019, an increase of 17.1%.

The article stated that “Federal spending … continued to outpace tax revenues: Outlays rose 7.5% to $4.5 trillion last year, compared with a 4.4% boost in 2018 that brought total federal spending to $4.2 trillion”.  The government collected revenue of $3.5 trillion during 2019.

The author, Kate Davidson, said “[A]nnual deficits are projected to more than double as a share of the economy over the coming decades, as a wave of retiring baby boomers pushes up federal spending on retirement and health-care benefits”.  Read Ms. Davidson’s report HERE.

Updated Article V Progress Report is Now Available –
Article V activist David Guldenschuh (an attorney in Georgia) has released his start-of-2020 Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report.  He notes “It was some ten years ago when Rob Natelson published his groundbreaking Article V research for the Goldwater Institute that the Article V movement was reborn”.

Guldenschuh observes that “The last half of the past decade saw the Article V movement peak, but the last two years have seen a plateauing of efforts.  We are now down to four major groups: the Center for State-led National Debt Solutions (CSNDS; the 501(c)(3) arm of the BBA Task Force); U.S. Term Limits; WolfPAC/Free & Fair Elections; and the Convention of States Project”.

He says “As the documentary “Unrepresented” points out, there are now many movements – right, left and center – to rein in the excesses of Washington, and many of them rest their hopes in the Article V movement”.  His new single-page Progress Report can be read HERE.

Ballotpedia Offers Important Service to Political Candidates –
Elections are an opportunity for voters to choose representatives who reflect their values and uphold their ideals. But to do that, voters need to know what the values and principles of their candidates and elected officials are. One of the most important parts of a campaign is making sure a candidate’s message reaches voters.

Ballotpedia, a website that covers elections, is beneficial in such messaging. Ballotpedia provides candidates and officeholders with a unique opportunity to complete a thoughtful questionnaire and reach tens of thousands of voters. Ballotpedia creates profiles on every state legislative candidate and officeholder nationwide. When a candidate fills out the questionnaire, those responses appear on the candidate’s profile, accessible to millions of readers and their specific constituents.

The Ballotpedia questions are not typical issue questions. Rather, they inspire personal and insightful responses about the candidate’s story, goals, and reasons for running. Within the questionnaire, there is also space to upload a photo and submit campaign-related links. The uniformity of the format makes it easy for voters to compare different candidates, and means those who complete the questionnaire stand out from those who don’t.

Ballotpedia reports that their profiles are often within the top three results on Google, so voters who search a candidate’s name might view Ballotpedia before anything else.

About 40 percent of the 114 million people who cast votes in 2018 visited Ballotpedia beforehand. In addition to appearing on the candidate’s profile, responses will also appear in the Ballotpedia sample ballot app launching in March.  In 2018, the on-site version of this tool received 4 million sample ballot lookups. Ballotpedia’s candidate information is also used by Amazon for Alexa search results, Twitter (for verification labels), and was used in 2018 for Facebook’s own sample ballot resource.

Completing the Ballotpedia profile is a critical component of any campaign.  Visit www.ballotpedia.org to learn more, and complete the questionnaire at www.ballotpedia.org/Survey.

More Parties or Direct Elections – You Can’t Have Both –
Some citizens bemoan the fact that in the US there are only two political parties that count.  Meanwhile many of those same folks clamber for direct elections for President.

On January 14 Jeff Rounder wrote a piece for the Houston Press explaining why direct elections would prevent the viability of an increase in political party options.  Read his views HERE.

ERA Still Believed to be Active and Now Fully Ratified –
As expected, on January 15 the Virginia General Assembly adopted an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratification measure, purportedly becoming the 38th state to do so.  Ignoring time limits and rescissions, ERA proponents believe that action by Virginia’s General Assembly will enshrine the ERA in the Constitution.

Congress initially proposed the amendment in 1972.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the ratification vote passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a vote of 59-41 and the Senate by a vote of 28-12.

“It’s probably true this is going to be resolved in the courts”, said Carl Tobias, a professor of Law at Richmond Virginia’s School of Law.  He cited some pending cases arguing both sides of the issue in federal court.  He believes the US Supreme Court may ultimately have to rule on the matter, a process that can take years.

Meanwhile, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said, “I am preparing to take any steps necessary to ensure that Virginia is recognized as the 38th ratifying state, that the will of Virginians is carried out, and that the ERA is added to our Constitution, as it should be”.  Read the WSJ report HERE.

On January 8 the Associated Press carried a report that the US Justice Department released its opinion (written by Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel) saying about the ERA ratification question: “Because three-fourths of the state legislatures did not ratify before the deadline that Congress imposed, the Equal Rights Amendment has failed of adoption and is no longer pending before the States”.  It went on to say “Accordingly, even if one or more state legislatures were to ratify the proposed amendment, it would not become part of the Constitution”.  Read the AP piece HERE.

Ranked-Choice Voting is Gaining Popularity –
On January 10, under the headline Can Ranked-Choice Voting Save American Democracy?, The New Yorker carried a piece by Isaac Chotiner.  The article reviews the new Lee Drutman book Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America.

Chotiner says Drutman believes America’s two-party structure has approached collapse.  “He believes it has increased partisanship by making everything a binary choice, and that partisanship has itself been worsened by the sorting of the parties into ideologically coherent entities rather than fluid coalitions”.

The New Yorker writer says “Drutman believes that some form of proportional representation with ranked-choice voting could lead to an increase in the number of viable parties, which would in turn reduce partisanship, and eventually gridlock and extremism”.  Read that story HERE.

For a quick review of what Ranked-Choice Voting is all about, check out the resources available HERE.  Maine currently uses Ranked-Choice Voting for some state and federal elections.  Some form of Ranked-Choice Voting is currently under consideration in several other states.

Citizen initiatives are driving the topic in two states:
Alaska:  During January a citizen petition with 41,068 signatures (28,501 signatures were required) was filed with the Alaska Secretary of State, calling for (among other election law changes) ranked-choice voting in certain elections.  Source: Ballotpedia.
Massachusetts:  HB4301 was introduced in January by initiative petition.  The MA legislature is also entertaining related bills: HB719 (65 sponsors), SB414 (30 sponsors), and SB420 (27 sponsors) all introduced in January 2019.

Related legislator-initiated bills in 16 other states: 
Legend – (shows number of sponsors), followed by the date originally introduced
Georgia:  SB98 (6) February 2019.
Hawaii:  HB1580 (5), SB450 (5), SB680 (5), SB956 (4) and HB718 (5) all five bills January 2019; SB427 (1) and HB210 (1) both bills March 2019; SB2006 (4) January 2019.
Illinois: SB2267 (4) October 2019.
Indiana:  SB370 (1) January 2020.
Maine:  HB1477 (2) May 2019.
Michigan: HB5282 (1) and HB5281 (1) both in December 2019.
Minnesota:  HB983 (22) May 2019; SB2424 (5) March 2019.
Missouri:  HB1436 (1) January 2020.
New Hampshire:  HB728 (6) January 2019.
New Jersey:  AB1200 (3) January 2020.
New York:  SB2717 (4), SB2517 (3), and SB1447 (1) all January 2019; AB7387 (1) April 2019; and AB8073 (1) May 2019.
Pennsylvania: SB894 (1) October 2019.
Vermont:  HB444 (6) February 2019; SB174 (3) April 2019; HB702 (9) January 2020.
Virginia:  SB892 (1), HB1103 (5), and HB360 (4) all introduced January 2020.
Washington:  SB5708 (7) and HB1722 (27) both introduced January 2019.
Wisconsin:  HB732 (16) January 2020.

States are Calling for a National Federalism Task Force –
Ken Ivory, a member of the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus Steering Committee and former Utah State Representative has submitted the following challenge to all US state legislators:

In 2005, I was elected chairman of a chamber of commerce that had lost its way. It had begun acting like community businesses existed to serve the chamber, instead of the chamber existing to serve them. The chamber had squandered a substantial financial reserve and membership was dwindling. The members knew for years that the chamber needed reformation. However, year after year, members kept waiting for the executive director, who was largely responsible for the chamber’s decline, to restore the vitality and mission of the organization. Only after the bank account hit zero did the board of directors assume their responsibility to restore the vitality of the organization, originally created to serve their needs and interests.

Our national government was created by the States to serve our citizens’ needs and interests. By all accounts, our federal government has lost its way. It’s acting much like the people and the states exist to serve the federal government, and not the other way around. Year after year, state leaders have been waiting for officials in DC to restore the vitality and mission of our national government. The literal and figurative national bank account is overdrawn. State legislators take office by constitutional oath (Article VI) to uphold and defend our “compound republic” system of government, created as “a double security to the rights of the people.” (Federalist 51).

Isn’t it time for the board of directors, the States, to assume responsibility to restore the vitality and structure of our unique system of government to more effectively serve the needs and interests of the American people?

Many state legislators are taking action. They are passing resolutions, and sending sign-on letters to NCSL, CSG and ALEC, calling for the creation of a bipartisan National Federalism Task Force to restore and maintain the limits, divisions and balance of governing powers engineered to efficiently and effectively serve the needs and interests of the American people at the most local level.

If you think it’s time to restore our efficient and effective system of government, please download the draft resolution HERE and take action in your state.

+++

The Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University can help with resources and support. For more information, please contact former Utah State Representative and UVU professor Ken Ivory at 801-694-8380 or kivory@uvu.edu.

Recommended Reads –

  • Huckabee and Walker make case for federal fiscal restraint in SC – On January 24 The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) reported on a visit to South Carolina by former governors Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee.  They were there to support adoption of one or more applications for an Article V convention of states being considered by the SC legislature.

Why focus on SC?  Huckabee said: It’s an important state because it has a history of being prudent.  Right now, you’re toward maybe a billion dollar-plus surplus because of good leadership and good management on the part of the governor and the legislature.  If you practice that at that level, why wouldn’t you want — insist — upon federal government doing the same thing?  And let’s be honest, every television camera in the world is going to be in South Carolina over the next several weeks, and so it’s a great opportunity to really expand the coverage and interest in the balanced budget amendment.”  Read the story HERE.

  • The Time Has Come – States Need to Step Up!  This is a brief essay by Frank Keeney, founder of The Act 2 Reforms, a non-partisan effort promoting the initiation of a convention of states to solve federal dysfunction and waste.

Keeney says that federal fiscal deficits can end in national insolvency.  He argues, “We are drifting, unintentionally, into a cul-de-sac of a dysfunctional government that wastes its resources on power-seeking, creeping corruption, and an unwillingness to engage in rational political discourse.  We have seemingly arrived at a dead end, and the republic is dying a slow but certain death.  But the Framers, who had great distrust of government, provided us a way out”.

This excellent essay underscores how the fifth Article of the US Constitution “enables the states to take the lead on reform by calling a convention of states to recommend amendments to the Constitution”.  Read Keeney’s essay HERE.

  • The Mayflower Compact and ‘Consent of the Governed’ is a commentary written by constitutional scholar Rob Natelson and published in late December by The Epoch Times.  The Compact is now 400 years old.

Natelson notes that the Mayflower Compact was the key founding agreement under which Plymouth Colony was established.  It was the second permanent settlement in what would become the original 13 states.  The signatories to that Agreement committed to establish laws by common consent, and then to obey them.

He says, “Although there were limited efforts in ancient Greece, self-government was perfected in America.  Perhaps more than any other institution, freedom and self-government have defined this country.  They continue to inspire and motivate people throughout the world”.  Read his illuminating overview of this 400-year-old document HERE.

  • Time to Leave a Truly Valuable Legacy for Freedom-Loving Americans is a commentary written by Paul S. Gardiner and published December 23 by The Patriot Post.

Gardiner uses his piece to challenge “state legislators, supported and funded by highly energized, patriotic citizens” to “ensure that the ultimate governing power and control over people’s lives firmly resides with We the People”.

He calls for “a new strategy for working with and helping state legislators unite in at least 34 states” to bring about a convention of states to propose constitutional amendments aimed at correcting the course of the federal government.  Read his views HERE.

  • Why Utah Has Become America’s Economic Star, by Stephen Moore, was published during December by the Wall Street Journal.  Moore says that from taxes to education to the business climate to liquidity of government pension plans, Utah has its house in order.  He says the state has earned the top rating for at least the last 12 years.

Moore and fellow economists Arthur Laffer and Jonathan Williams rate the Beehive State as having the best economic outlook of all 50 states.  Mr. Moore says “Many analysts have attributed Utah’s prosperity to favorable demographics.  But good economic policy leads to favorable demographics.  Roughly half of Utah’s population explosion has been due to net migration of almost 80,000 newcomers (mostly young) over the past decade from other states”.  Read his detailed report HERE.

What is an Article V Convention of States? –
In a January 16 posting at Op-Ed News.com, John DeHerrera made the following simple observation:

“Article V authorizes nothing more than a national town hall, a formal building of consensus, which does nothing more than bring together Americans from across a regionalized nation, to formally ask: where are we as a society and what might we agree to add to our high law based on what we know at this late date?  Once that convention adjourns, everyone from movie stars to dishwashers begin to discuss amendment language, knowing the 28th Amendment needs 75%+ approval to alter how we live now”.

A Final Thought to Consider –

“By working together, by sharing in a common effort,
men of different minds and tempers,
even if they do not reach agreement,
acquire understanding and thereby tolerance of their differences.”
 Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter
In a concurring opinion on an August 1958 Supreme Court decision
related to Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294.

 

sssss