William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Boy, do I feel like a dope.
I thought I was up on state issues, at least a little bit more than the average guy. But somewhere along the line I must have taken my eye off the ball, because I missed the debate over passage of one of the most significant new laws in state history.
There was discussion -- right?
New York State has entered a binding agreement to hand over its Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections, rather than to the winner of the state's popular vote as has always been the case. The bill passed through the State Senate and Assembly with nary a whisper, as far as I can tell.
New York has now joined with 10 other states in making this pledge. That may not sound like a lot, but those 11 states bring with them 165 of the 270 electoral votes needed to effectively abolish the Electoral College system created by our Founding Fathers. The pledges by the 11 states go into effect only after enough states have signed on to produce the 270 votes.
Advocates for a national popular vote are calling the victory in New York a major catalyst for other states to follow suit, and yet I cannot find a single New Yorker who had any idea this was going on.
When I heard the legislation was signed, I did what I always do when I don't know much about something. I Googled it. Turns out this stealth campaign -- or very poorly publicized one -- is the brainchild of a California PhD named John R. Koza who made a fortune in scratch off lottery tickets. He didn't actually win the lottery, he developed the muck that gets scratched off the paper cards.
Korza has a bugaboo about the Electoral College, as he is free to, so he created and funds National Popular Vote Inc. -- "a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation whose specific purpose is to study, analyze and educate the public regarding its proposal to implement a nationwide popular election of the President of the United States."
The good doctor makes some salient arguments for a popular vote, as do proponents for maintaining the current electoral system that has kept this nation in careful balance for 238 years. There's not enough time to go through them all, but I highly recommend a peek into the pros and cons on the issue, some of which are profound. My take-away after a day of research is that this is a dangerous enterprise that could marginalize small states and exacerbate nascent secession movements over time.
But it doesn't really matter what you and I think about this as New Yorkers, because the bill already has been signed, and just try getting a law repealed in this state. The time for debate has passed and I can't understand how a vote of this magnitude slipped through so surreptitiously. We just handed control of our electoral votes to a confederacy of states. That's a pretty big deal.
Sometimes I get the feeling that termites are eating at the underpinnings of our nation, silently and constantly. While the rest of us are busy with our lives, they gnaw. I can't quite put my finger on why, but my instincts tell me that National Popular Vote Inc. may have something to do with their plan.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.