Connecticut advocates to deliver petition supporting National Popular Vote movement

NEW HAVEN — Advocates will submit a petition Tuesday with more than 2,000 signatures to the legislative leadership in Hartford urging Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

A House bill on the issue, co-sponsored by 78 lawmakers, was voted out of the Government Administration and Elections Committee in a 9 to 8 vote in late March.

Under the bill, Connecticut would agree to give all its electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

If adopted, it would join 10 other states and Washington, D.C. that have already agreed to give their electoral votes to the popular winner as the most accurate representation of the public’s will.

The pact would become effective once enough states join with a total of more than 270 electoral votes, which would be a majority of the ballots.

Alder Steve Winters, D-21, in New Haven has been one of the leaders of the movement in Connecticut and he will deliver the petition to state Senate Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

Winters testified in Hartford that the Connecticut Constitution gives the legislature alone power over the appointment of electors.

He said other states have used this power in a variety of ways, including Massachusetts, which adopted 11 different methods of choosing electors since 1789.

He said there is precedent in other states where electors have cast a vote for the candidate who did not get a plurality or majority of votes in their state.

James Glassman, a Republican and former Connecticut resident who served as a State Department official in the administration of George W. Bush, has been campaigning around the country in favor of the National Popular Vote as a board member of Making Every Vote Count.

The interest in recognizing the popular vote comes from having two recent elections where the presidential winners came up short in the national popular vote.

They were George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Glassman, in an interview with the New Haven Register Editorial Board, said he personally became concerned about three years ago that more and more Americans were “alienated from the political system and I think from the electoral system. That’s not good for democracy.”

He said he feels the idea of throwing every state’s electoral votes to the popular winner is something that can be accomplished.

Glassman said he believes a change in the system will lead to “more civic engagement, better policy and better political decisions.”

He said under the current system, three-quarters of the states, including Connecticut, are essentially “spectator states” because they are ignored by the candidates.

In 2016, of the 399 events at which a presidential candidate appeared before the public, Connecticut had one visit. He said that is more than it normally has or that the majority of the states have.

“Presidential elections are decided in 12 states and they are known by the candidates a year in advance,” he said. “We determine our president by the vote in those states.”

Only one of them is small — New Hampshire — which belies the notion that the current system is helpful to small states, Glassman said. “It’s a myth.”

He said based on numerous surveys, the majority of Americans feel the popular vote is a better way to elect a president.

A poll was conducted by Claster Consulting in January of 1,202 Connecticut voters aged 18 and over who voted in November 2016 and are likely to vote this November.

A total of 78 percent of Connecticut voters agreed that the candidate with the most votes nationwide votes should be the president.

This included 92 percent of Democrats; 62 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Glassman was asked whether residents would balk at having their electoral votes given to a candidate not supported by Connecticut voters.

He said for every state going forward, if all of them can contribute to the total, it will behoove candidates to campaign everywhere, while there is no incentive now.

Glassman said it is the kind of issue that “in your gut” you understand “a legitimate president is somebody who gets elected by most people. That is how we elect everybody.”

He said we have had five elections out of 45 in the U.S. where the winner did not receive the plurality of the popular vote. The fact that two of the most recent fall into that category he felt was “a dangerous thing for democracy.”

Glassman said it is even more dangerous now where there was some meddling in the last election by a foreign power. “It is a lot easier to meddle in an election that is determined by 12 states,” he said, rather than by 130 million people.

State Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, a major supporter of the movement, said there is more interest in the electoral change this year than ever before.

“To me this isn’t about re-litigating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is just common sense,” Lesser said. “I think it undercuts the legitimacy of a presidency that doesn’t have a democratic mandate.”

In addition to the 78 sitting lawmakers, a number of the gubernatorial and constitutional office candidates have come out in support of the popular vote movement.

For governor they include: Democrats Ned Lamont, Lee Whitnum, Jonathan Harris and Susan Bysiewicz; for treasurer, Dita Bhargava, Arunan Arulampalam and Shawn Wooden; for attorney general, state Rep. William Tong, Chris Mattei, Clare Kindall and John Blankley and Denise Merrill for secretary of the state.