Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

02/23/2012 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHJR 33(STA) Out of Committee
         HR  10-OPPOSE NAT'L POPULAR VOTE FOR PRESIDENT                                                                     
9:04:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  last order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
RESOLUTION NO. 10, Supporting the  Electoral College and opposing                                                               
the  Agreement  Among  the  States  to  Elect  the  President  by                                                               
National Popular Vote interstate compact.                                                                                       
9:04:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER, as  sponsor, introduced  HR 10  and noted                                                               
that there  were a number of  people on line waiting  to testify.                                                               
He opined that the current electoral  voting system is fair if it                                                               
is the states that  are voting, but not fair if  it is the people                                                               
that are voting.   He said this is an issue  of democracy, and he                                                               
talked about  the balance between  the sovereignty of  the states                                                               
and the  sovereignty of the  federal government.  He  opined that                                                               
with its small population, Alaska would  lose power if it were to                                                               
change to a National Popular Vote (NPV).                                                                                        
9:08:10 AM                                                                                                                    
ERNEST  PRAX,  Staff,  Representative Wes  Keller,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, presented HR 10 on  behalf of Representative Keller,                                                               
sponsor.   He stated  that the intent  of HR 10  is to  voice the                                                               
concern of the Alaska House  of Representatives that an NPV would                                                               
conflict with  the U.S. Constitution and  founding Federalist and                                                               
Republican  principles  and   would  unlikely  increase  Alaska's                                                               
influence in deciding future presidential  elections.  He relayed                                                               
that there are multiple,  practical, and constitutional conflicts                                                               
related to the proposed National  Popular Vote Interstate Compact                                                               
(NPVIC),  and  said  HR  10 would  reaffirm  that  the  Electoral                                                               
College "remains  the most prudent  and proper means  of electing                                                               
the  President of  the United  States."   He  clarified that  the                                                               
NPVIC proposes to replace the  Electoral College system of voting                                                               
based on  the combined  will of  the states  with a  system using                                                               
popular vote.                                                                                                                   
MR.  PRAX  stated  that  the most  common  argument  against  the                                                               
current  Electoral College  system of  voting is  that it  is not                                                               
based on the idea  of every vote being equal and  can result in a                                                               
President  being elected,  despite losing  the popular  vote, the                                                               
most recent example being the 2000 General Election.                                                                            
MR.  PRAX  listed  the  shortcomings  inherent  in  the  proposed                                                               
compact:  First,  he said, Alaska could lose up  to 55 percent of                                                               
its  electoral influence.   Second,  he indicated,  the political                                                               
motives of the  states that have thus far ratified  the compact -                                                               
on the  East and West Coasts  - differ from Alaska's.   Third, he                                                               
said, the compact is unlikely  to change the "supposed problem of                                                               
battleground stakes," and there likely  will not be "attention by                                                               
Presidential  candidates focused  on  safe  states like  Alaska."                                                               
Fourth, he  relayed, the compact  is "likely to shift  focus away                                                               
from  the current  system, where  candidates are  incentivized to                                                               
establish broad geographic coalitions  of support" and "shift the                                                               
attention  towards densely  populated  areas"  - particularly  in                                                               
areas where the candidate may have a "strong showing."                                                                          
9:12:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PRAX  admitted that  the Electoral College  is not  a perfect                                                               
system.  He  quoted Alexander Hamilton as  saying, "The Electoral                                                               
College, if  not perfect, is  at least  excellent."  He  said the                                                               
proposed  compact is  "an  idea  that works  well  in a  bubble";                                                               
however, it  has many shortcomings  such that it will  likely not                                                               
"work as  advertised."   He stated  that the  compact incorrectly                                                               
assumes  that  American people  speak  with  a unified  political                                                               
voice,  and  it  depends  on   too  many  variables  to  function                                                               
properly.    Mr.  Prax  concluded,  "Just  because  electing  the                                                               
President  of the  United States  by popular  vote may  ... look,                                                               
feel, or sound good, it  does not necessarily therefore mean that                                                               
it is good."                                                                                                                    
9:14:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON said  Article 2,  Section 1,  of the  U.S.                                                               
Constitution gives states the authority  to award their electoral                                                               
votes  as determined  by the  legislatures of  those states.   He                                                               
asked  Mr.  Prax  if  he  is  disputing  that  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature  has the  right and  responsibility to  determine the                                                               
basis of the allocation of its Electoral College votes.                                                                         
MR. PRAX urged Representative Seaton  to look beyond "that single                                                               
section  of  the Constitution"  to  the  intent of  the  Founding                                                               
Fathers  and question  whether  "that  proposed action"  complies                                                               
with "the spirit of the rest  of the Constitution."  He indicated                                                               
that there  is a PowerPoint  presentation, which contains  a more                                                               
comprehensive answer to that question.                                                                                          
9:17:36 AM                                                                                                                    
TARA  ROSS, Author,  Enlightened  Democracy:   The  Case For  The                                                             
Electoral College, testified  on behalf of herself  in support of                                                             
HR  10.   She  said it  is important  to  remember that  although                                                               
Alaska  is large  in size,  it has  three electoral  votes and  a                                                               
population of  722,000, while the  population of the U.S.  is 311                                                               
million.   She said it  is difficult for  Presidential candidates                                                               
to  travel  to Alaska,  given  its  distance  from the  Lower  48                                                               
states.   She  said Alaska  needs the  protection offered  by the                                                               
Electoral   College.     She  said   during  the   Constitutional                                                               
Convention, the Founding  Fathers focused not only  on giving the                                                               
people of the  nation a means by which to  govern themselves, but                                                               
also on protecting minority interests  and the interests of small                                                               
states from "the  tyranny of unreasonable majorities."   She said                                                               
a pure democracy, in which 51  percent of the people can rule the                                                               
other 49 percent, would not  accomplish this objective.  Ms. Ross                                                               
said  the   Founding  Fathers  combined  the   best  elements  of                                                               
democracy, republicanism,  and federalism.  Because  of this, the                                                               
U.S. has a system that  incorporates protections, such as the one                                                               
state/one  vote  of  the  Senate,   Presidential  veto,  and  the                                                               
Electoral College.                                                                                                              
MS.  ROSS  stated that  the  NPV  organization has  been  telling                                                               
Alaskans  that a  direct  national election  would:   bring  more                                                               
attention  to Alaska,  because every  vote would  be equal;  give                                                               
Alaska  the  same  legal  weight  as  California;  and  encourage                                                               
Presidential candidates to  "flock to the state in  droves."  She                                                               
said  this information  is wrong.   She  admitted perhaps  Alaska                                                               
currently does  not receive the  same attention as  other states,                                                               
but  posited  that  it  does  not  follow  that  eliminating  the                                                               
Electoral College will improve the  situation.  She said the U.S.                                                               
Census shows  the population of  California is 37.7  million, and                                                               
California has 55 electoral votes.   She said California has more                                                               
than 52  times the population  of Alaska,  but only 18  times the                                                               
number of  electoral votes.   She highlighted the  populations of                                                               
the two states to emphasize the effect of an NPV.                                                                               
9:22:10 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ROSS  mentioned  other legal  and  Constitutional  problems,                                                               
which she said  she does not have time to  address presently, but                                                               
she offered  her understanding that  the committee should  have a                                                               
white paper she submitted.                                                                                                      
9:23:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  remarked that the Presidential  race is                                                               
different from other races because  of the Unit Rule, which means                                                               
that the President is not elected by the people, but by states.                                                                 
MS. ROSS said that  is right, but said she thinks  that is a good                                                               
thing.    She  reiterated  that   the  Electoral  College  offers                                                               
democracy within  federalism.  She  proffered that  the Electoral                                                               
College  system  ensures  that Presidential  candidates  have  to                                                               
"broaden  their  base of  appeal,"  rather  than simply  focusing                                                               
their campaigns  on heavily populated  areas; they must  focus on                                                               
achieving  "simultaneous   victory  in  multiple  parts   of  the                                                               
country."   She opined  that [the Electoral  College] is  a great                                                               
system that has worked out well.                                                                                                
9:25:31 AM                                                                                                                    
TRENT  ENGLAND, Vice  President  of  Policy, Freedom  Foundation,                                                               
related  that  he  directed  a   state  project,  which  he  then                                                               
convinced the Freedom Foundation to  adopt.  He stated his belief                                                               
that the  Electoral College is  an important institution  in this                                                               
country.   He said this  debate is  about how the  country elects                                                               
the person  who is  the leader of  the free world.   He  said the                                                               
U.S. has  a republic, which is  a system of government  that uses                                                               
representation and has legal processes  and structures built into                                                               
it  to   provide  the  stability   and  moderation   that  direct                                                               
democratic systems  have never been  able to achieve.   There are                                                               
provisions in the U.S. Constitution  that explicitly do not allow                                                               
the majority to have its way.                                                                                                   
9:28:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. ENGLAND  talked about  federalism being  a unique  quality of                                                               
the U.S., and proffered that the  U.S. Senate is the most obvious                                                               
example of  how federalism is  built into the  U.S. Constitution.                                                               
He said if  four states changed who they sent  as their Senators,                                                               
it  would change  the current  make-up of  the U.S.  Senate.   He                                                               
opined  that  the U.S.  Senate  is  less  "fair," from  a  purely                                                               
democratic  view,  than  is "the  Electoral  College  that  we're                                                               
talking about today."  Nevertheless,  he said he thinks Alaskans,                                                               
more than any other state,  understand the importance of the U.S.                                                               
Senate, and he said he hopes [Alaskans] support HR 10.                                                                          
MR.  ENGLAND  said  individual   disputes  are  contained  within                                                               
states, and he mentioned there  was a significant dispute in some                                                               
states  in 1876.    [Due  to poor  audio  quality,  much of  this                                                               
portion is indiscernible.]  He  offered further details regarding                                                               
the 1867 election.                                                                                                              
9:33:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  ENGLAND  concluded that  the  Electoral  College, while  not                                                               
always making everyone  happy, is "a brilliant  system that works                                                               
differently  but  almost  certainly   better  than  the  American                                                               
founders thought it would."  He  said much of the reason for that                                                               
is that  it respects the  uses of  states as states  and provides                                                               
moderation and stability in the federal republic.                                                                               
9:34:21 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN   SAMPLES,  Ph.D.,   Director,  Center   for  Representative                                                               
Government,  Cato  Institute,  ventured  that  state  legislators                                                               
would like  to know  whether their state  would benefit  under an                                                               
NPV, and related that he answered  that question in a 2008 policy                                                               
analysis.   He said  the outcome  of his  analysis shows  that in                                                               
general, small states "lose power  mathematically" under a system                                                               
of direct voting, which  is what the NPV is.   He said that large                                                               
states tend to do well under an NPV system.                                                                                     
DR. SAMPLES said the NPV is based  on the idea that there will be                                                               
more  attention  to  Alaska;  however, a  leading  study  in  The                                                             
America  Economic Review,  based on  data from  1948-2000, states                                                             
that  Alaska  will  lose  about  half  its  votes  and  get  less                                                               
attention  from  Presidential candidates  if  it  moves from  the                                                               
Electoral College Vote to the NPV.                                                                                              
9:37:12 AM                                                                                                                    
LAURA BROD said she is a  former legislator from Minnesota who is                                                               
testifying   on  behalf   of  the   NPV  organization   based  in                                                               
California.   She opined  that the legislature  has been  given a                                                               
"false  choice."   She  explained  that it  is  not an  either/or                                                               
choice; the legislature  does not have to choose  whether to keep                                                               
the Electoral  College or go to  an NPV.  She  explained that the                                                               
NPV  currently  before  the  U.S.   Senate  does  not  touch  the                                                               
Electoral  College, she  said.    She said  she  agrees that  the                                                               
Electoral College is  an important part of the  foundation of the                                                               
U.S, and she emphasized, "The  National Popular Vote bill doesn't                                                               
address that  or touch it and  run around it, repeal  it, replace                                                               
it, or any other thing.  It doesn't  mess with it one bit.  If it                                                               
did, ...  I would  not be  here before ...  the committee."   She                                                               
opined that  how the country  elects its President is  big issue,                                                               
which is  why the  NPV organization's complaint  is not  with the                                                               
Electoral College, but with winner-take-all  rules that are in 48                                                               
out of the 50 states and ignoring Alaska.                                                                                       
MS. BROD said  previous testifiers have used simple  math to warn                                                               
that under  the NPV Alaska  would lose about half  its influence.                                                               
She said her  response is:  "zero times zero  still equals zero."                                                               
She  said Presidential  candidates focus  all their  attention on                                                               
the battleground  states; 35 states  are ignored.  She  said that                                                               
builds coalitions  in certain  states at  the expense  of others.                                                               
She said it  is not just about the money  or attention, but about                                                               
the issues, such  as the Arctic National  Wildlife Refuge (ANWR),                                                               
base closures, land management, and oil and gas.                                                                                
MS. BROD said  an NPV would expand the coalitions  in the country                                                               
and expand the  influence of Alaskans by  "making candidates care                                                               
about what ... the people you represent think."                                                                                 
9:40:37 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. BROD  said Article  2, Section 1,  of the  U.S. Constitution,                                                               
gave  state legislatures  the authority  to "award  your electors                                                               
however you see  fit in the best interest of  the people that you                                                               
represent."  She relayed that  she has spoken with many Alaskans,                                                               
and  she offered  her understanding  that they  truly want  their                                                               
vote to  matter, want  candidates to talk  about the  issues they                                                               
care about, and do not  want the Presidential election decided by                                                               
4:00 p.m. on  the day of the  election.  She said  this issue has                                                               
been studied in  committees throughout the country  and she urged                                                               
further time  be devoted to its  discussion.  In response  to the                                                               
chair,  she  said  she  would  be  happy  to  return  for  future                                                               
discussions on the issue.                                                                                                       
9:41:31 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  expressed  appreciation  for  Ms.  Brod's                                                               
MS. BROD,  in response to  Representative Keller,  explained that                                                               
there are  two entities promoting  the NPV:  one  is incorporated                                                               
in  Florida and  is called,  "Support Popular  Vote"; the  other,                                                               
which she represents, is incorporated in California.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  said he  takes  exception  to Ms.  Brod's                                                               
statement that  the NPV would  not affect the  Electoral College.                                                               
He said, "The  effect of the National Popular Vote  is to go from                                                               
a  popular vote  that is  determined  state by  state across  the                                                               
whole U.S. to a popular vote  that is national.  That changes the                                                               
fundamental intent of the founders for the Electoral College."                                                                  
[HR 10 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HR 10.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
02 HR 10 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
03 HR10 The American Presidency and the Electoral College.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
06 CSHJR 33 Version I.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
07 HJR 33 Memo from Gara to Committee 02.17.12.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
08 HJR 33 LEG HSTA Zero Fiscal Note 2-8-12.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
09 HJR 33 Letter of Support - Move to Support.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
10 Public Testimony Veh_HJR33_HSTA_021412.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
05 HR 10 Cato Institute--Critique of the National Popular Vote.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
06 HR 10 Heritage Paper on NPV.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
07 HR 10 Debunk the myth.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
08 HR 10 Tara Ross--Legal Implications of NPV.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HR 10
01 HJR 33 Version B.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
02 HJR 33 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
03 HJR 33 Center for Responsive Politics article.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
04 HJR 33 Backup articles.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33
05 ARTICLE The hard truth about Citizens United.pdf HSTA 2/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
HJR 33