To the Editor:
Legislation has again this year been introduced in the General Assembly (as it has for the past several years, without success) to allow Rhode Island to join a National Popular Vote compact. The thrust of the legislation is to commit Rhode Island’s presidential electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.
I am opposed to this legislation because, while I appreciate the sincerity of its proponents, I believe it is bad for Rhode Island on a number of levels.
A national popular vote compact of a number of states that would be needed to affect an electoral college outcome would ensure that big states and big money would be the likely winners and that Rhode Island’s voice would go from small to obscure and insignificant.
The legislation also proposes to give our state’s electoral votes not necessarily to the presidential candidates of our residents’ choice but to the candidate who wins a majority of votes across the nation. This potentially ignores the will of a majority of Rhode Island voters, in deference to voters nationwide. As an example, I believe it can be anticipated that a majority of Rhode Islanders will vote for President Obama, yet if Republican Mitt Romney were to win a majority of votes in all the compact states, Rhode Island would be obliged to commit its electoral ballots to Mr. Romney.
There are other likely negative impacts of this proposed “compact” of states. Major population centers would become even more important in the race for president, while towns and rural areas could be largely ignored. If this occurs, the cost of campaigns would increase significantly, giving well-funded campaigns, and those super-PACs, more influence in the already cash-saturated presidential campaign process.
If the promoters of this proposal truly believe it to be a great idea, they should submit this idea as a constitutional amendment, instead of exploiting a loophole in constitutional law and trying to affect voting change through state legislatures.
James C. Sheehan
Senator – District 36
Narragansett, North Kingstown