On my Tuesday TV show, I’ll air a segment with Bay Area lawyer Barry Fadem. He heads up an outfit called National Popular Vote.
NPV wants states to pass laws bypassing the Electoral College in presidential elections so that no matter who wins on the state level, the candidate prevailing in the national popular vote gets the support of local electors. So, if Barack Obama won Nevada but John McCain prevailed in the national popular vote, all five Nevada electors would have been bound by law to vote for McCain or go to jail.
NPV’s principal bankroller is John Koza, Ph.D., a computer science prof who teaches genetic programming at Stanford University. His greatest claim to fame came in a decidedly low-tech enterprise. He invented the scratch-off lottery ticket and now wants to scratch the current election system for an even bigger crapshoot. Five states have already passed the measure (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington).
Mssrs. Fadem and Koza seem to be relying on the hangover from 2000 and it’s working. Apparently, NPV strikes Democrats as payback, just like presidential term limits were GOP revenge for Franklin Roosevelt winning four in a row.
AB 413 has already passed the Nevada Assembly on a straight party line vote (27 D’s in favor with one absent, 14 R’s against) and will be heard by the Nevada State Senate Committee on Operations and Elections on May 7. A poll taken by National Popular Vote shows about three in four Nevadans in favor of the idea.
As the old saying warns, be careful what you wish for — you just might get it. I discussed this idea with a longtime Nevada labor leader who noted that it could spawn recounts and court challenges in little hamlets across the nation as future Karl Roves look for ways to reverse elections. Imagine the currently hung up Minnesota senate race multiplied a thousand times. Who would run the country if the presidency were tied up in court for a couple of years? Clarence Thomas?
Fadem says that under this plan, currently ignored states both big (like California) and small (like Wyoming) will get equal attention and people will know that all votes count for a change.
Ridiculous. This will merely further enrich television and radio stations and starve precinct politics. Candidates would likely shift personal appearances and campaign dollars from swing states to major population centers and still leave Wyoming in the dust.
Mr. Fadem says he has purchased TV schedules in the past, but seems unclear on the concept. In general, a thousand voters in Podunk or Peoria cost about the same to reach on TV as a thousand voters in Los Angeles. The difference in spot prices comes because a commercial in L.A. reaches many more thousands. If you must reach all voters equally, TV is the greatest (and cheapest) equalizer.
Mr. Fadem asserts that candidates would have to pay attention to myriad local issues if they had to campaign everywhere at once. No. They would run national TV spots on big general themes. The net result would be far less discussion of issues specific to states and regions. The cure would be worse than the disease.
I told Mr. Fadem that none of this matters until voters can be convinced that they are getting an honest count. Republican voter suppression tactics in Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004) brought voter cynicism to new heights. Assemblymember Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, introduced a measure, now dead, to go back to old-fashioned paper ballots in reaction to the burgeoning expertise of computer hackers to crack always-vulnerable vote counting systems. Dr. Koza should use his vaunted computer expertise to fix that one first.
Mr. Fadem told me his group does not get involved with other issues and bristled when I likened that attitude to similar single-interest groups, like the anti-abortion movement, which refuses to discuss contraception for fear of alienating some Catholics. Fadem insists that more people will vote if they know their votes will count under this process. With the exception of the Dubya-spawned debacles, the facts are otherwise. I think all this just invites another 5-4 election decided by sexy Clarence, bigoted Nino Scalia and their black-robed soul brothers.
“This will make small-population states, like Nevada, meaningless in the presidential election,” says Ira Hansen’s sister, Janine.
Ira, tell your sibling if she wants to do my show Tuesday, please call me.
The taped segment with Mr. Fadem will be cablecast in my Tuesday time slot, 4 to 5 p.m. on Carson cable channels 10 and 26, with live streaming and on-demand reruns available via Barbwire.TV. The show will also rebroadcast in Sparks-Reno and other markets statewide. Former university regent Howard Rosenberg will be my guest and take your phone calls on Thursday, same time, same stations, new phone number: 882-TALK.
Kudos to Catholic advocates
Catholic Relief Services is promoting World Fair Trade Day on Saturday, May 9. “Hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. and in over 80 countries will promote fair trade and campaign for trade justice together with farmers and artisans around the world,” according to a statement. Looks like we’re getting close to a return to power of the once-militant Jesuit order and liberation theology. Awright! For more info, go to crsfairtrade.org
Liberation theology, local level
The fourth quarterly commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be held on Saturday, May 16, from 1 to 7:30 p.m. inside the First United Methodist Church at First and West streets in downtown Reno. Rev. John Auer is preparing a spectacular finale in honor of the man who inspired him to enter the ministry. For more information, call 322-4564 or go to renofirstmethodist.org.
The Reno-Sparks NAACP will host its 64th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet on June 13 at the Atlantis Hotel-Casino in Reno. Rev. Auer was one of the honorees last year. For ticket and sponsorship information, go to RenoSparksNAACP.org or call 772-4432.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, member of Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, political action chair and webmaster of NAACP Reno-Sparks Branch 1112, producer of the César Chávez celebration and editor of NevadaLabor.com. As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail email@example.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.