League advocacy begins with members selecting, studying and seeking consensus on issues which are of public concern. When consensus is achieved, the League has a position. The League uses its positions to advocate for policies, legislation and ballot measures which it believes would best serve the public interest and against proposals which are in conflict with those goals.
On January 10, the League sent a letter to Vice President Biden urging him to propose common sense solutions to the gun violence plaguing our nation. The League advocates for measures that will ban assault weapons, place limits on magazine size, close the gun show loophole and mandate annual reporting on gun violence in America.
To read the letter, click here.
Statement of Position on Gun Control, as Adopted by 1990 Convention and amended by the 1994 and 1998 Conventions:
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States is a major health and safety threat to its citizens.
The League supports strong federal measures to limit the accessibility and regulate the ownership of these weapons by private citizens.
The League supports regulating firearms for consumer safety.
The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background check, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal.
The license fee should be adequate to bear the cost of education and verification.
The League supports a ban on "Saturday night specials," enforcement of strict penalties for the improper possession of and crimes committed with handguns and assault weapons, and allocation of resources to better regulate and monitor gun dealers.
(1) The 1990 Convention took the then rare step of adopting the gun control position by concurrence. Proponents had sent two informational mailings to all Leagues before Convention. Spirited debate on the Convention floor persuaded the Convention to concur with the statement proposed by the LWV of Illinois.
(2) 1990-1991 LWVUS wrote to all members of Congress, announcing the League's new position on gun control and urging passage of federal legislation to control the proliferation of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States and supported legislation banning semi-automatic assault weapons.
(3) Brady Bill. In 1992 and 1993, the League supported congressional passage of the Brady bill, to institute a five-day waiting period and background check for the purchase of handguns.
(4) Assault Weapons Ban. Following enactment of the Brady bill in November 1993, the League stepped up its efforts in a successful 1994 House campaign to force inclusion of the assault weapons ban in the final conference report on omnibus crime legislation.
(5) Supreme Court Cases. Addressing constitutional arguments affecting gun control, the 1994 Convention voted to amend the position on gun control based on federal court decisions limiting the meaning of the Second Amendment's "right to keep and bear arms." This section of the position was nullified by the Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008 and McDonald v. Chicago, 2010.
(6) Push Back. Throughout 1995-1996, opponents of the assault weapons ban and Brady bill pushed for repeal, but the League and others convinced Congress otherwise.
(7) Consumer Safety. The 1998 Convention again amended the position with: "The League supports regulating firearms for consumer safety."
(8) Million Mom March. The LWVUS endorsed and League members joined the Mother's Day 2000 Million Mom March that demonstrated citizens' call for common-sense gun control measures.
(9) Push Back - Again. In 2004, the League voiced strong concern over the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which would grant special protection for the gun industry by barring city, county or individual lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dismiss pending cases
(10) Extend Assault Weapons Ban. The League supported legislation to extend the Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in September 2004. The LWVUS also supported language to close the Gun Show Loophole to require all dealers to run criminal background checks at gun shows.
(11) District of Columbia. In the 2000s, the League opposed congressional attempts to repeal District of Columbia gun safety laws because such action interfered with the right of self-government for DC citizens.
Thirteen members took part in LWV Wilmette's Pension Reform Consensus Meeting. The group listened to and evaluated detailed pension reform information to attempt consensus on the questions provided by the State League committee. Gail Thomason served as facilitator, and Dorothy Speidel was recorder. The study committee was composed of Nancy Canafax, Donna Doberstein, Georgia Gebhardt, Susan Morrison, Anne Treadway, Lali Watt, and Leslie Weyhrich.
After the study group presented the information and answered numerous questions, members attempted to come to consensus on the eighteen questions developed by the State Pension Reform Committee. Consensus was reached on 14 questions; there was no consensus on 4 questions.
Following the meeting, Dorothy Speidel and Georgia Gebhardt assimilated the final results, forwarded them to the Wilmette Board for approval (via email) and then submitted them to the State Committee Chair. The State committee examined results from all participating local leagues and then submitted a report to the Illinois LWV State Board, which issued a position. This State position was presented after nearly 1 ½ years of study by first the State Committee and then by local leagues.
Trudy Gibbs attended the informative and issue oriented meeting. The following report included these topics:
The League's History
A League study of the presidential electoral process culminated in its 1970 position supporting direct election of the President by popular vote as an essential element of representative government. The League also has supported national voting qualifications and procedures for presidential elections to ensure equity for voters from all states and to facilitate the electoral process.
At the 2002 Convention, the League voted to expand and update its position. The League came to concurrence on a new position in June 2004. The new position takes into account the entire presidential selection process and supports a process that produces the best possible candidates, informed voters and optimum voter participation. At the 2008 Convention, the delegates voted to adopt a new study, "The Advisability of Using the National Popular Vote Compact among the States as a Method for Electing thePresident."
The League's Position
Statement of Position on Selection of the President, as Announced by the National Board, January 1970, Revised March 1982 and Updated June 2004:
The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the direct-popularvote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government. The League of Women Voters believes, therefore, that the Electoral College should be abolished. The League also supports uniform voting qualifications and procedures for presidential elections. The League supports changes in the presidential election system + from the candidate selection process to the general election. We support efforts to provide voters with sufficient information about candidates and their positions, public policy issues and the selection process itself. The League supports action to ensure that the media, political parties, candidates, and all levels of government achieve these goals and provide that information.
Explanation of the Position
The League strongly believes that the Electoral College should be abolished and not merely "reformed." One "reform" which the League specifically rejects is the voting by electors based on proportional representation in lieu of the present "winner-takes-all" method. Such a system would apportion the electoral votes of a state based on the popular vote in that state. Instead of making the Electoral College more representative, such proportional voting would increase the chance that no candidate would receive a majority in the Electoral College, thereby sending the election of the President to the House of Representatives where each state, regardless of population, would receive only one vote. Election of the President by the House further removes the decision from the people and is contrary to the "one person, one vote" principle. The League also does not support reform of the Electoral College on a state-by-state basis because the League believes there should be uniformity across the nation in the systems used to elect the President.
The Electoral College - A Review
Although the LWVUS has specifically adopted a position calling for the abolition of the Electoral College, a short review of the mechanics of that system of Selection of the President is helpful to an understanding of the National Popular Vote Compact. The Electoral College is a process established by the founding fathers as a compromise between election of the President by Congress and election by popular vote. In short, the people of the United States vote for electors who then vote for the President and Vice President.
Each state is entitled to a number of presidential electors equal to its total representation in the House and Senate. The District of Columbia is awarded a number of electors equal to that of the least populous state.
The founding fathers designed this constitutional plan to promote several principles they considered important. One goal was to ensure that smaller states had a role in the election of the President. Secondly, the emphasis on the power of the state as contrasted to the power of the individual voter fostered the principles of federalism which are the core of the governmental process. Finally, the use of electors rather than popular vote assuaged concerns that the electorate was not competent or knowledgeable enough to be entrusted with the direct election of important government officials, such as the President and Vice President.
The electors are selected, according to the Constitution, in the "manner" designated by the state's "legislature" (the Congress in the case of the District). At present, the "manner" chosen by every state is by popular election. Most of the states (and the District of Columbia) use a winner-take-all system, in which the candidate who receives a majority of the vote, or a plurality of the popular vote (less than 50 percent but more than any other candidate) takes all of the State's electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district wins an elector, and the remaining two electors are chosen based on the statewide vote.
On Election Day, the voters cast their ballots for electors, even though the names of the candidates for President and Vice President are often the names shown on the ballot. Each state's electors meet forty days after Election Day, and the formal balloting for president takes place at those meetings.
Many different proposals to alter the presidential election process by amending the Constitution, including direct nation-wide election by the people, have been offered over the years. None have been passed by Congress and sent to the States for ratification. Under the most common method for amending the Constitution, an amendment must be proposed by a twothirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states.
The Movement against the Electoral College
The most compelling argument against the Electoral College is that it prevents the direct election of the President by popular vote and is, therefore, contrary to modern principles of representative government. Studies show that more than 70 percent of American citizens favor the election of the President by popular vote.
Beyond this basic theoretical objection is the very practical objection that the Electoral College system enables candidates who have not received the most votes cast by American voters to become President.
We have seen such an outcome four times in our history. The first time was the 1824 election which was won by John Q. Adams even though he received fewer electoral votes and fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. (Adams won the election in the House of Representatives, with 13 State delegations voting for him, seven voting for Jackson and three voting for Crawford. This happened because there were more than two viable candidates, and would have been a less likely outcome in a two candidate race.)
In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel J. Tilden by one electoral vote, becoming President despite trailing in the popular vote by a count of 4,288,546 to 4,034,311. In 1888, Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland with an electoral vote of 233 to 168, despite Cleveland's popular vote margin of 5,534,488 to 5,443,892. Most recently, in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush received fewer popular votes than Albert Gore, Jr., but received a majority of electoral votes. The situation was almost reversed in 2004. Although President Bush received more than three million more popular votes than John Kerry, Kerry would have been elected President if Ohio's electoral votes had been cast in his favor.
These circumstances have prompted much discussion on the advisability and feasibility of reforming our election process to eliminate the Electoral College and to elect the President by direct election. This conversation is not new. Over the past 200 years, according to the National Archives, more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. Indeed, several joint resolutions were introduced in the current Congress on this issue. The proposals, all introduced in the House of Representatives, were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, where no action has been taken.
Against this background comes the National Popular Vote Compact Proposal (NPV).
The National Popular Vote Compact Proposal
The National Popular Vote Compact proposal offers a method of achieving the result of election of the President by popular vote without amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College. Instead, this method uses the mechanism of the Electoral College to ensure that the candidate who receives the most popular votes is elected President of the United States. Under the proposed legislation to enact the National Popular Vote Compact, all of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
The NPV Compact proposal is predicated upon the portion of the United States Constitution which states: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..." (Article II, Section 1, Clause 2) (emphasis added)
The constitutional wording, "as the Legislature thereof may direct," contains no restriction on the states' exercise of their power with respect to their electors. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." Therefore, the states have the right to decide how to select their electors and award their electoral votes. Thus, proponents of the NPV Compact claim that the U.S. Constitution need not be changed in order to implement nationwide NPV. Rather, they maintain, this change can be accomplished in the same way that the current system evolved--namely, the states will use their exclusive and plenary power to decide the manner of awarding their electoral votes.
An additional constitutional underpinning of the NPV is the Compact Clause (Article I, Section 10, Clause 3), which permits states to enter into legally enforceable contractual obligations to undertake agreed joint action with other states. Interstate compacts are typically used to address problems that concern more than one state--the states which are affected enter into a compact (contract) which regulates their actions, ensuring uniform response by the states to address their mutual concerns. These contracts are typically enacted through the passage of identical legislation by the compacting states.
Under the state legislation proposed to establish the NPV, the popular vote counts from all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be added together to obtain a national grand total for each presidential candidate. Then, state elections officials in all states participating in the plan would award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the largest number of popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The NPV Compact plan would take effect only when it has been enacted by states collectively possessing a majority of the electoral votes. The 270-vote threshold also corresponds essentially to states representing a majority of the people of the United States. As a result, every vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be equally important in presidential elections.
The compact contains a six-month blackout period during which no state can withdraw from the compact. The blackout period starts on July 20 of each presidential election year and runs through the January 20 inauguration. Interstate compacts are contracts. It is settled compact law and settled constitutional law that withdrawal restrictions--very common in interstate compacts--are enforceable because the U.S. Constitution prohibits a state from impairing any obligation of contract.
The legislation contains other procedural provisions that would ensure the smooth functioning of the agreement. For example, one clause addresses the possibility of a tie in the national popular vote. If there is no national popular vote winner, each state chooses the electors for the candidate who has won that state.
Another clause addresses circumstances in which the winner of the national popular vote might be prevented from receiving the electoral votes from a member state. For example, it is possible that the winner of the national popular vote fails to appear as a candidate in a particular state and, therefore, there are no appropriate electors for the state to certify. To address that situation and five other situations identified by the drafters of the legislation as possible anomalies in the process they have developed, a mechanism is provided whereby the desired result is obtained by allowing the presidential candidate who has received the largest number of votes in the national election to select the electors in the state in which no electors associated with the winning slate have been elected. The full text of the compact is available at http://www.lwv.org.
Current Status of the National Popular Vote Compact
Since passage of the National Popular Vote Compact is accomplished on a state-by-state basis, its status is fluid. As of September 1, 2008, the legislation necessary to activate the compact has been signed into law in four states: Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois, for a total of 50 of the 270 electoral votes required to activate the NPV Compact. NPV Compact bills have been introduced in 15 other states, where some have passed committee and others have passed one house. *Portions of this background paper are from the LWVUS Impact on Issues, 2006-2008
For more information see LWVUS: Resources on National Popular Vote Compact
The League believes that the role of the federal government should include the following:
Based on our position on equal rights the League supports: Broad guidelines for accountability, leaving implementation to the state and local education agencies;
The federal government has the responsibility to monitor and support access to the following:
The League believes that the federal government should support the following:
Submitted by Lali Watt.
LWV Position on Education,
Based on our position on equal rights the League supports:
The federal government has the responsibility to monitor and support access to the following: