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Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 06 March 2009 14:48

Officials Line Up for, Against National Popular Vote for President

In an unusual twist, top Iowa Democrats took opposing viewpoints this week on the National Popular Vote Compact, which would essentially do away with the Electoral College and base the outcome of the presidential election on the national popular vote.

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn held a press conference arguing against the proposal, saying it would take away Iowa's electoral votes and run counter to everything Iowans believe.

"Although we stand here today as Republicans in front of you, the issue we're here to address shouldn't be a partisan one, and that is keeping Iowa relevant in future presidential elections," Strawn said.

Iowa Secretary of State Michael A. Mauro, a Democrat and the state's top election official, then sent out a news release cautioning lawmakers about the National Popular Vote Compact, which he said could be detrimental to Iowa and the state's role in choosing the president of the United States.

"Our nation's current Electoral College system was created to protect less-populated states like Iowa to ensure we were included in the process," Mauro said. "As we know, Iowa plays a very important role not only in the nomination process but also during the general election. In the past 20 years, Iowa has been a battleground state in determining our president. There's a reason each party's nominee visited our state days before Election Day - because our state still mattered."

Governor Chet Culver also opposes any legislation that would require Iowa's Electoral College votes to be cast for the winner of the national popular vote, spokesperson Troy Price said.

"As the last three elections have shown, Iowa is now a battleground state, and, as such, the issues of Iowans are heard by the candidates of both parties," Price said. "If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state and the opportunity to ensure that the ideas that are important on Iowa's Main Streets remain important on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue."

But two top Iowa Democrats -- U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal -- said they backed the proposal.

"I support the popular-vote reforms because they will ensure that every Iowan's vote is counted in presidential elections," Gronstal said. "It is mystifying to me why anyone would cling to an antiquated, winner-take-all Electoral College system that allows a person to be elected to the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. ... I am confident that Iowa will retain its first-in-the-nation caucus status if we adopt the National Popular Vote Act."

Harkin said the Electoral College is outdated and should be eliminated. "I just don't buy that argument that somehow we'd become less important," Harkin said of Iowa. "I've long advocated we should just have straight election of the president, and then we wouldn't have these problems of where somebody gets more popular vote but they don't win the presidency."