The Oklahoma State Senate recently passed Senate Bill 906, a measure which proposes to change the way the state’s seven electoral votes are awarded in the outcome of presidential elections. If S.B. 906 is enacted, Oklahoma’s electoral votes will be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who wins the popular vote in the state of Oklahoma.
My own senator, Mike Mazzei (R-District 25), joined with 15 other Republicans and all 12 Democrats to pass S.B. 906.
Several senators who voted in favor of this measure have since reviewed the implications of the legislation and publicly recanted, urging the Oklahoma House to take up the measure and defeat it. Wondering if Sen. Mazzei would follow suit, many of my fellow District 25 constituents reached out to him for an explanation of his vote; one of them kindly shared with me Sen. Mazzei’s response, which could best be summarized in hashtag form:
Sen. Mazzei’s explanation (which you can read in its entirety below) is more a catalog of excuses than a serious case for support of S.B. 906. More troubling, his explanation is built on factual errors and a very poor understanding of both Constitutional history and our electoral system.
I’m planning a full deconstruction of Sen. Mazzei’s rationale for S.B. 906 — not because I have one iota of influence in political matters, but merely because it is instructive to examine how conservative voters are being fooled by buzzword merchants who mouth all the right talking points even as they lack the most basic understanding of Federalism. All conservatives need to be fluent in history, if for no other reason than being able to catch out these kind of charlatans when they run for office.
And I’m working on it. Slowly. So in lieu of the main course, I offer an amuse-bouche.
Sen. Mazzei’s primary case for S.B. 906 appears to be that its passage will offer Oklahoma a greater prominence in national elections:
Currently over 66% of the money and time for presidential campaign is spent in battleground states like Ohio and Florida. Oklahoma never enjoys presidential candidate visits and receives minimal media attention… Oklahoma voters don’t have much of a say in the presidential election process and our conservative values and policy preferences are fairly ignored. Rather, the issues and policy preferences in battleground states receive undue attention and preference.
Which I find a little too… Alex Forrest of us.
Ohio, you might watch to check on your pet rabbit…
The idea that Oklahoma is somehow the red-headed stepchild — or frizzy-haired, psychotic former lover as played by Glenn Close — of national politics may be satisfying in its kitchen-cabinet populism, but it is not supported by empirical fact.
Quite the contrary.
In both of the last two presidential elections, Oklahoma has been visited by multiple major candidates. Based on a quick search of archived news reports, these visits included, at minimum:
Now, I’m not an accountant, but that looks like quite a few major Republican candidates for both of the last two presidential election cycles to me. And Oklahoma is ignored during presidential elections?
On the PolitiCrap scale, I’m gonna give that:
And another thing. (Maybe it’s the hangover from our recent eighteen-month-long-mayoral-election-cycle-from-hell talking here, but…)
Do we need more political advertising over the Oklahoma airwaves? Is there a deficient number of sleazy politicians prancing around our cities? Do we really want extra “attention” from the national media?
I’ve always considered minimal political advertising, absentee national candidates and a dearth of intrusive media outlets features of living in flyover country, not bugs. We’ve got entirely too many beggars and thieves mucking up this place as it is.
I enjoy being able to drop by a coffee shop during election season without seeing a CNN truck and a nosy press corps out front. I don’t want politicians kissing my babies or shaking my hand or cornering me at the State Fair or taking up the good seats at my favorite bar. I don’t want to see their faces or hear their voices every time I open up a newspaper, turn on the TV, browse the internet, or check Facebook and have to deal with them in my neighborhood, too.
More importantly, a perceived “inattention” from presidential candidates does not in any way abridge my right to participate in the political process by casting a ballot for the candidate of my choice.
That’s what S.B. 906 is attempting to do.
Ironic, isn’t it?
My preferences aside, plenty of GOP presidential candidates have stopped in over the last two election cycles. They fly in, rattle a few sabres, raise a few bucks, get in some face time and fly out again. No, candidates don’t visit during the general election, and no, we don’t get many pilgrimages from Democrats. (I’ll say it again: a feature, not a bug.)
But, based on his statements, I have to ask: is it Republican Sen. Mike Mazzei’s desire is to change that? Does he want an Oklahoma that is “competitive” in a national elections? Is he willing to barter Oklahoma’s solid-red status in exchange for lucrative political advertising, a media microscope and the predations of Democrat presidential candidates?
Because if he does, S.B. 906 is a step in the
right left direction.
Here is Sen. Mazzei’s emailed response on the passage of S.B. 906, as sent to another of his constituents.
…Regarding SB906 and a national popular vote – I have wrestled with this issue for several years contemplating what is best for the conservative voters of Oklahoma. I spent a considerable amount of time analyzing and considering the advantages and disadvantages of SB906. I was mostly concerned about any attempt to change our US Constitutional system by which the Electoral College actually chooses the President of the United States.
As I learned more about SB906, I realized that it is consistent with the principles of our Founders and does not deviate from the intentions of the U S Constitution to have the various states actually elect our President. In Article 2 Section 1, the Constitution empowers the individual states to determine how electors are chosen for the Electoral College. The legislature then as representatives of the people is empowered to determine how electors are chosen. In the past, the Oklahoma legislature provided in Statute that the winner of the Oklahoma popular vote would receive all the electors for our state. This is known as the “winner takes all” approach.
SB906 proposes that Oklahoma award it’s electors to the Presidential nominee who wins the popular vote. There are many advantages for Oklahoma voters to compact with other states in a national popular vote system. Since the compact would only initiate if enough states combine for 270 electoral votes, Oklahoma voters would now become relevant to the presidential election process. Currently over 66% of the money and time for presidential campaign is spent in battleground states like Ohio and Florida. Oklahoma never enjoys presidential candidate visits and receives minimal media attention. In reality therefore, Oklahoma voters don’t have much of a say in the presidential election process and our conservative values and policy preferences are fairly ignored. Rather, the issues and policy preferences in battleground states receive undue attention and preference. As a result, Oklahoma’s turnout is a dismal 48% of conservative Republicans for a presidential election whereas voter turnout in battleground states is generally 70%.
I have come to believe after much thought and consideration that a shift towards a national popular vote system would create much more activity and attention in Oklahoma by presidential candidates. The Republican nominee would pursue a different type of strategy focused on accumulating as many conservative votes in Oklahoma, the heartland and across the nation. In this manner, an Oklahomans vote would actually count whereas now we are basically disenfranchised in the presidential election process.
This could be incredibly important and beneficial in electing a conservative president who will take our values and ideas to Washington DC. Unfortunately, under the current system our voice is pretty much ignored and we have a giant mess in our nation’s capital. It’s time for a change and I believe this change is not only constitutional but important for the direction of our nation.
Thank you again for contacting us on these very important matters.
Senator Mike Mazzei