By Guy Page
Congressman Peter Welch wants to eliminate the electoral college and select the U.S. president by national popular vote, he said on a Vermont Public Radio debate with GOP challenger Marian Berry on Thursday, October 1.
Simple arithmetic suggests Vermont under the electoral college has more influence on presidential elections. At present Vermont has three of the 538 total electoral votes, or one in every 179. As of 2018, Vermont had an estimated 481,000 registered voters, compared to 153 million nationwide, or about one in every 318. Vermont in 2018 had 624,358 residents, compared to 327 million in the United States, or one in every 524.
Welch explained his preference not in terms of how Vermont would be affected, but by how it would benefit the United States as a whole.
“We are having a significant challenge with ancient institutions getting in the way of democracy being the decider,” Welch, an incumbent first elected in 2006, said. Noting that President Trump won the presidency but lost the popular vote, Welch said that “the minority is in control and under President Trump is attempting to suppress majority rights.The electoral college is one manifestation of how things are upside down….I would support the direct popular elections of our president.”
Moderator Bob Kinzel asked, “Do you think it would hurt small states?”
No I don’t,” Welch replied. “I think it would help America.” Welch did not comment further on the Vermont impact, and instead discussed gridlock and political dysfunction in Washington, D.C.
Berry, from Essex Junction, reminded Welch that the United States is not a popular democracy but a “constitutional republic…the founders set up the electoral college to give the smaller states a voice.”
Attempts to contact Welch’s office for clarification and expansion on his views have been unsuccessful. Vermont Daily will publish in full any response received. A former Vermont state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Congress in 2006 suggested Welch is selling out Vermont.
“It is quite something to see an elected politician sell out his state … and then get reelected,” Mark Shepard (formerly state senator from Bennington County) commented on the Vermont Daily Facebook page yesterday. “If Peter got his wish, Vermonters would have no say in presidential elections and no candidate would waste his or her time coming to Vermont.”
Vermont is one of states to join the National Popular Vote state compact, begun by a supporter of 2000 candidate Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the election. S31 passed in a 2011 legislative vote decided largely upon party lines, and was signed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Vermont joins Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and several others state.
According to the National Popular Vote website, “The National Popular Vote bill will take effect when enacted into law by states possessing 270 electoral votes (a majority of the 538 electoral votes). As of July 2020, it has been enacted into law in 16 jurisdictions possessing 196 electoral votes, including 4 small states (DE, HI, RI, VT), 8 medium-sized states (CO, CT, MD, MA, NJ, NM, OR, WA), 3 big states (CA, IL, NY), and the District of Columbia.”
Candidates differ on Roe V. Wade – Kinzel also asked each candidate if Roe V. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, should be overturned. “Yes I would like to see it overturned, to have it [abortion policy] returned to the states.” Berry, a registered nurse, said. “Abortion should be treated like any other medical procedure.” For example, orally-induced abortions should take place in a hospital “because terrible things could happen.” All abortion providers should first be required to have hospital admitting privileges, “so that if something goes wrong you can protect that woman.”
“And when a child survives an abortion, we need to take care of that child,” she added.
Welch disagreed on the grounds that women should have control over their own bodies. “It would be really a disaster, a catastrophe, if Roe V. Wade were overturned,” Welch said.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.