Incoming House Speaker wants Arizona to adopt National Popular Vote protocol

PHOENIX -- If incoming state House Speaker J.D. Mesnard had his way, it likely would be Hillary Clinton preparing a transition today, not Donald Trump.

It’s not that the Chandler Republican likes Clinton more than his own party’s nominee, for whom he voted It’s just that Mesnard thinks that whoever wins the popular vote should be the president.

And this year it’s Clinton.

This is more than just Mesnard ruminating. In fact, he pushed a measure through the House earlier this year with bipartisan support which would have Arizona join with other states to make it so. It was only because Senate President Andy Biggs -- now headed to Congress -- would not give it a hearing that the measure did not advance more.

Whether he might have better luck this year with fellow Chandler Republican Steve Yarbrough now in charge of the Senate remains an open question.

“I know president-elect Yarbrough to be a thoughtful man,’’ Mesnard said this weekend.

Mesnard stressed he is not proposing to scrap the Electoral College, where each state gets votes equivalent to the members of the House and Senate, with the winner needing at least half of the 538 votes. That would require a constitutional amendment.

Instead, Mesnard wants Arizona to enter into deals with other states. Once there are states on board with at least 270 electoral votes, each would legally require its electors to cast their votes for whoever wins the national popular votes, regardless of who won the tally in that state.

Put simply, had the system been in place this year, it would not matter that more Arizonans supported Trump than Clinton. Its electors would have to vote for Clinton.

The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds: National Popular Vote, the organization pushing the plan, reports lawmakers in 11 states with 165 electoral votes have already passed the measure.

Mesnard’s complaint with the current system is it can make Arizona irrelevant.

Arizona did get a fair share of attention from both candidates this year as it appeared at one time the state might actually be in play. But this year has proven the exception to what Mesnard has seen before.

“What happens is we get ignored,’’ Mesnard said in pushing the legislation earlier this year, with Arizona a “flyover state’’ as presidential hopeful cater to voters in places like Ohio and Florida.

This year, for example, while Arizona did get 10 visits from presidential and vice presidential contenders, National Popular Vote says Ohio got 48, Pennsylvania got 54, North Carolina got 55 and Florida got 71.

Mesnard said it’s irrelevant that the change would sometimes benefit Democrats. He said future elections could just as easily go the other way.

“The point is what’s good for Arizona,’’ he said

That also was the assessment of political consultant Patrick Rosenstiel testified earlier this year for Mesnard’s bill.

He said in 2012 presidential candidates from both parties spent more than $175 million in Florida; in-state spending in Arizona was a paltry $40,350. And Rosentiel said once a president bets elected, the issues in those battleground states are likely to get more attention than elsewhere.

Mesnard said it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that Clinton would be headed to the White House had the popular vote system been in place.

“How many Republicans stayed home in California?’’ he asked, knowing that the largely blue state was going to give its 55 electoral votes to Clinton. Perhaps if they had turned out, Trump might have won the popular vote.

The move has its detractors.

“It’s a direct attack on our republic and will lead us down the path to what is known as direct democracy, that is, direct government ruled by the majority, often referred to as rob rule,’’ Arizona Republican Robert Hathorne testified when Mesnard’s bill came up for debate earlier this year.

Former state Rep. Barbara Blewster urged lawmakers to preserve the electoral system so that residents of states voted for electors, people who were more learned on the isues of the day. Then those electors would go to Washington and decide who would make the best president.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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