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National popular vote splits Republicans, moves forward

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two of the leading bills for having Missouri join the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact have come from Republican legislators, but reports came out last week that an early draft of the Missouri state GOP party platform opposes the compact.

Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, both have bills that would put Missouri in the compact, and the both argue that the current voting system causes a litany of problems for the state from a lack of advertising and campaign expenditures in Missouri as well as the diminishing of the importance of Missouri in national elections.

Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan
Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan

Schatz has made it a point to learn as much about the topic as possible, attending conventions and educating himself on the benefits the compact would bring. He does not understand the reticence the party has regarding the issues.

“I’m not sure what their fear is,” he said. “No one from the Party has really engaged me and said, ‘Here’s what our concerns are, here are the issues we have to be concerned about.’ If that was the case I’d probably be able to comment a little further. Until that happens, I’m not sure what their greatest concerns are.”

Dugger is sponsoring this legislation for the first time this year, and he added that no one from the party had approached him either.

“I have not heard from the Party,” he said. “I was hoping to just have the debate on it this year and maybe move it a little farther than it has been moved in the past. I think we’ve already done that.”

Two legislators does not a party make, but it raises questions as to why the state party has an official position against the compact. Jonathan Prouty, the executive director of the Missouri GOP, sat in on the platform convention meetings in 2012, the first time the NPV compact entered the party platform. The party platform states they support “efforts to oppose the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which would eliminate the Electoral College.”

Prouty notes it takes a lot to change position on a platform position, especially a change as large as going from “yes to no” or vice versa on an issue as specific as this one.

“The nature of political parties and the nature of platforms is that they don’t change very much year to year so to make a significant change in a platform… you have to have broad consensus within the party,” he said, adding that this year the manner simply did not receive much attention in the early stages. “I was privy to the conversations the platform committee had., including on this issue. There was a very brief discussion on national popular vote, clearly among the platform committee there was no appetite to change that.”

Even if the platform committee wanted to change it, those alterations must go through a long process, including the state convention and the county caucuses. Delegates at those events can make amendments, vote on them and, if successful, offer them to the party platform committee, which then makes final decisions on the offered amendments.

That said, John Hancock, the chairman of the state Republican Party, notes that the party is not necessarily against the NPV compact and that there may well become part of the party’s future.

“The platform opposes it,” he specified. “I think there’s a genuine difference of opinion among a lot of Republicans on the issue. It’s a kind of issue where you can have very legitimate arguments on both sides.”