Progressive Graffiti contributor, Real Representation, presents a powerful argument for the
National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Updated: December 16, 2020
Editor’s Note: Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election with 307 electoral votes and surpassed Donald Trump by nearly 7 million popular votes. Yet the loser of the race jangled the nerves of Americans, for at least a month following the General Election, with plots that involved “faithless” College Electors and/or state legislators who could selectively re-create elector slates. Americans must block an undemocratic, malleable Electoral College, and we have the power to do it. Say “hello” to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is a vital step toward a stronger American democracy. The NPVIC is designed to ensure that the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide is elected president, without the need to amend the Constitution.
The Problem of Unpopular Presidents
There’s a problem when unpopular candidates win an election. For instance, five sitting Presidents have lost the popular vote, two of them in this century.
- 1824: John Quincy Adams
- 1876: Rutherford B. Hayes
- 1888: Benjamin Harrison
- 2000: George W. Bush
- 2016: Donald Trump
It may happen more frequently, from now on. Some political pundits predict that no Republican President will ever win the popular vote again. It could have easily happened again, in 2020, which was a fairly close election.
Electors Elect the President, Not the Voters
Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 through 4, of the U.S. Constitution prescribe how the President is elected. “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” The District of Columbia, as of 1961, is also granted electors. As if it were a state, thanks to the 23rd Amendment, D.C. is currently represented by three electors.
When we vote for President, we are really voting for a slate of electors from our state to be chosen by our candidate’s party.
Determining the Number of Electors Per State
The Formula for Determining the Number of Electors Per State (No. of Representatives + 2 Senators) is grossly undemocratic. States with large populations are under-represented in the Electoral College. To illustrate, let’s compare California with Wyoming.
- California: Population 39,747,267 – each Senator represents 19,873,633 people
- Wyoming: Population 572,381 – each Senator represents 286,190 people
- California: 53 congressional districts – each Representative represents about 749,948 people
- Wyoming: one congressional district – one Representative represents 572,381 people
Votes by electors from different states are unequal.
But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part of our Electoral College system is winner-take-all. All the states, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, have a “winner-take-all” system in which the candidate with the most votes in the state gets all the electoral votes. If a candidate can eek out a narrow win in a few closely divided states, he can win the presidency while losing the popular vote. The 2016 election is the perfect example. Just 4 states made the difference for Trump. These same four states were also predicted to make the difference in 2020.
In 2016, Donald Trump won with a total of 304 electoral votes. Only 270 electoral votes are needed to win. Trump won four states with a margin of 1.2 percent, or less. Hillary Clinton lost with 227 electoral votes, yet she won the nationwide popular vote by 2,868,686 votes.
Clinton only needed 43 more electoral votes, out of 75:
What Are the Solutions?
Are there solutions to prevent a candidate, who wins the popular vote, from losing the election? Yes. There are two.
The first solution is to amend the Constitution, which would provide for direct election of the President by the voters on a nationwide basis. However, there is a problem. It’s hard as hell to amend the Constitution.
An amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the states. The process may be lengthy. For instance, the 27th Amendment took 202 years to ratify, and it took 14 years to repeal Prohibition. The process may also be partisan. Indeed, in our hyper-partisan political climate, it’s prudent to note that (barring results of the Georgia Senate runoff race on January 5, 2021) Republicans currently control more than half of the U.S. Senate and 29 of the 50 state legislatures.
The second solution is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). It’s main benefit? No constitutional amendment is necessary. The Electoral College remains, but is used to achieve the same result as direct election of the President. There is one big challenge, though. We need to get enough states, to comprise at least 270 electoral votes, in order to activate the NPVIC .
What is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact?
What, exactly, is the NPVIC? The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among participating states, and the District of Columbia. They agree to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote (from all 50 states and the District of Columbia).
The legal basis for NPVIC is in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution, which directs each state to appoint its electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” For smooth logistics, there are conditions to meet.
NPVIC will go into effect only when enough states, and the District of Columbia, have joined the agreement in order to comprise the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a President. Until the compact’s conditions are met, all states award electoral votes in their current manner. Meanwhile, the compact mandates a July 20th deadline every presidential election year, in order to determine whether the agreement goes into effect for that particular election. A participating state may withdraw from the compact, as long as it does so before the deadline.
15 States and D.C. Have Enacted the NPVIC
15 States, plus the District of Columbia, have already enacted the NPVIC:
|State||Date Adopted||Electoral Votes|
|Maryland||April 10, 2007||10|
|New Jersey||January 13, 2008||14|
|Illinois||April 7, 2008||20|
|Hawaii||May 1, 2008||4|
|Washington||April 28, 2009||12|
|Massachusetts||August 4, 2010||11|
|District of Columbia||December 7, 2010||3|
|Vermont||April 22, 2011||3|
|California||August 8, 2011||55|
|Rhode Island||July 12, 2013||4|
|New York||April 15, 2014||29|
|Connecticut||May 24, 2018||7|
|Colorado||March 15, 2019||9|
|Delaware||March 28, 2019||3|
|New Mexico||April 3, 2019||5|
|Oregon||June 12, 2019||7|
|Percent of needed 270 EVs||72.60%|
Several states took favorable action toward the NPVIC in 2020:
|Maine||4||2019–20||Passed 77–69||Insisted 21–14||Failed|
|Minnesota||10||2019–20||Passed 73–58||Not voted||Failed|
|New Hampshire||4||2019–20||In committee||—||Pending|
|South Carolina||9||2019–20||In committee||—||Pending|
|Virginia||13||2020–21||Passed 51–46||Postponed until 2021||Pending|
Several more states attempted some action on NPVIC in 2020, without any progress:
|Florida||29||2020||Died in committee||Died in committee||Failed|
|Georgia||16||2019-20||—||Died in committee||Failed|
|Kansas||6||2019-20||—||Died in committee||Failed|
|Mississippi||6||2020||Died in committee||—||Failed|
|Missouri||10||2020||Died in committee||—||Failed|
|North Carolina||15||2019-2020||—||Died in committee||Faled|
|West Virginia||5||2020||Died in committee||—||Failed|
|Wisconsin||10||2019-20||Died in committee||Died in committee||Failed|
The Biggest Myth About the Electoral College
The biggest myth about the Electoral College is that it somehow helps the small states. However, the small states (13 states with only three or four electoral votes) are the most disadvantaged and ignored group of states under the current system. Political power in presidential elections comes from being one of the few closely divided battleground states with a significant number of electoral votes. None of the small states meet those criteria. The “small state” story has survived, but not the context in which it originated.
Counting Slaves as 3/5 People
Counting slaves as people is how the Electoral College originally helped small states. Slave states were the “small” states, with small numbers of white people, but large numbers of black people. Slave states wanted their slaves to count as people for apportionment purposes. In 1787, slave states argued for a much larger number of votes in the House of Representatives, than if only white people were counted. The Three-Fifths Compromise was the result of this dispute. Since the number of electors for a state is the sum of 2 (number of senators) + the number of representatives, slave states also gained a much larger number of Electoral College votes under the Three-Fifths Compromise. Slave states thereby held a huge advantage in choosing the President.
Today, with no slaves to count as people, the Electoral College offers no significant help to amplify the political power of small states. The Electoral College is merely an anachronism, and a legacy of slavery.
Every Vote Should Be Equal
Every vote in America should be equal. Whether you choose to live in Vermont, or in Texas, your vote should be equal to every other vote in the United States. That’s the essence of democracy.
And if every vote were equal, so-called “battleground states” would no longer dominate every presidential election cycle. Presidential candidates would have more reason to campaign in all 50 states — and, hopefully, get to know the entire country better.
How to Outsmart an Electoral College
What can you do to help outsmart an old, obsolete Electoral College?
First, the National Popular Vote website makes it easy for you to exert an immediate impact. It’ll help you send your state legislators a quick email that asks them to support the proposed National Popular Vote bill.
Then, you might consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. The National Popular Vote website highlights specific NPVIC points that can be included in your letter. Since Trump’s 2020 machinations to influence the Electoral College, it’s particularly important to alert local newspaper readers to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which provides an effective solution to protect presidential elections and our democracy. (Change always begins at the local grassroots level.)
The National Popular Vote website is filled with pertinent information, including answers to the many myths about the Electoral College. Take a look-see. View the following video, too. Share these resources and talk about the NPVIC with your friends.
We have the power to block an undemocratic, obsolete Electoral College.
The NPVIC Fight Continues
December 16, 2020
Single-term President Donald Trump created national chaos by refusing to accept the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Over 56 Trump-supporting lawsuits challenged President Elect Joe Biden’s win. Most of the legal cases were dismissed for lack of standing or lack of evidence.
Trump’s non-concession strategy also targeted state Republican lawmakers, in an effort to persuade them to nullify and replace state electors with pro-Trump electors. Worried such a tactic might be possible, Americans experienced a growing awareness that the Electoral College does more to protect partisan politics than democracy.
As a result, more people are talking about reforming or abolishing the Electoral College. John Koze, chair of National Popular Vote, appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Thanks for reading this report. Please share “Progressive Graffiti” articles, that you particularly appreciate, with your friends and social networks. When you share quality information, from the Left point of view, it helps to advance the Progressive Justice Movement.