The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The bill is a constitutionally conservative, state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.
The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by 16 jurisdictions possessing 196 electoral votes, including 5 small jurisdictions (DC, DE, HI, RI, VT), 8 medium-sized states (CO, CT, MD, MA, NJ, NM, OR, WA), and 3 big states (CA, IL, NY). The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 74 more electoral votes. The bill has passed at least one chamber in 8 additional states with 75 more electoral votes (AR, AZ, ME, MI, MN, NC, NV, OK). A total of 3,408 state legislators from all 50 states have endorsed it.
The shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from “winner-take-all” laws that have been enacted by state legislatures in 48 states. These laws award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each state.
Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. In 2012, as shown on the map, all of the 253 general-election campaign events were in just 12 states, and two-thirds were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were completely ignored.
Here’s a map of US with state sizes based on the number of campaign events in 2012. This is how the candidates view the relevant voters (and their issues). Notice that 38 states are missing altogether:
Similarly, in 2016, almost all campaign events (94%) were in the 12 states where Trump’s support was between 43% and 51%. Two-thirds of the events (273 of 399) were in just 6 states (OH, FL, VA, NC, PA, MI).
This is how the US map looks with state sizes based on the number of campaign events in 2016 (missing states received no campaign events):
State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.
Also, because of state winner-take-all statutes, five of our 45 Presidents have come into office without having won the most popular votes nationwide. The 2000 and 2016 elections are the most recent examples of elections in which a second-place candidate won the White House. Near-misses are also common under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes. A shift of 59,393 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of over 3,000,000 votes.
The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is state law. It is not in the U.S. Constitution. The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789, and all three repealed it by 1800. It was not until the 11th presidential election (1828) that even half the states used winner-take-all laws.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). At that time, every voter in the country will acquire a direct vote for a group of at least 270 presidential electors supporting their choice for President. All of this group of 270+ presidential electors will be supporters of the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC—thus making that candidate President.
In contrast, under the current system, a voter has a direct voice in electing only the small number of presidential electors to which their state is entitled. Under NPV, every voter directly elects 270+ electors.
Click here for a detailed explanation of each sentence in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Bill. You can also see the results of our 2017 survey of Florida registered voters’ attitudes about the electoral college.