National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact is designed to ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes is elected president, and it will come into effect only when it will guarantee that outcome. As of March 2017, it has been adopted by ten states and the District of Columbia. Together, they have 165 electoral votes, which is 30.7% of the total Electoral College and 61.1% of the votes needed to give the compact legal force.
Proposed in the form of an interstate compact, the agreement would go into effect among the participating states in the compact only after they collectively represent an absolute majority of votes (currently at least 270) in the Electoral College. In the next presidential election after adoption by the requisite number of states, the participating states would award all of their electoral votes to presidential electors associated with the candidate who wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a result, the winner of the national popular vote would always win the presidency by always securing a majority of votes in the Electoral College. Until the compact’s conditions are met, all states award electoral votes in their current manner.
The compact would modify the way participating states implement Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires each state legislature to define a method to appoint its electors to vote in the Electoral College. The Constitution does not mandate any particular legislative scheme for selecting electors, and instead vests state legislatures with the exclusive power to choose how to allocate its own electors. States have chosen various methods of allocation over the years, with regular changes in the nation’s early decades. Today, all but two states (Maine and Nebraska) award all their electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes statewide.
Because of current state laws, presidential candidates have lost the popular vote nationally but still won the presidency. Public opinion surveys suggest that a majority of Americans support the idea of a popular vote for President. A 2007 poll found that 72% favored replacing the Electoral College with a direct election, including 78% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans, and 73% of independent voters. Gallup polls dating back to 1944 have shown a consistent majority of the public supporting a direct vote; however, support decreased significantly in their 2016 poll, conducted a few weeks after the 2016 election, when they found support for the popular vote at 49%, an all-time low, with 47% wanting to keep the Electoral College. Reasons behind the compact include:
- The Electoral College allows a candidate to win the Presidency while losing the popular vote, as happened in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016. In the 2000 election, the outcome was decided by a margin of 537 votes in Florida, despite a 543,895 margin in the other direction nationally.
- The Electoral College system effectively forces candidates to focus disproportionately on a small percentage of pivotal swing states, while sidelining the rest. A study by FairVote reported that the 2004 candidates devoted three quarters of their peak season campaign resources to just five states, while the other 45 states received very little attention. The report also stated that 18 states received no candidate visits and no TV advertising. This means that swing state issues receive more attention, while issues important to other states are largely ignored.
- The Electoral College system tends to decrease voter turnout in states without close races. Voters living outside the swing states have a greater certainty of which candidate is likely to win their state. This knowledge of the probable outcome decreases their incentive to vote. A report by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate found that 2004 voter turnout in competitive swing states grew by 6.3% from the previous presidential election, compared to an increase of only 3.8% in noncompetitive states. A report by The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that turnout among eligible voters under age 30 was 64.4% in the 10 closest battleground states and only 47.6% in the rest of the country—a 17% gap.
In 2006, John Koza, a computer science professor at Stanford, was the lead author of Every Vote Equal, a book that makes a detailed case for his plan for an interstate compact to establish National Popular Vote. (Koza had previously had exposure to interstate compacts from his work with state lottery commissions after inventing the scratch-off lottery ticket.) That year, Koza, Barry Fadem and others formed National Popular Vote, a non-profit group to promote the legislation. The group has a transpartisan advisory committee including former US Senators Jake Garn, Birch Bayh, and David Durenberger, and former Representatives John Anderson, John Buchanan, and Tom Campbell.
By the time of the group’s opening news conference in February 2006, the proposed interstate compact had been introduced in the Illinois legislature. With backing from National Popular Vote, the NPVIC legislation was introduced in five additional state legislatures in the 2006 session. It passed in the Colorado Senate and in both houses of the California legislature before being vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
|1||Maryland||10||April 10, 2007|
|2||New Jersey||14||January 13, 2008|
|3||Illinois||20||April 7, 2008|
|4||Hawaii||4||May 1, 2008|
|5||Washington||12||April 28, 2009|
|6||Massachusetts||11||August 4, 2010|
|7||District of Columbia||3||December 7, 2010|
|8||Vermont||3||April 22, 2011|
|9||California||55||August 8, 2011|
|10||Rhode Island||4||July 12, 2013|
|11||New York||29||April 15, 2014|
|Total||165 (61.1% of the 270 EV needed)|