Popular Vote Support

Think the Electoral College will always favor Republicans? Think again

This article makes the very strong case that demographic shifts may lead to a “purple” or “blue” Texas in the very near future, making it extremely difficult for Republicans to win in the Electoral College as it exists today. Though some Republicans may oppose reforming the presidential selection system because they believe it confers a benefit to their party, the article urges them to rethink that position:

“[Republicans] warn that without the Electoral College, a few big cities would dominate the process, at the expense of rural areas and states. What they ignore is that 1) the 10 biggest cities have only 8% of the U.S. population and 2) urbanites don’t all vote the same way.

Trump got nearly 4.9 million votes in California and 2.8 million in New York — many of them in small towns and rural counties — but under the Electoral College, those votes meant nothing. Someday, the same may be true for the millions of conservatives in Texas.

Democrats take the peculiar view that each citizen’s vote should carry the same weight. They also contend that the candidate who gets the most votes from actual people should win — which happens to be how races for virtually every other office in the country are decided.

If Republicans want to salvage their future, they would be wise to join with Democrats now in pushing to elect presidents by popular vote. Because once Democrats have the upper hand in the Electoral College, they may just decide to keep it.”

Though it is understandable that both parties view the system—and any proposed reforms, particularly the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact—through the lens of the advantages they perceive to their own party, it is clear that all Americans would benefit from having their votes count equally in deciding who becomes the president.



Battle in Colorado

A sign that the national popular vote movement threatens to succeed is this well-funded Republican effort to repeal Colorado's adoption of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. 

The goal for the Republicans is simple: maintain the possibility of obtaining the presidency while having most Americans vote against their nominee. This is called minority rule. It is utterly inconsistent with the Constitution which was specifically designed to have a majority pick the president—a majority of electors, state delegations, or Senators, as the situation required. This original intent has been twisted over time to be a mechanism by which voters in a consortium of states dominated by one party, plus pluralities in five or fewer swing states, choose the president, even while most Americans vote for someone else.

Some Republicans believe their party and the country would be better off if their party did not depend on the archaic and otiose electoral system to produce a Republican chief executive. They are being overcome by the party professionals and big donors who believe Donald Trump represents the sort of nominee the party will continue to produce, like it or not, and that therefore their nominee cannot win the national popular vote. These people generally favor keeping the country on the carbon platform that is burning up the world, maintaining the current levels of income and wealth allocation, and the current tax policies. They may not support the immigration or trade policies of the administration but they believe these stances are useful ways to win the electoral college and so must be tolerated.

Most Americans do not agree with these policies. If the national vote chose the president, neither party would nominate people who deny climate change, adopt racial references to rile up white voters, support extreme income and wealth inequality, or conduct trade wars that raise costs for all Americans. Democracy is, as it is supposed to be, the method of having political leaders do what most people want.

 But in Colorado, not to mention most of the country, you still see people like Governor Hickenlooper in this article, fail to note the importance of the national vote as a fight for democracy. It is time for the national vote reform to battle on a big stage.

To defeat the repeal effort, it will be necessary to contest the issue in three ways:

1. Get national and local attention to the issue, which is democracy versus autocracy. Let there be no mistake: the repeal cause in Colorado has its source in the battle for a permanent minority to choose the president.

2. Coordinate all grassroots activity in Colorado in an open, collaborative manner, with experienced personnel handling the many dimensions of the contest, as was done in the 2018 victories against gerrymandering in Michigan and elsewhere.

3. Use the legal resources of Making Every Vote Count and any other volunteers to take all appropriate issues to all appropriate courts, while endorsing the fundamental idea that a ballot measure to have the people pick the way to pick the president is precisely in line with the fundamental cause here: democracy should be expanded in America. 



Coloradans Write in Support of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

 In March 2019, Colorado became one of 15 states plus the District of Columbia to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Not long after, opponents of the national popular vote began circulating a petition to repeal the Compact that may be on the ballot in 2020. 

But Coloradans who want to make every vote count are rushing to the defense of the Compact: calling friends and neighbors, posting on social media, and writing letters to the editor in local papers.  Here are two great letters that explain how the national popular vote works and why it is in the interest of Colorado—and all Americans—to make sure that every vote is counted and that every vote count’s equally:

Making every vote count in Colorado by Sylvia Bernstein in the Vail Daily

Popularity Contest by Diane Alexander in the Aspen Daily News



Why? One reason is $$

I was telling a friend the other day that his state adopted the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and he demurred. "We aren't a democracy and we shouldn't be," he said. Why? "My state is smaller than the really big ones. In a democracy we wouldn't matter."

I pointed out that his state has never had any presidential candidate visit in the modern era. I noted that no small states attract any attention from presidential candidates or elected presidents, with the exception of New Hampshire, a small swing state, and occasionally Nevada. 

He stuck to his guns, the way people do in this era of non-agreement on everything. 

At bottom he does not like democracy. He has his reasons.

But here is one argument in favor of democracy, even if irrefutable thinking about elemental fairness or the virtue of participation in elections doesn't grab everyone.

This paper concludes that democracy produces greater wealth for the whole society.



Listening to voters

According to this article, politicians pay attention to voters. The problem with a president, however, is that to get a second term it is only important to pay attention to the voters in the swing states. More than 80% of the voters are ignored because they are in states where the results are taken for granted.



Here's Why Splitting Electoral Votes Proportionally Is Not the Answer

In another post, we discussed the problems with dividing a state’s electoral votes by congressional district (in a word: gerrymandering).  Another proposed solution to the winner-take-all problem is allocating electors proportionally based on the votes of the state at large.  Simply put, if a candidate won 70%-30% in a state with 10 electoral votes, 7 votes would go to the winner and 3 to the runner-up. 

The upsides of this proposal are straightforward: more votes would matter, turnout would increase, and candidates would have incentives to seek votes in more places. But proportional representation is unlikely to create a national campaign, nor would it make every vote truly equal.  Indeed, a proportional system may lead to an even more undemocratic result than is likely under our current system.

While there would be fewer wasted votes under a proportional system, it would not make every vote count. Absent a constitutional amendment, the votes would have to be rounded to the nearest whole elector.  So there would still be wasted surplus votes and votes for the runner up that do not count in the final tally.  In close elections, this could lead to the winner of the national popular vote still losing the presidency.

But splitting electoral votes proportionally would raise a whole new problem: a dramatic increase in the likelihood of third-party candidates throwing the election to the House of Representatives.

If a third-party candidate could get enough votes to win just a few electors in a close election, that candidate could prevent anyone from reaching the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.  In such a case, the election would go to the House of Representatives, with each state getting a single vote regardless of population. This is a profoundly undemocratic outcome that would lead to voters losing their voices entirely. 

Looking at past elections, the House would have decided the outcome in at least 2000 and 2016 if electors were awarded proportionally.  But if elections actually occurred under the proportional system, the percentage of elections decided by the House would be much higher as the incentives for third-party candidates grew exponentially. In large states, a third-party candidate would be able to garner at least a couple of electoral votes by winning only a tiny fraction of the vote in that state, and in a close election, that could keep any party from reaching 270.

Once the vote goes to the House, horse-trading, corruption, and backroom deals could lead to a candidate being inaugurated despite having little popular support.  So proportional representation is not cure for the evils in our system and would create a host of new and bigger problems.

There is also a feasibility problem under any proposal that involves splitting votes. Unless all or almost all states signed on, the campaigns would still not be truly national—and many states will be unwilling to split their votes for fear of losing political influence. 

Splitting up a state’s electoral votes makes sense for a few small states—like Maine and Nebraska—that are perpetually ignored.  But most states adopted a winner-take-all system in order to increase their political heft. They wanted candidates to campaign in their states in hopes of winning a large number of electoral votes at once.  Therefore, states will be unlikely to unilaterally split their votes for fear of losing that clout. 

Safe states would hesitate to give up any of their votes to the other party, and swing states would hesitate to lose their special status. And as long as just a few big swing states kept the winner-take-all system, candidates would have a strong incentive to focus their campaigns on those states alone rather than battling it out for the one or two swing electoral votes in most other states.

The best way to make every vote count—and to make presidential candidates campaign for every vote—is to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  Unlike splitting electoral votes, no state is put in the position of unilaterally giving up any influence because the Compact does not go into effect until enough states join to guarantee the winner of the national popular vote will become the president.  And the Compact is over 70% of the way there—only a few more states need to sign on to make it a reality.  When that happens, all votes will count equally—no matter where you live.



Former Romney Strategist: The National Popular Vote is Better for America and Republicans

Republican strategist Stuart Stevens explains that the perceived advantage that the Electoral College gives to Republicans will not last, and that we would be better off with a system in which every vote counts equally:

The argument that abolishing the Electoral College would result in campaigns only targeting large urban areas simply doesn’t make sense. In America’s largest states like California and Florida, candidates campaign all over the state. The benefits of campaign appearances are far more about driving a message than the acquisition of votes in that particular market. In a recent race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Beto O’Rourke campaigned in each of the 254 counties in Texas despite the fact that 84% of Texans live in urban areas. The idea that suddenly, presidential nominees would run campaigns like mayoral races in big cities is a fanciful excuse to justify an outdated system of electing a president.

The Electoral College has never performed as intended, with electors acting as a deliberative check on the whims of a national election. In practice, its only function is to allow for the possibility that the choice of a plurality of American voters will be thwarted and subject America to minority rule.



Mixed News

On the bright side a very articulate presidential candidate seems to grasp that the electoral college system is extraordinarily harmful to Americans.

On the other hand Mayor Pete is apparently not aware that if he and the other candidates spoke up more often they could build support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to be enacted within the next one to two years. The country cannot wait until the 2030s as he suggests. 



A Note on the National Popular Vote from the League of Women Voters

After it passed both chambers of the Nevada legislature, Governor Steve Sisolak vetoed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Sondra Cosgrove, on behalf of the League of Women Voters, responded to the governor’s action in a thoughtful and well-supported letter rebutting some of the misunderstandings about the Compact. 

In particular, the letter challenges the notion that the Electoral College gives a benefit to small states like Nevada:

In the modern era, political parties use the Electoral College process to conserve resources by focusing on only a handful of battleground states instead of expending the effort needed to treat every voter equally.

So it’s not small states advantaged in the Electoral College system, it’s swing states. In the 2016 election cycle, Florida received 71 campaign visits, Pennsylvania received 54 and Ohio received 48.

None of these are small states. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and other red states received zero visits.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact responds to this problem. If passed, AB186 would not have bypassed the Electoral College; it is written to align with the same constitutional authority used by the states to allow political parties to select slates of electors.

The legislation states that when enough state legislatures join the interstate compact to equal 270 electoral votes, those state legislatures will allocate their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

Nevada will not always be a swing state, and once we become solidly blue or red, candidates may ignore us during the post-primary election cycle.

Some studies predict this could happen as soon as 2024, but many of those studies also predict that Nevada will remain a bellwether for diversity. And because we have relatively small markets, candidates looking to test messaging will get a bigger bang for their campaign dollar here rather than in larger states.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters has supported a move to a national popular vote since 1970, long before making votes equal became a partisan issue.



Oregon Officially Joins National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Oregon governor Kate Brown has signed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact into law, making Oregon the 16th jurisdiction to join the agreement that will guarantee that the winner of the popular vote will also win the electoral college.

The Constitution gives each state the power to award its electoral college votes as it sees fit.  Right now, all states give their electoral votes to the plurality winner of that state (except Nebraska and Maine).  However, under the Compact, each member state will give its votes to the winner of the national popular vote. 

The Compact will not go into effect until states with 270 total electoral votes join—the number needed to secure a majority of electoral college votes.  Accordingly, the states will not award their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote until there are enough electoral votes pledged to guarantee the winner of the national popular vote becomes president.

Right now, the Compact has 196 votes committed, including Oregon.  In order to reach 270, there will have to be a massive public education campaign to show voters that this issue is bigger than partisan politics.  The fact that almost every state gives its votes to the plurality winner has serious consequences, including:

The electoral college will sometimes favor Democrats and sometimes Republicans, but in the long run, everyone will be better off if Americans can choose their leader directly, and every person’s vote counts equally.



What to say

When you have a chance to talk to a presidential candidate, please run through these questions:

“Do you believe that the person who gets the most votes should become the president?”

He or she may say, "We need a constitutional amendment to fix the problem."

Then reply, “No, we don't. The states can decide on their own to name electors who vote for the national winner."

The candidate may answer, "Isn't that called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact?"

Reply this way: "Yes. And when you are president, will you do everything you can to make sure that by 2024 the candidates have to win the national vote to become the nation's chief executive?"



Oregon Passes National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Oregon’s House has voted to pass National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, joining the state’s Senate.  Chief Sponsor Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell explained that the Compact “is about giving all voters in the United States, regardless of where they live, the ability to be heard in the most important of our elections. Today, we make Oregon a battleground state.”

Oregon’s governor Kate Brown has stated she supports the proposal and she “has always believed that every vote matters.”

The Compact is a way to guarantee that the candidate who wins the national popular vote will also win the electoral college and become president.  The Constitution gives each state the power to award its electoral college votes as it sees fit.  Right now, all states give their electoral votes to the plurality winner of that state (except Nebraska and Maine).  However, under the Compact, each member state will give its votes to the winner of the national popular vote. 

 The Compact will not go into effect until states with 270 total electoral votes join—the number needed to secure a majority of electoral college votes.  Accordingly, the states will not award their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote until there are enough electoral votes pledged to guarantee the winner of the national popular vote becomes president.

Fifteen jurisdictions—Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, New Mexico, Delaware—have joined the Compact so far.

These states have 189 electoral votes between them—70% of the way to 270.  If Oregon adds its 7 electoral votes to the Compact, there will be 196 votes committed.



Despite Disappointments, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has had a Tremendous Year

In the last twelve months, four states—Connecticut, Delaware, Colorado, and New Mexico—have officially joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  The Compact now has 189 votes—70% of the way to the 270 needed to make the Compact effective.  

Once that happens, all of the states that joined the Compact will pledge their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, guaranteeing that the person who wins the most votes will win the election.  This means that candidates will have to seek the votes of all Americans everywhere, instead of just focusing their efforts on the small number of swing states.  No matter where you live, your vote will count in electing the president.

Yesterday, advocates of making all votes count were disappointed to see that Nevada governor Steve Sisolak vetoed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which had passed in both houses of Nevada’s legislature.  In addition, the Maine House voted against the Compact, which had passed in the Senate.

Despite these setbacks, grassroots activists and supporters of a national popular vote should be very proud of their hard work and all they have accomplished as the movement continues forward.



Future Elections will be Close. That Means that We’re Going to See More Popular Vote Winners Lose.

Some defenders of the way we chose our president insist that a “wrong winner” election—when the person who gets the most votes does not become the president—is a “rare divergence” that is unlikely to happen again (despite the fact that it has happened in two out of the last five elections).

But according to our statistical analysis, the winner of the national popular vote will lose the Electoral College 32-40% of the time in close elections.  And as Geoffrey Skelley at FiveThirtyEight has explained, the current trend of very close elections—within single-digits percentage points—is likely to continue.  The closer the election, the more likely a split between the national popular vote and the Electoral College.  In addition, in recent elections, there have been fewer swing states than in the past, and more states where the margin of victory was very large. The result: more and more elections where the winner of the national popular vote will lose the Electoral College.  

Nor does the current system give a long-term advantage to either party.  In modern elections, the Electoral College has appeared to be skewed against Democrats.  But, as Democrats and Republicans agree, this trend won’t last forever.  Swing states stop swinging, and safe states for one party shift to become safe states for the other.  The next “wrong winner” could just as easily be a Democrat who wins the Electoral College and loses the national popular vote.  In addition, as many, including Donald Trump, have rightly noted, no candidate has ever actually campaigned to win the national popular vote.  There is no telling which party would have an advantage if they did.

But one thing remains certain: so long as we stick with our current system, candidates will exclusively campaign in the current crop of swing states.  Most of America will be ignored, and their voices silenced. 



MEVC CEO Reed Hundt on the Path to the National Popular Vote

From the Washington Post:

Those involved in the effort [to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact] doubt that the electoral college delegate procedures can be changed in enough states before the 2020 presidential election, Reed Hundt, chairman and co-founder of Making Every Vote Count, told The Washington Post.

Because Republican-controlled legislatures haven’t embraced the effort, it will be difficult to reach the 270 combined electoral votes needed to become president, he said. (They remain hopeful, though, that the compact will be in effect for the 2024 presidential election.)

To Hundt’s point, Tuesday’s vote in Nevada was along party lines, with all Republicans voting against the proposal, NPR reported.

“All the Democratic legislatures and governors will end up passing it by [next spring],” expects Hundt, who previously served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

“The people in those states by a two-thirds margin support the national vote winner always becoming president,” he added. “They’re happy to go along with the will of the people.”



Nevada Legislature Passes National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Nevada’s Senate has joined the state’s Assembly in passing the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.  If Governor Stephen Sisolak (D) signs the Compact, Nevada’s six electoral votes will be added to the 189 votes from fifteen jurisdictions that have already joined, bringing the total to 195 votes pledged.

If states with 270 electoral votes join the Compact, all member states will award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.  That means that whoever wins the national popular vote is guaranteed to become the president.

Last week, Maine’s Senate voted 19-16 to join the Compact.  The Maine House of Representatives will likely vote on the bill this week.  In addition, the Compact is up for a committee vote in the Oregon House this week.  The Oregon Senate passed the Compact in April.  Oregon has seven electoral votes. 

If all three states join the Compact, the Compact will have 206 out of the 270 votes needed to go into effect—more than 75%.



The National Popular Vote Benefits People, Not Parties

In an opinion piece published in The Hill, Lara Brown urges Democrats to “stop worrying about the electoral college,” because over time, demographics are likely to shift and the current system may favor Democrats.  Likewise, Republican pollster Jim Hobart notes that the electoral college is “cyclical,” and that in a few years, Republicans may wish that we chose our president by national popular vote.

They are both right that under the current system, swing states become safe states, and safe states for one party can become safe states for the other, with relative frequency.  Therefore, Republicans are not likely to retain a long-term structural advantage from keeping the current system, nor are Democrats always going to be better off under a national popular vote.

But under the current system, even if the identity of the swing states that decide elections changes to the advantage of one party or the other, certain things will remain the same:

That is why so many people—of all political persuasions—have been working tirelessly to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact since 2006, through Republican and Democratic electoral victories alike.  No one has the right to always have their candidate of choice elected president.  But if the president has to win the national popular vote, every person’s vote will count equally.