Delaware Votes to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

The Delaware legislature has voted to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact now goes to Governor John Carney (D), who has pledged to sign it.

Once states with 270 votes join the Compact, all member states have pledged to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.  This will ensure that no one can become president without winning the most votes. It also means that candidates will no longer be able to campaign only in swing states while ignoring the majority of Americans.  Every vote will matter equally, and the president will have to govern in the interest of all Americans instead of special interests in a tiny fraction of states. 

Thirteen other states, most recently New Mexico and Colorado, and the District of Columbia have already passed the Compact, totaling 186 votes. Delaware has three electoral votes, bringing the total to 189, or 70% of the votes needed.

No Matter Where you Live, Your Vote Should Count

Here is Representative Seth Moulton on the national popular vote:

People often defend the electoral college by arguing that without it, presidential candidates would pay attention to only a few states. But that’s already the case because of the electoral college: Two-thirds of general-election presidential campaign events in 2016 were held in just six states, and 94 percent were held in just 12 states. In a winner-take-all-electoral-votes system, candidates campaign only in the states that are a toss-up.

But if we abolish the electoral college — either through a constitutional amendment or a national popular-vote compact— presidential candidates could earn votes anywhere, making them far more likely to campaign everywhere. Then, no matter where you live or how your neighbors vote, your vote would matter. As it should.

Demography and Democracy

In “No Property in Man,” historian Sean Wilentz explains that the southern representatives to the constitutional convention were disappointed to see rather quickly that the “widely expected movement of population to favor the south and southwest never occurred, as settlement of migrants and new immigrants disproportionately favored the North.” Page 187.

In 1800, free states had 76 members of Congress, and slave states had 65. But by 1820 the margin was 122 to 90.

Southerners had hoped that the three-fifths compromise coupled with a swelling slave population would give them a slaveholding majority in the House. In that event, the Electoral College would always produce a pro-slavery president, even while slaves could not vote.

But demography is destiny. The burgeoning population of the North rapidly gave the House more free state representatives despite the three-fifths compromise.

Now again, as in first decades of the Republic, the demographic trends of the country are rapidly filling the House with members who root out and oppose racism in all its many manifestations, whether blatant or insidious.

These same trends have not yet changed the method of selecting the president. This is the reason that racially divisive candidacies for that high office are still possible.  

What Most People Want in a President

If the national popular vote elected the president, here are the positions candidates would confront in the electorate (Source):

The Economy

  • 82 percent of Americans think wealthy people have too much power and influence in Washington.

  • 69 percent think large businesses have too much power and influence in Washington.

  • 78 percent of likely voters support stronger rules and enforcement on the financial industry.


  • 82 percent of Americans think economic inequality is a “very big” (48 percent) or “moderately big” (34 percent) problem.

  • 72 percent of Americans say it is “extremely” or “very” important, and 23 percent say it is “somewhat important,” to reduce poverty.

Money in Politics

  • 96 percent of Americans—including 96 percent of Republicans—believe money in politics is to blame for the dysfunction of the U.S. political system.

  • 84 percent of Americans—including 80 percent of Republicans—believe money has too much influence in politics.

  • 78 percent of Americans say we need sweeping new laws to reduce the influence of money in politics.

  • 73 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.


  • 80 percent of Americans think some corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

  • 78 percent think some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

  • 76 percent believe the wealthiest Americans should pay higher taxes.

  • 87 percent of Americans say it is critical to preserve Social Security, even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by wealthy Americans.

  • 67 percent of Americans support lifting the cap to require higher-income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages.

Minimum Wage

  • 66 percent of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

  • 63 percent of registered voters think the minimum wage should be adjusted each year by the rate of inflation.

Workers’ Rights

  • 74 percent of registered voters—including 71 percent of Republicans—support requiring employers to offer paid parental and medical leave.

  • 78 percent of likely voters favor establishing a national fund that offers all workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

Health Care

  • 64 percent of registered voters favor their state accepting the Obamacare plan for expanding Medicaid in their state.


  • 63 percent of registered voters—including 47 percent of Republicans—of Americans favor making four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free.

 Climate Change and the Environment

  • 76 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change.

  • 68 percent of voters think it is possible to protect the environment and protect jobs.

  • 72 percent of voters think it is a “bad idea” to cut funding for scientific research on the environment and climate change.

 Gun Safety

  • 84 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

  • 77 percent of gun owners support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.


  • 68 percent of Americans—including 48 percent of Republicans—believe the country’s openness to people from around the world “is essential to who we are as a nation.” Just 29 percent say that “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

  • 65 percent of Americans—including 42 percent of Republicans—say immigrants strengthen the country “because of their hard work and talents.” Just 26 percent say immigrants are a burden “because they take our jobs, housing and health care.”

  • 64 percent of Americans think an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities makes the country a better place to live. Only 5 percent say it makes the United States a worse place to live, and 29 percent say it makes no difference.

  • 76 percent of registered voters—including 69 percent of Republicans—support allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children (Dreamers) to stay in the country. 58 percent think Dreamers should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements. Another 18 percent think they should be allowed to stay and become legal residents, but not citizens. Only 15 percent think they should be removed or deported from the country.

Abortion and Women’s Health

  • 68 percent of Americans—including 54 percent of Republicans—support the requirement for private health insurance plans to cover the full cost of birth control.

Same-Sex Marriage

  • 62 percent of Americans—including 70 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans—support same-sex marriage.

  • 74 percent of millennials (born after 1981) support same-sex marriage.

New Mexico Votes to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

The New Mexico Senate has joined the state’s House in voting to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact now goes to Governor Michelle Grisham (D) for her approval.

Once states with 270 votes join the Compact, all member states have pledged to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, ensuring that the winner of the national popular vote becomes president. This will mean that candidates will be forced to campaign for all votes everywhere, and not just in a few swing states. All votes will matter equally, no matter where a person lives.

Twelve other states, most recently Colorado, and the District of Columbia have already passed the Compact, totaling 181 votes. New Mexico has five electoral votes, bringing the total to 186.

The Biggest Threat to Democracy is up to the States to Fix

The Democratic House has passed a massive election reform bill, HR 1:

The sweeping bill is aimed at getting money out of politics and increasing transparency around donors, cracking down on lobbying, and expanding voting rights for Americans by implementing provisions like automatic voter registration.

This bill would go a long way to restoring the voting rights of U.S. citizens.  However, it will probably never even get a vote in the Senate.  And HR 1 does not even address the reason that most Americans’ votes don’t count in the presidential election: the Electoral College.  Unless you happen to live in a swing state, your vote is either taken for granted or ignored. 

But there is some good news.  States have the power to allocate their electoral votes in any way they chose.  If the states pass a law that pledges their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, candidates will campaign for every vote everywhere and every vote will count equally.

What most people want

This chart shows that no presidential candidate could win the national popular vote by opposing immigration.

immigration chart.jpg

If the national popular vote mattered to choosing the president, there’s no doubt that the boiling divisive controversy over immigration would simmer down to the point of debating the necessary compromises over (a) who can stay, (b) who can come in, and (c) how to expel or keep out those who cannot stay or come in.

How would candidates campaign everywhere?

If the national popular vote mattered, then obviously in the general election the major candidates would have an incentive to campaign everywhere for every likely voter for their party.

To envision how they would conduct their campaigns we can look to the primaries where the nominees are selected and to commercial retail. In both cases—whether a person is selling a personality coupled with policy promises (the primaries) or a company is selling computer chips or potato chips (retail)—we know that the goal is close the sale to as many people as possible. 

The first step is designing the product. A candidate, like a chip (hardware or chewy-ware, if that's an acceptable neologism), would have to suit the preferences of most people. To win a national popular vote a candidate would have to reflect the majority preferences on immigration (it's good); battling climate change (it's necessary); early child care subsidized by the government (important); better publicly funded infrastructure including high voltage power, high speed trains, and repaired roads (critical); limits on rounds per magazine in automatic weapons (of course); and a host of other topics. 

Second, the candidate like the retailer has to build a brand. The means of branding would be to reach a national audience. That would lead to advertising on television content that huge audiences watch, like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Currently 95% of all political advertising in the general election goes to local television in less than 10 states. We see in the critical early primaries, like Iowa, this same pattern within one state. But to build a national brand more than 5% would have to go to national advertising, such as on network shows. National branding would have to align with product-market fit; namely, the candidates' branding would have to appeal to the preferences of most people, instead of suiting niche audiences in a handful of states.

Third, just as Amazon delivers anything to anyone anywhere, candidates would deliver their messages to everyone. They would poll everyone in every town, which is feasible in the post-landline polling age we are now in. Their parties would offer to mail information, send out ballot applications virtually or by street mail, to everyone. The postal service would make more money; mail carriers would be part of the expansion of democracy to every precinct in the country. Social media advertising would go up in the aggregate, and would reach every demographic segment. It's important to note that the Internet does not care where you live. So using virtual mechanisms to reach everyone would certainly be part of national campaigning to win the national popular vote.

Fourth, television matters hugely, but in the current crabbed, confined system of competing only for swing votes in swing states, television advertising money in the general election goes to a handful of television stations. If the national vote mattered, middle and small sized television markets all over the country would get injections of political advertising. 

 Fifth, perhaps most interesting, local newspapers every four years would get a much needed injection of advertising. The cost of reaching their readers is relatively low and they offer a good way to present a candidacy. Newspapers in Mississippi and Missouri, North Dakota and North Carolina, and all the other areas currently in the land of ignored for the presidential candidates would not only get political advertising but they also would get interviews with candidates. They would have to hire reporters! That alone would reverse at least in part the sad trend of the last two decades of shrinking local news coverage. 

Sixth, in big cities television advertising is too expensive. So in the top 10 media markets, social media would be used to reach voters in very large part. 

Overall the amount of money spent would go up, but the amount spent per person would go down. This would be a relief for the badgered and beleaguered voters in the swing states who justifiably feel they are bothered way too much by advertising in presidential elections. 


Someone asked me the other day what I most disliked about the Electoral College system (that any state law can change). Huge is the fact that the system virtually forces the candidates to ignore the views of the vast majority of Americans. But here's the whole list of what disturbs your correspondent.

1. Makes the views of most Americans irrelevant to presidential candidates.  The Electoral College system creates swing states—they are accidents of demography, states where the balance of right and left leaning voters by happenstance is roughly equal. Most state populations tilt one way or the other. These are the ignored states, because the candidates know who will win the plurality. But more than 80% of Americans live in the land of the ignored. There strong majorities support more government action on infrastructure, shift to clean power, limitations of the size of magazines in assault weapons, the well-off paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the middle to lower income households, more government support of higher education so college doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and immigration reform to give clarity to millions of people about whether they can or cannot ever become citizens. The Electoral College system motivates the candidates to appeal to the views of the few and ignore the wishes of the many.

2. Bad for Black Americans. The framers of the Constitution designed the Electoral College to make sure that no abolitionist could become president. When Lincoln got elected in 1860, and the civil war ensued, in the aftermath the former Confederate states in the south adapted the system to make sure that all electors from their state represented white supremacists and no former slaves could ever send an elector to choose the president. To this very day that same system suppresses the relevance of African American votes in almost every election. This is why Barack Obama got zero electors from South Carolina to Texas—right across the heartland of the old Confederacy.

3. Unfair to women. The Electoral College is biased against women. More women vote than men. Women turned out a bigger majority for their preferred candidate than men did for theirs. But somehow the choice of males got elected in 2016 and 2000. Why? The Electoral College made the election turn not on the views of the whole country but only on the skinny margins of a handful of states where the views of women were felt a little less strongly than in the whole country. 

4. Treats legal immigrants as second class citizens. The Electoral College is biased against immigrant citizens even to the second generation. Most immigrants live in just five states—the states that are portals to the country. In all these five except Florida the candidates of both parties take the election results for granted, and so they ignore the wishes of immigrants. And in Florida the immigrants who matter most matter are Spanish speakers not from Mexico. No candidate could campaign about a wall or rail against immigration except for the unfairness of the Electoral College.

5. Throws shade on workers. The Electoral College is biased against workers who hold jobs located mostly in the 40 states that are taken for granted. Loggers and longshoremen for example are ignored while coal miners get lots of attention. Why? Coal miners live in swing states. The others don't. This unfairness exists only because every vote does not matter—hardly any votes matter except those in swing states.

Delaware Senate Passes Popular Vote Bill with Bipartisan Support

The Delaware Senate has passed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact 14-7, with all Democrats and two Republicans backing the bill.  The bill now moves to the Delaware House, with a vote likely next week. 

If presidential candidates have to compete for the popular vote to win, every vote will count. Whether you live in state that's big or small, red or blue, all votes will be counted the same.

Delaware and Maine Consider the National Popular Vote

Legislative committees in Delaware and Maine have referred the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact for a full vote.  If Delaware and Maine both pass the legislation, the Compact will have 188 votes.  Once states with 270 total electoral votes join the Compact, the states agree to pledge all of their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, guaranteeing that person will become the president.

Right, Professor, Right

In his book “No Property in Man,” historian Sean Wilentz writes of the Constitution’s Framers, “On July 20, the delegates gave their initial approval to what might have been the most decisive triumph on behalf of slavery of the entire convention….the creation of the Electoral College.” Page 70.

The Electoral College was conceived in the sin of slavery. No one now argues that slavery was anything other than a horrible proof of the depravity of human beings. Holding on to it was the single strongest motive of the southerners at the convention.

As Wilentz writes, “the convention divided between those more and those less impressed by the competence of popular rule,” but beyond doubt “southerners in both groups had an additional reason to oppose popular election of the president.”

What was that? And does it still lurk in the thinking of those who oppose direct election by national popular vote of the president? See, e.g., former Maine Governor Paul LePage, who oppose direct election because it would empower non-white voters.

Wilentz explains that because slaves would not be able to vote, “southerners were unlikely ever to win the presidency under a democratic system.”

Even today, more than 200 years later, African American voters in the south typically play little to no role in the general election of the president – because the electoral system systematically discards the votes for runners-up, which usually is where the non-white vote in the polarized south goes:

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 10.15.39 AM.png

To win the southern states’ agreement to vote for the constitution, Madison apportioned the electors according to total of the seats in the House, which gave weight to slaves on a three-fifths basis, and seats in the Senate, which gave weight to relatively underpopulated states (which came to include more slave states, like the nearly empty Florida and Arkansas). The unsurprising result, Wilentz explains, was that “four of the first six presidents of the United States were Virginia slaveholders.” He might have gone on to say that no president was anti-slavery until Abraham Lincoln in 1860. And Lincoln won only because the Democratic Party split between northern and southern factions.

The history of America is the history of race and the principal arguments for the Electoral College system today are, whether or not well-intentioned, all too clearly resonant of the views of the southern delegates in the 18th century and Governor LePage this week.

FiveThirtyEight Takes a Look at the Popular Vote Movement

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is gaining momentum and getting attention. Political forecasting website  FiveThirtyEight notes that with the addition of Colorado, the first state to join the compact that is not solidly blue, the Compact has reached a huge milestone and is two-thirds of the way to the 270 votes needed to guarantee the president would have to win the popular vote.


The FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast also covered the national popular vote movement, and discussed the ways that the Electoral College system distorts the way candidates campaign. 

In reality, the problem goes much further than campaign stops or advertising money.  The Electoral College system also warps the way that presidents seeking re-election govern—and the consequences are very real.

Prominent Republicans Come out in Favor of the National Popular Vote

Michael Steele, former Chair of the Republican National Committee, and Saul Anuzis, former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, are urging their fellow Republicans to support the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in Delaware.  They note that:

Over the seven presidential elections since 1988, exactly 1,013,308 Delawareans have trekked to the polls to cast their popular votes for the Republican ticket. Yet their efforts have not produced one single GOP electoral vote. Because in election after election, Delaware delivered the majority of its popular vote – and under the “winner-take-all” system, all of its electoral votes – to the Democrat ticket.

Delaware Republicans need to be politically relevant again in every presidential election. A vote in Delaware should count as much toward electing a president as a vote in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, or any other state.

A system that makes candidates from both parties compete for all votes everywhere is the best thing for our country. It’s true that in recent elections, Republicans have been the beneficiaries of the Electoral College system.  But as Steele and Anuzis recognize, the next election could very easily go the other way. 

Majority Rules

Except when it comes to the presidency it doesn't.  You cannot expect people to run for president, or presidents to govern, according to the popular will when they do not get elected by winning the national vote and cannot get re-elected by pleasing most of the people most of the time. 

Maryland is considering a bill that allocates all its electors to the national vote winner if a Republican-leaning state does the same. This reaching across the aisle via legislation is a great way to produce the reform in the rules of running that can let the majority fairly, subject to constitutional protection of individual rights, get the policies and politics that are best for most people. 

Can anyone think of any good reason not to applaud Maryland's leadership? And why wouldn't Republican Governor Larry Hogan want to sign, in fact want to champion this bill? 

How to Win the Presidency by Losing

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s announcement that he is considering running for president as an independent did not go well.  A CNN poll showed that only 13% of Americans have a favorable opinion of him. 

However, thanks to the intricacies of the Electoral College, Schultz could end up becoming the president even if only a small percentage of the people vote for him. As Hugh Hewitt explains in the Washington Post, the 12th Amendment states that the House of Representatives will choose the president if no candidate gets 270 or more electoral votes.  If Schultz wins even one state, he could end up as a compromise candidate despite getting the fewest actual votes.

This scenario may be unlikely, but it demonstrates the very real problem of third-party candidates acting as spoilers who can thwart the will of the majority in our presidential elections. 

Free Advice

Huge credit to National Popular Vote, Inc., the non-profit that has pushed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact slowly but steadily for more than a decade, marching through states one by one. With the addition of Colorado’s nine electoral votes, the Compact is now two-thirds of the way to its goal—a fantastic achievement.

So where do we go from here? 

Based on public statements from its leaders, NPV Inc. does not think that it is likely that it will be able to achieve its reform in time for the 2020 election. But why wait? It's a good idea that is long overdue.  

Democratic governors hold office in 14 states that have not passed the Compact: in descending order of electors, PA 20, MI 16, NC 15, VA 13, MN 10, WI 10, LA 8, OR 7, KS 6, NV 6, NM 5, ME 4, DE 3, MT 3. Assuming that as with other states that enacted the Compact, a Democratic governor would sign, then in all these state legislatures NPV Inc. should find legislators who will introduce and advocate for the Compact. Is NPV Inc. pushing hard for legislation in all of those states?

So far, only blue states have joined the Compact. It would be terrific, arguably vital, to include Republican-leaning states in this reform. One way is the ingenious idea initiated by Maryland state senator Bill Ferguson. Maryland would award its electors to the national popular vote winner if a Republican-voting state with the same or more electors took the same action, effective for 2020, even if the Compact is not in effect by then. Maryland still would stay bound to the Compact, but this move would put to the Republican governor of the state, Larry Hogan, a pro-democracy initiative that presumably he would support. He then could find a Republican governor in a Republican-leaning state who would join him in creating a prize of electors available to the candidate who wins the national vote. 

Possibly neither major party candidate would think the prize big enough to campaign nationally. But the idea alone is worthwhile because it would be the first linkage of the national vote to an award of electors in the history of the United States. Perhaps more important, the Ferguson bill offers a Republican-leaning state a way to join hands with a Democratic-leaning state to move toward this reform. Although some of the representatives of NPV Inc. have been quoted in ways that suggest they don't expect Republican allies, it should be obvious that the goal of having the national vote pick the president ought to be discussed, debated, and embraced by most Americans in all states. Indeed, some prominent Republicans have recently come forward in support of reform because it’s the right thing for the country, regardless of party. Republicans should be part of such an important step forward for democracy.