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?"

Only Because of the Electoral College

This article reports accurately that anti-immigration, shaded by xenophobia and racist overtones, is the central plank in Donald Trump‘s reelection platform. This is possible only because of the electoral system. A national election would not win a plurality for any candidate with this political stance. 

Only because a small number of people in three or four swing states respond passionately to the president’s message are we seeing this policy become the hallmark of the administration. 

Those who want the national popular vote to pick the president should be aligned with everyone who wants a reasonable immigration policy. 

Reporters covering the president should never fail to explain that it is only the electoral system that makes the president’s position tenable. 

The right response is to go directly to the people in these same swing states and put the question: do you want a reasonable immigration policy? If the answer is yes then you should have the national popular vote pick the president. Democracy requires people with competing views to speak up and debate with each other. Trusting the elites to make decisions is not only hopeless, it is also inconsistent with the moral obligation everyone has to state his or her or her position. 

One way to make a statement is to vote. The legislatures in the swing states should put the question of the national popular vote on the ballot. Where it is permitted people should petition to get the question on the ballot. 

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.

Why the Electoral College is biased against women

This is well known: from David Leonhardt in NYT

“As Gallup’s Lydia Saad notes, a large majority of Americans support both ‘protecting abortion rights when pregnancy endangers a woman’s life’ and ‘keeping abortion legal when pregnancy is caused by rape or incest.’”

No president could oppose this majority view and still win the national popular vote. 

But the national vote and views widely held in the nation do not matter in selecting the president. We are not one country when it comes to electing the president. In that activity only a few impassioned factions of voters in a handful of states matter. 

Opposition to abortion even in the direst circumstances is found principally among evangelicals. For stochastic reasons evangelicals compose a large percentage of the population in the four critical swing states that now determine the choice of the president (Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin). Evangelicals also have an exceptionally high turnout rate, making them an estimated 20-40% of voters in these key states. They vote overwhelmingly for the candidate who inveighs against abortion. That is the incumbent, as it was George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. 

The impact is seen in two respects: who gets elected president in close elections like 2000 and 2016 and who gets appointed by Republican presidents to the Supreme Court.  

A major reason Hillary Clinton did not carry the crucial swing states is that she has been a lifelong advocate of choice. (The million words written about her personality as the explanation for her loss of the plurality by narrow margins in these four states are a different example of bias against women.) 

The result is that the view of a large majority of women and men on the issue of abortion have had very little impact on Republican presidents since 1980. 

To be reelected, the current president for purely political reasons feels he must appoint people to the Supreme Court who do not necessarily honor the constitutional right of women to control their bodies even when raped or at risk of dying. 

Because he wants to be reelected, the current president is unlikely to oppose the draconian anti-abortion laws just passed on this issue in a few states. These states are taken for granted in the general election already, but he will be motivated to seek the votes of evangelicals in the swing states. That is the reason he is not likely to have the Solicitor General oppose these laws. That is the reason he will not speak against these laws even though the large majority of Americans oppose them. 

This bias against abortion even in dire situations stems from the electoral system. 

Thanks to Electoral College, Trump is sitting pretty

See the poll below. The incumbent has 230 electors in his pocket. With Florida he picks up 29 more. It’s one jump to 270— Pennsylvania does it; so does Michigan; so does the combination of the swing district in Omaha, Nebraska and Wisconsin in a combo. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-31 at 9.36.40 AM.png

What a system! Trump will surely lose the national popular vote based on current polls, while likely winning the E C. 

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. 

Electoral College On Track to Reward National Loser With Landslide Victory

According to this model the incumbent is on track to win by a margin of 294 electoral votes. That means 416 electors to 122 electors. This astounding landslide would be won by the most unpopular president ever re-elected, based on the fact that the president's disapproval rating typically runs more than 10 percentage points ahead of his approval rating. His broad and deep unpopularity is manifested in the extremely unusual fact that nearly half of voters say they will never vote for him. That is a much higher number than were dead set against Obama in 2011, when he was still battling the Great Crash and had only just passed the not particularly well-received Affordable Care Act. 

It is not necessary for the United States to have a method of choosing the president that re-elects such an unpopular president. The populist movement that seems to animate people on both the left and right should include as a core tenet agreement on the choice of an election method that guarantees the defeat of a president much less popular than his or her rival from an opposing party.

Of course the Democrats do have to nominate someone more popular than the incumbent. The odds of that happening are much better than the odds of that person defeating the president.  

Head-scratching does not produce any good reason why an extremely unpopular president should be able to get re-elected against a popular opponent.

  • Does the incumbent's unpopularity stem from the failure of voters to understand what he is really like and what he is really doing, which if they understood they would endorse? That doesn't seem likely given the enormous attention the president attracts to his own utterances and deeds.

  • Is the unpopularity merely transitory? The polls show remarkable steadiness in perception and over time views have hardened in place rather than changed.

  • Should we prefer a system where an elite can keep political power in the face of opposition from the poorer, less influential, less educated, or simply less empowered but more numerous majority? In other words, is an authoritarian system better than democracy? That is the fundamental question faced by governments all over the world, now that democracy is under challenge more than at any time since the Second World War.

What Making Every Vote Count Brings to the Table

Making Every Vote Count is dedicating effort and expense to inform the public about the defects and destructive consequences of the country’s current presidential election system.  An essential ingredient for any major reform movement is to engage the public and promote a sense of urgency about the cause.  MEVC’s blog operations are part of its vigorous multi-pronged efforts over more than two years to educate the public about the issues and especially about the desired reform, the National Popular Votes Interstate Compact.  MEVC has organized and participated in events at the National Press Club, colleges and universities around the country and elsewhere, featuring speakers like Dr. Koza, other knowledgeable supporters of the Compact, and experts in various fields.

 In both its educational and advocacy roles, MEVC has brought to bear its particular strengths and resources that complement, not duplicate, the efforts and strategies of other advocates for the Compact.  Here is a quick summary of those strengths and resources.

Polls – Polls are important to determine what the public wants, the messaging that is most effective, and the challenges and concerns that need to be addressed.  Poll results matter to legislators because they need to represent their constituents or risk being turned out of office. Polls played an important role in passing the Compact in that state after four foiled previous attempts.  And, of course, polls are even more important when the reform mechanism is a ballot initiative.  Polls have their limitations, but there are ways to factor in those limitations in interpreting poll results.  MEVC’s pollster, Andrew Claster, worked for President Obama’s campaigns and most recently played a pivotal role in the just-completed Indonesian presidential election two months ago and a similarly decisive role in the Malaysian election last year.

MEVC’s political scientists, statisticians, and election experts – They help research, formulate and test MEVC’s arguments in support of the national popular vote compact.  For example, MEVC has developed arguments that have added important new weight to the case for reform.  One finding was that in future elections where the margin in the popular vote margin is 3% or less, one third of the time the electoral college winner will have received fewer popular votes nationwide than his or her competitor – whether a Republican or a Democrat.  In 2020, the winner of the popular vote by 10 million votes, might still lose the presidency.  As a result, the presidency itself, the country’s election system and our federal government will suffer a further loss of legitimacy at a time when the public’s trust in these institutions is already at an all-time low. 

National security threat – MEVC, working with national security experts, also developed the point that because the current system funnels the entire presidential campaigns to just a few states, our elections have become vulnerable to foreign interference.  A malevolent foreign power can much more easily target the small number of swing states than an entire national election.  Accordingly, not only does this undemocratic situation dramatically erode public trust in government, but it has already made the country’s elections vulnerable to inexpensive and difficult-to-detect intervention and manipulation by hostile foreign powers – a threat that deeply concerned the nation’s founders and deeply concerns our national security community today. 

Heightening visibility for the compelling need for reform – Over the last 12 years, Compact legislation has failed in a wide swath of states because it has ranked below other issues in urgency and priority.  The antidote to that problem is intensified visibility for the issue.  MEVC has conducted or played a major role in events, both educational and advocacy, in various states and nationally.  It has used, worked with and been interviewed by television stations, newspapers, and newer media.  It posts blogs four to eight times a week on its website and has an increasingly strong presence on social media.

Videos – Using the expertise of Michael Matthews, MEVC has produced a series of videos explaining the pitfalls of and damages caused by the current electoral system, and the benefits of the Compact.  A series of short videos focuses on the adverse impact of the system on women, conservative minorities, and racial and other minorities.  Other videos included Professor Sam Wang, head of the Princeton Election Consortium, explaining how voting trends in the future will magnify the harms of our system.  MEVC has also just completed production of a comprehensive online course, “The Future of the Electoral College”, which explains these and other powerful arguments for reform.

Veteran campaign advisors – MEVC has retained the group that handled President Obama’s campaign in purple states and participated in numerous other campaigns.  Its on-the-ground experience complements the input from MEVC’s pollsters and other experts.  MEVC also gathers political advice at the state and local levels.

Coordination with local and national grass roots and public interest organizations – MEVC continues to collaborate with the groups which have made and continue to make major contributions to the reform movement. 

Relationships with federal government officials and national opinion leaders with a variety of political philosophies –  Building visibility on the Hill for presidential election reform helps promote the issue both nationally and in individual states.  Also, MEVC’s board members have access to national and local leaders and frequently confer with them. 

Expertise in federal and state election and constitutional law – To a far greater degree than is generally recognized, expertise in these issues at both the national level and state by state (no two of which have the same rules), is critical to achieving needed reform.  MEVC has brought together an impressive array of legal experts, mostly on a pro bono basis, to advise on these subjects.

*                      *                      *

In a future blog, we will discuss how and why MEVC launched its reform efforts and who some of its principals are.

The electoral college hates choice for women

The majority of women believe that women should have the right to exercise some choice about whether to have children. But evangelicals vehemently disagree. President Trump sides publicly with evangelicals.

It is almost impossible to believe that he has always sincerely held this position. 

But the electoral college system practically compels him to be taking this stance while running for president. Why? Because a huge proportion of voters in swing states are evangelicals. 

The views of the majority of women would militate for a different policy in the Trump Presidency. If they mattered. Which they don’t. Because of the electoral college system.

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 Electoral College Versus Religion

This map shows one of the many religious denominations that are regionally concentrated outside swing states. 

The percentage of Mormons by county:

A very quick scan at this map reveals that with the arguable exception of Nevada virtually all Mormons live in states that are taken for granted in the general presidential election. As a result, members of this denomination are effectively irrelevant in the general presidential election. 

Generally speaking, Mormons vote by a large majority for the same political party and share a common agenda. If the national popular vote picked the president this religious block would get attention from all major party candidates. But instead the winner-take-all electoral college system politically neutralizes members of the Church.

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. 

The Small State "Advantage" Under the Electoral College is Illusory

Some argue that because small states get more electors relative to their population than large states, the Electoral College is good for small states and protects their interests.  However, that minor advantage is far outweighed by the incentives to ignore people who live in small states entirely when almost every state awards all of its electors to the winner of the statewide popular vote.  From Ryan Cooper at The Week:

The 2016 candidates spent almost all their time in a handful of states, most of them medium or large. Two-thirds of campaign events happened in just six states — Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. If we include Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Arizona, then those 12 states account for 96 percent of campaign events.

The nine smallest states (including D.C.), meanwhile, got precisely zero attention. Only the tenth-largest, New Hampshire, got any events at all. In total, 25 states (mostly small and medium-sized) got no events whatsoever. And while it's true the states that got huge attention are mostly on the big side, the very largest states were almost totally ignored as well — California and Texas got one event apiece, and New York none.

The reason for this is obvious. Almost every state gives all of its electoral votes to whoever wins the state — allowing candidates to take the votes of strongly partisan states for granted. Indeed, it's actively foolish to campaign where you are guaranteed to win or lose — only the swing states matter. It would be a waste of resources for a Democrat to campaign in California or Kentucky, or for a Republican to campaign in New York or D.C.

Electoral college system encourages climate change

A strong majority of Americans supports the government leading in battle against climate change. But the electoral college system privileges states that account for the major part of greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three swing states that were integral to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, were among the top 12 states in aggregate emissions.  These states would have to change their energy use the most in order to defeat climate change. Change is hard. 

 Therefore in 2016 and again in his 2020 campaign it serves Donald Trump‘s interests to support climate change denial and to be in favor of continuing business as usual, which is obviously threatening global climate disaster. If it were not for the electoral college system the United States would be much more likely to have a climate change policy that reflects the wishes of most Americans and all scientists who pay any attention to this subject. 

All the other states on the list of 12 are taken for granted by both parties. The key fact is the presence of the three swing states in the dirty dozen. 

See this chart:

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Maine Senate Passes National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Maine’s Senate has voted 19-16 to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If the Maine House of Representatives also approves the bill, Maine will join the fourteen states plus the District of Columbia that have pledged to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote once states with 270 total electoral votes join the Compact, thus guaranteeing that the winner of the national popular vote will become the president.

Currently, the Compact has 189 electors pledged. With the addition of Maine’s four electoral votes, the Compact will have 193 votes.