National Popular Vote Not a Partisan Question

In a very thoughtful piece, Maine Republican Lance Dutson explains that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, currently under consideration in Maine, should not be a Republican vs. Democrat issue.

Dutson explains that the Compact would not significantly diminish the electoral importance of Maine and other small states because, unless they are also swing states, small states are ignored in political campaigns anyway:

One of the main arguments Republican opponents make about the NPV is that densely-populated areas would see their political influence drown out that of smaller, more rural areas, like Maine. This is a noble concern, however, it’s kind of too late. Maine and other sparsely populated areas are already a minor concern in the grand scheme of our presidential elections.

Jacob Posik of The Maine Heritage Policy Center wrote a good piece recently laying out the argument against NPV. In the piece, Posik noted that, under NPV, Maine’s total share of the national vote total would only be 0.55 percent, and therefore politicians wouldn’t bother paying attention to our state. However, Posik failed to note that, under the current Electoral College system, Maine’s four electoral votes make up only 0.74 percent of the 538 total Electoral College votes nationwide. Under both systems, Maine is merely a blip on the screen of the broader electorate.

The fact is, candidates pay attention to states because they’re competitive, not because of the density of their population. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District got attention during the 2016 presidential election because polling showed the Republican could potentially win the district’s one electoral vote. It didn’t matter that one electoral vote represents only 0.18 percent of the total Electoral College; it only mattered that the electoral vote was up for grabs.

Dutson also explained how the winner-take-all Electoral College effectively disenfranchises many voters, Democrats and Republicans alike:

…The Electoral College doesn’t grant any notable proportional advantage for Republicans in small, rural states, but it does severely marginalize the votes of Republicans in states that are not competitive.

For instance, a Republican hasn’t won New York’s electoral votes since 1984. However, there are more than 2.6 million registered Republicans in New York. Regardless, those Republican votes have not had any impact on the electoral college tabulations in more than 35 years.

The same is true for Democrats in deeply Republican states. There are nearly 50,000 Democrats in Wyoming whose votes are inconsequential to the electoral tabulation in presidential contests because their state hasn’t supported a Democratic candidate since 1964.

Under the NPV system, though, every one of these votes would be tabulated. A Republican in Manhattan or Los Angeles would have their votes added to the national vote total, and voters behind the partisan curtain of the opposing party would no longer be inconsequential to the overall outcome.

The debate over NPV really comes down to the question of a state’s impact on an election versus an individual voter’s impact. When a Democrat moves to Wyoming, is it fair for them to lose their influence over the next presidential election because of their geographic location?