The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact: The Easy Way to Nullify the Electoral College
December 17, 2020
On Election Day 2020, voters in Colorado approved the enactment of SB19-042, a ratification of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The NPVIC is an interstate agreement to allocate electoral votes in alignment with the national popular vote. Nationally, more than 70% of the population supports NPVIC, according to various polls conducted since 2006.
The NPVIC will give the presidency to the candidate with the most votes: the winner of the popular vote. It is not currently in effect because the NPVIC only holds 196 electoral votes, it needs more than 270 electoral votes (the threshold to win the Electoral College) before it comes into effect.
Compared to a constitutional amendment that abolishes the electoral college, the NPVIC is much easier to pass. According to National Popular Vote Inc., changes to voting have been made at the state level since the birth of the country; in fact, the problems with the electoral college were created at the state level with the implementation of “winner-takes-all” systems.
Some question the constitutionality of the NPVIC, but a recent US Supreme Court ruling on “faithless electors” has solidified the NPVIC’s legality, according to the Brookings Institution. Furthermore, this interstate compact need not be approved by Congress because it does not challenge the supremacy of the US—the states have full power over their electors.
There are perceived problems with the currently implemented electoral college system. The power of a voter in Wyoming is 3.6 times that of a voter in California with the Electoral College, according to the Huffington Post. That means that more than three people must vote in California to match the power of just one voter in Wyoming. This power difference is not meaningful in the presidential election because of small states’ electoral power but it still stands opposite the idea of a democratic system for electing presidents.
The argument that the Electoral College helps small states is flawed; Presidential candidates seldom visit the states, like Wyoming, with only 3 electoral votes because most of them are solidly one-party states. Instead, they focus on “swing states” where the race is close. According to National Popular Vote Inc., Wisconsin—with only 10 electoral votes, compared to the eight smallest states’ 24—receives 40 times more campaign visits.
With the implementation of the NPVIC, campaign events would be spread more evenly around the country. Campaigns would not just switch from a swing-state focus to a big city focus. People overestimate the popular vote impact of big states like California: in 2016, Clinton only received about one-seventh of her vote total. The total population of the top 100 US cities is also equivalent to the population of rural voters, according to the Census Bureau.