The National Popular Vote movement’s primary function is to bypass the Electoral College (EC) by getting states to change their allocation of EC votes, automatically awarding them to whomever wins the national popular vote in a general presidential election.

This allocation is based on national popular vote and completely subsumes party affiliation.  Therefore, Florida (my state) which narrowly went, along with its 29 EC votes, to Trump in 2016 would instead have gone to Hillary, who won the national popular vote and 227 of the 270 EC votes needed to win the election.

In light of the 2016 election, this proposal takes on a whole new element of horror.  With Democrats having a lock on urban, heavily-populated areas, this could be catastrophic for the average American voter who does not live in—or share the ideology of—large concentrations of regressives and assorted leftists.  That’s the whole point, of course.

Deciding that getting rid of the Electoral College, as was pushed with particular fervor after both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections, was an uphill battle they were unlikely to win, the left landed on a quite ingenious idea:  work within the system to overthrow and nullify it.  Don’t like the Electoral College?  Tired of those deplorables in flyover country having a say in . . . . anything?  No problem!  Just get states to change the way they allocate their Electoral College votes, and the Electoral College effectively disappears.

In 2011, Professor Jacobson laid out his objections to the National Popular Vote initiative.

1.  The NPV compact prejudices large population centers over the rest of the country.  One of the beauties of the current system is that it forces candidates to compete nationwide, not just on the coasts and industrial Midwest. This is not a partisan issue.  I think one could make a good argument that the current system usually favors Democrats, because Democrats are guaranteed a large bloc of electoral votes (all of the states which have signed on so far are heavily Democratic).  Nonetheless, our national cohesiveness is served by candidates having to compete in Nevada, Arizona, the Carolinas and elsewhere trying to pick up electoral votes which have more significance than the mere number of votes.  So on the merits, regardless of the procedure, I’m not convinced that the current system is broken and needs fixing.

2.  If successful, the constitution will have been usurped not because states cannot choose this method (they can), but because the method effectively eliminates the electoral system through a voting compact among the states holding an electoral majority rather than through the Congressional vote and the three-fourths of states needed to amend the constitution.  If we want a popular vote (and there are good arguments for and against), then let’s change the constitution to do away with the electoral system, rather than through this tortured hybrid in which states still vote electors but undermine that system through a block voting agreement.

3.  Recounts will be a disaster.  While the advocates say that statistically a recount would be less likely, if such an event took place, the following mess would result: “In event of a tie for the national popular vote winner, the presidential elector certifying official of each member state shall certify the appointment of the elector slate nominated in association with the presidential slate receiving the largest number of popular votes within that official’s own state.”

4.  The NPV compact moves the vote fraud issue nationwide; right now, frankly, vote fraud only matters in swing states, which can be more carefully monitored.  Under the NPV compact, vote fraud anywhere could be a tiebreaker in a close national popular vote.

5.  What is to prevent a state from backing out if it doesn’t like the person elected by the popular vote?  The compact provides as follows:  “Any member state may withdraw from this agreement, except that a withdrawal occurring six months or less before the end of a President’s term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President shall have been qualified to serve the next term.”  How will this agreement be enforced?

6.  This movement has taken place under the radar.  I had not heard about this until recently, even though it apparently has passed the legislature in my home state of Rhode Island.  A constitutional amendment requires a national debate, including a vote in Congress and a super-majority of states.

7.  There is at least superficial national support for a popular vote mechanism according to Gallup, so if the arguments in favor are so strong, proponents should go about it the right way.  But support for a popular vote mechanism is not the same thing as support for the NPV block voting compact.

Each still stands today, but as our cultural winds shift, and more and more Americans support a popular vote as more democratic and “fair,” the fears that our Founders had of mob rule become all the more likely to manifest.

Writing in 2014, Newt Gingrich expressed sentiments that might be shared by many on the right.

According to their website, the National Popular Vote initiative has currently amassed 165 electoral votes; their goal is the magic 270 needed to win the presidency.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. . . .   CADCHIILMAMDNJNYRIVTWA


Following is the map provided by the National Popular Vote website:

On the map, each square represents one electoral vote (out of 538).

  1. Green indicates that the National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law
  2. Orange indicates passage by one legislative chamber
  3. Yellow indicates passage by both legislative chambers (but in different years, and hence not enacted)
  4. Blue indicates a hearing by at least one legislative committee
  5. Gray indicates no hearing.

Over at Salon, they are celebrating being “incredibly close” to “replacing the Electoral College with the popular vote” and appear to be attempting to channel some of the “resist we much” energy into pushing the effort across the line.

Salon writes:

So far 165 electoral votes from 11 states have been secured. Of the remaining 105 required, 82 are seriously in play, having passed at least one legislative chamber in 10 states. Optimistically, we’re 23 new electoral votes away from ridding ourselves of the Electoral College. It’s something that could be managed through strategically pressuring a handful of state representatives.

For any cynic who thinks the people can’t course-correct our own disenfranchisement, this is about as feasible as it gets.

Concluding his post about the National Popular Vote movement, the prof wrote:

While there are good arguments on either side of the NPV initiative, something about this smells bad.  A multistate block voting agreement is too cute by half, a back door way to accomplish what cannot be accomplished through the constitutional front door.

Before we tinker with the way in which the nation elects a president, and engage in what amounts to an experiment in block electoral voting, we need the type of national debate which has not taken place so far.

This is a discussion that definitely needs to take place, and we need to ensure that we have a voice in that discussion.  The left is absolutely knocking, softly and on the down low, on the back door to accomplish their decades-old dream of using their large, motivated, and concentrated urban numbers to usher in an era in which they believe they, and they alone, will control the outcome of presidential elections.

Even if this initiative passed, they got their 270 electoral votes locked, it’s not clear that presidential campaigns wouldn’t change to accommodate that new playing field, but the fears that Gingrich expressed about 12 states being of prime importance would be compounded.  Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia would be pushed aside in favor of the loud and clamoring voices in urban centers—New York, Miami, Los Angeles—on the coasts and in cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore.

If we think the GOP is often indistinguishable from the Democrats now, just wait until they are competing for the votes of New Yorkers and other coastal and urban elites.

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