What is National Popular Vote?

June 3, 2019

Trent England

In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, some Al Gore supporters determined to do away with the Electoral College. Amending the Constitution is hard—rightly so. So these disappointed Gore supporters sought another way, an interstate compact that would leave the constitutional system in place, but hijack it to get a different result. They called their plan, and the organization they created to push it, National Popular Vote. 

The interstate compact, adopted by states through their legislative processes, claims to bind those states to ignore the results of their own voters in presidential elections. Instead, these states would appoint Electors for the candidate believed to have won the most votes nationwide. This is an “end run,” according to NPV’s founder, around the Electoral College and the constitutional amendment process. It would leave the Electoral College structure in place, but render the constitutional system meaningless.

NPV has a ‘trigger”—it only takes effect if passed by states with a total of 270 electoral votes, which would then control the election outcome without regard to what any other state does. After launching in 2006, NPV won Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii over the next two years. From 2009 through 2018, NPV added seven states and the District of Columbia. Two of those—California and New York—brought significant numbers of electoral votes. The 2018 elections shifted politics to the left in a number of states, allowing NPV to win Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico (with bills pending in Maine, Nevada and Oregon when this was written). Only blue states have adopted NPV, with support coming overwhelmingly from Democrats.

Save Our States exists to defend the Electoral College against schemes like NPV, as well as more straightforward constitutional amendments that would eliminate the Electoral College. Any of these proposals would increase the risks of regionalism, small-plurality winners, and spoiler candidates, while removing important protections against election fraud. The Electoral College has served our country well, and we should preserve it.