National Popular Vote Inches Closer to Reality

The Electoral College system gets a lot of scrutiny.

The institution which elects the U.S. President has many detractors, who tend to surface after the candidate who garnered the most popular votes does not win the office.

Politicians call for it to end, news stories abound explaining how it’s outdated and how a popular vote would work, and even musicians take time out of their concerts to address its legitimacy.

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Some of those who would prefer the President be elected by a national popular vote got together back in 2006 and decided to try and circumvent the Electoral College by using it to bypass the need to amend the Constitution to eliminate it.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement amongst several states (party states) to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The winner is defined as the ticket “with the largest national popular vote total,” meaning the winner need not win a majority, as was the case in 2016 when no candidate secured 50% of the popular vote.

The agreement would come into effect when party states have enough electoral clout to elect the President, meaning they hold at least 270 electoral votes.

Earlier in 2018, Connecticut became the 11th state (plus DC) to sign on to the compact, bringing the total of party state EVs to 172. Three other states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina) have had bills to join the compact introduced in their legislatures since early 2017, but none have moved since they were introduced and are likely to die.

However, as of the week of Labor Day this year, Michigan has jumped into the fray with an unusual twist.

In the other three pending states, bills to join the compact were introduced by Democrats, as they also were in almost every other instance of such bills in other states. In Michigan, the bills have been sponsored by Republicans.

If Michigan Republicans can push one or both of their bills forward and have the support of state Democrats, an additional 16 electoral votes would mean only 82 more would be required for the agreement to take effect.

A switch to the popular vote would drastically alter the landscape and tactics of Presidential elections.

The compact has been slowly garnering support and likely wouldn’t come into effect for 2020, but a strong push after then could completely change the game in 2024. Should all the states that are at least considering joining sign up within the next 6 years, the addition of Florida would bring the compact’s EVs over 270.

With the 2018 legislative session drawing to a close, this issue is unlikely to move substantially before next year. Regardless, we will continue to monitor the progress and share updates as they are available.

Edit - This post originally stated Michigan's 16 EVs would mean the compact only required 88 more to become effective. This was incorrect, and has been updated to reflect that only 82 more would be needed


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