For those of you who don’t know what the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is, or what it does, I strongly recommend that you start here to understand how it works. The relevant part of this op-ed, is that the NPV can and will reverse the votes of individual states, and candidates won’t pay attention to smaller states.
The National Popular Vote will not give presidential candidates incentive to visit states that have low populations. One of the favorite arguments among supporters of the NPV is that if we effectively end the Electoral College, candidates would be forced to visit “a bare minimum of 24 states” in order to secure the popular vote.
Ironically, both President Trump and Obama’s former campaign manager agree that candidates would not have to travel to multiple states if the Electoral College were eliminated. Jim Messina detailed this in an interview with MSNBC, saying, “Let me just answer the Electoral College question. I also think just from a campaign manager standpoint from when I ran President Obama’s campaign, we would never go to a small state if there was no Electoral College. You’d go to the major media markets, you would not go to Iowa, you wouldn’t go to Montana, you wouldn’t go to New Hampshire…” President Trump agreed, tweeting out:
Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College. It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win. With the Popular Vote, you go to….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 19, 2019
….just the large States – the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power – & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 19, 2019
The top 10 most populated states contain 55% of the United States population as of 2018 projections by the US Census Bureau. In 2016, there were 11 states that were considered “battlegrounds” for presidential candidates. Fellow VozWire journalist Chris Walker reports that, “19 out of every 20 (campaign) stops were in just 12 states.” No matter how you slice it, the majority of the time, candidates are only visiting one-fifth of the country; however, the idea that the National Popular Vote will encourage candidates to visit more states is simply false. As Mr. Messina pointed out, there is simply no incentive for a candidate to visit small states under the National Popular Vote.
There is an argument that the NPV disenfranchises voters who are not in the 10 most populated states. Take for example, the contrast between the state of Colorado and Los Angeles county. In L.A. there are 2 million registered Democrats. In Colorado, there are 3 million registered voters total. Right off the bat, Democrats in a single county in California account for two-thirds of the votes of an entire state. It is this extreme imbalance of voting power that is the major concern for those who want to protect the Electoral College.
The National Popular Vote is being sold as a way to “make every vote count,” yet it concentrates power in fewer states than the current system does. To Democrats, or anyone someday in control of the highly populated states, this fact is a huge advantage. What it really means is that Democrats can focus all of their resources building a fortress that would be nearly impossible for any opponents to breach. They would no longer need to waste time and money in states that are deemed inconsequential. All they really need to do is ponder—within the safety of their strongholds—how to best convert more locals to their ideology.
In addition to that advantage, there is a clause in the compact that allows member states to get out of the agreement. So, even if your political opponents appear to be making headway in one of the highly populated states, you can remove your state from the agreement, thus denying your opponents the same population advantage that you’ve enjoyed.
There is nothing democratic about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. While there are issues with the Electoral College as it currently operates, it is still an excellent system for representing the people of the United States. There are solutions to addressing the under-representation of densely populated states that do not completely negate the voices of people in smaller states. Namely, if Congress were to remove the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, all states would receive greater representation not only in the Electoral College, but in Congress as well.
The United States is too large a country to have a direct vote for the President of the United States. There are simply too many people and too many different interests to consider when electing the President to allow for a direct vote. The Founders knew this, even going as far as saying that the Electoral College would be the least likely to create conditions of violent protest and civil unrest. We would be severely mistaken to believe that, in the eventuality of a state being forced to give their Electoral Votes to the candidate they didn’t choose, there would not be civil unrest resulting from the National Popular Vote.
The Electoral College must be defended. Any attempt to circumvent or subvert a major portion of the Constitution will likely be met with further division in our country. It is the only thing that is protecting what remains of the unity of the United States. Even so, just 23% of Americans are confident in the way that votes are counted. That being the case, the illusion that the result of the National Popular Vote would be respected is ignorance to the point of danger. There are certainly things that we can do to bolster the effectiveness of the Electoral College, but the point remains: It is the most promising way to fairly elect the leader of our country.