On June 5, Oregon’s legislature voted to become the 16th state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The initiative is an agreement among states to give their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote. With Oregon’s adoption, the compact now has 196 electoral votes behind it and it needs a total of 270 electoral votes to take effect, meaning the presidential candidate with the popular vote would theoretically also earn the most electoral votes. All but seven states have introduced a bill in recent years to adopt the Compact.
In the map below, each state is sized according to its number of electoral votes. You can see, for example, that Wyoming has just three votes (fewer people live in the entire state than in the city of Portland) while California’s 40 million residents have 55 electoral votes. Dark green states have signed on to the Compact and light green states have introduced a bill within the last decade.
Don’t we need a constitutional amendment to change the Electoral College?
The Constitution leaves the decision of how to select Electors and how to distribute their votes completely up to states. Most state legislatures have chosen to give all their Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins in their state, but they could instead choose to cast their Electoral College votes for the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
What is the Compact?
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a binding agreement among states. Once enough states sign on and they can determine the election outcome, the Compact will take effect. In the next presidential election, all signatory states will cast their Electoral College votes for the winner of the national popular vote for president. By signing a compact to act together, state legislators can stand together for the principle that the presidential candidate who wins the most votes should win the presidency.
Will the Compact disadvantage small states?
The way that states currently divvy up their electoral college votes advantages swing states, not small states. Candidates spend 94 percent of their campaign stops in 12 states and two-thirds of their campaign stops in just six states. None of the smallest states are in that lucky bunch. The map below shows the states sized according to their electoral college votes and colored according to how many visits they received in the 2016 cycle. Candidates did at least 48 events in each of the four dark blue swing states but flew over most other states. Year after election year, Oregon—and other “safe” states like it—get exactly zero presidential campaign visits. Oregon votes just don’t make a difference to candidates: as long as the Democratic candidate wins more votes than the Republican, she will get seven Electoral votes whether she wins one million or two million Oregon votes, and the Republican candidate will get zero electoral votes whether he wins one million or two million Oregon votes.
And swing states don’t just get candidate visits; they get more money and special treatment after the election is over, too. Swing states receive 7 percent more presidentially controlled grants, twice as many disaster declarations, more Superfund and education requirement exemptions than “safe” (non-swing) states do, and their priorities more influentially shape federal policies on economics and trade.
Who would benefit from the Compact?
A national popular vote would make every vote matter, so everyone who chooses to vote would benefit.
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States that honor their citizens’ right to vote (as Oregon does) would get more votes counting in the presidential race. With 90 percent of eligible citizens registered to vote, and record high voter turnout, Oregon would make the most of its voting population. But states that try to prevent their citizens from voting would get fewer votes than they could by following Oregon’s lead. (By the way, honoring the right to vote is a bargain compared to suppressing voters.)
Interestingly, Colorado, a swing state that arguably benefits from the current Electoral College set-up, signed on to the Compact this year. Bravo to Coloradans for caring more about a fair and functioning democracy than about getting special treatment as a swing state.
What are the Compact’s chances of taking effect?
Astute readers will notice that most of the states that have signed on so far are “safe blue” states. The exceptions are purple New Mexico and Colorado. The closer the Compact gets to taking effect, the harder it will be to get states to sign on. But the more states that sign on, the more attention the Compact receives, moving the country towards the idea that the presidential candidate with the most votes should win.
Advocates for the Compact will continue to work in the 27 states that have introduced bills to get some of those bills passed and more states signed on to the Compact.
Kristin Eberhard is a senior researcher at Sightline. She researches, writes about, and speaks about climate change policy and democracy reform. Find her latest research here. If you have questions or would like to make a media inquiry, contact Sightline’s Communications Manager Anne Christnovich.
There are two blatantly obvious biases in this one sentence…
—“Oregon votes just don’t make a difference to candidates: as long as the Democratic candidate wins more votes than the Republican, she will get seven Electoral votes whether she wins one million or two million Oregon votes, and the Republican candidate will get zero electoral votes whether he wins one million or two million Oregon votes. ”
Your fraudulent attempts at critical thinking is pitiful to watch.
Well Lee, all you have to do is look at how much campaigning the presidential candidates do in the no-swing states. Its pretty close to zero and is usually just a quick stop for fundraising.
I’m going to the Columbia County Courthouse today to change my affiliation to Republican. The Democrats got their supermajority here and have been rolling over the top of everyone else.
If the people here were really serious about getting rid of “archaic election methods that cripple democracy,” then you should be working to abolish the winner take all system of assigning electoral votes, but since that works to the advantage of your actual agenda, you wont. We are not blind to what the real motives are here.
Regardless, I doubt it will ever take effect, given that the same states that you complain about controlling the Electoral College have no reason to approve it. Do the math. And that’s just the first hurdle. There will be lots of court challenges in the unlikely event it ever does get enough states on board to take effect.
converting to a national popular vote subvert’s our founders intentions to have a democratic republic, not a true democracy. converting to a national popular vote would ensure that states like California, New York and Illinois with a handful of other “blue” states would run the country. we would then hasten our demise as described in the Tytler cycle. see http://commonsensegovernment.com/the-tytler-cycle-revisited/
Art. I, Sec. 10.3 reads, in operative part: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress…enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State…”
The National Popular Vote Movement, which Oregon has now joined, is great and all that, but it cannot take effect unless and until it is ratified by the US Congress. I’m a little surprised the Sightline writer didn’t mention this issue.
The nat’l popular vote does not have to be ratified by congress as it is not an amendment. The constitution gives all states the right to use their electors any way they want.
Last Man in Portland
Communists are getting bold, bigly. I hope you are successful in subverting the electoral college for the 2020 election so all of Oregon’s votes go to President Donald J. Trump.
Art. I, Sec. 10.3 is of course from the Constitution of the United States
“all you have to do is look at how much campaigning the presidential candidates do in the no-swing states. Its pretty close to zero and is usually just a quick stop for fundraising”
personally don’t care who campaigns where, I’ve never stood and a crowd and whooped it up for any snake-in-the-grass politician. just because one spends more time in a ‘swing state’ to bolster their numbers, is really just superficial face-time anyway.
now Unless you walk thru life with blinders on, you know that voter fraud is rampant in OR and CA and most of the other states which have signed onto this pact. THAT is what needs to be addressed before the electoral vote is revamped.
Voter fraud in Or. and Ca? Where do you get your info? Fox News?
Last Man in Portland
Millions of illegals vote, cancelling out millions of citizen votes. Currently the problem is compartmentalized by the electoral college. If the electoral college is abolished, fraudulent votes gain significant power.
Direct democracy is a communist trick.
Dumb article. So misrepresented. Only from a Democrat’s view. Like I said dumb.
Amazing all the static that commenters dream up against awarding the presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes from voters. It works in every other constitutional democracy, and makes more sense than giving the office to the runner up, as the US did in 2000 and 2016.
The citizenry of the United States would benefit from a national popular vote. Two elections of this new century have been stolen by Republicans because of an archaic method of electing presidents. This is not 1789 and the constitution is a living document with amendments to said article. In a word, the electoral college system is obsolete and it never was very good to begin with. It was meant to make sure elite, slaveholding men retained power instead of the “rabble” upsetting their applecart. As far as candidates visiting all of the states who cares? It is crazy in this day and age that candidates should travel around passing out soundbites like communion wafers. There is so much about election campaigns that is just abominable that I don’t have time or space to go into it here.
So why vote?? Just have one election in the “big five” and the results are in….since they are all states that vote Dem, then we can have a system like in other countries that the current leader decides when to step down and who the next leader is….unless there is a coup of course.
This is so biased. Just this statement for example: “But states that try to prevent their citizens from voting…”
What does that mean? Care to name states that “try to prevent their citizens from voting?” This typical leftist code to rail about Voter ID and states that actually try to PREVENT FRAUD! Liberals love fraud because it works to their favor having illegal immigrants vote for the party that is going to give them free healthcare even though they broke in to this country. Ridiculous.
BTW, it will be challenged in court and SCOTUS will knock it down. You people have no problem with the rules until you lose and then you want to change them. This is an insidious, evil movement to subvert the intent of the Constitution.
This is another Democratic ploy to regain the White House, gain power, and thwart more rights of the American people. If a State votes for a candidate for President, what right does that State legislature have to vote the other party in the Electoral College? If you study the map, most of the States in this compact are Democrat historically – oh, how convenient. Talk about meddling in an election. We simply cannot go to a popular vote – what it would mean is: essentially a handful of major cities would dictate our Presidential outcome – Los Angeles; Chicago; New York; Atlanta; Miami. Notice a trend here? Let me point it out – they are ALL Democratic cities historically. In fact, when someone argues that the popular vote means my vote counts – what it actually does, is void the votes of all small and midsize populated States. The Electoral College may not be perfect, but Popular vote is flawed in so many ways. I could foresee class action suits against States that support such a preposterous position. I, for one, would lead that challenge.
Here is the link to the Bill Votes! Really stunningly ridiculous! Today that our Constitution is outdated is simply an excuse and a ruse to add electoral college votes to the National Popular Vote winner to sidestep the original intent of the US Constitution!
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This sounds like socialism to me, I don’t think a state can steal your votes & give to someone else. Everyone needs to contact our protectors of our rights, the White House, the US Senate or both. I think Kate Brown is a female version of Bernie Sanders!
Do something now or lose your voting rights!!!