The League of Women Voters believes that the direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government. The League of Women Voters believes, therefore, that the Electoral College should be abolished.
We support the use of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV) as one acceptable way to achieve the goal of the direct popular vote for election of the president until the abolition of the Electoral College is accomplished.
NPV is nonpartisan. NPV favors voters, not parties, land, geography, factions, or states. NPV works within the constitution, and does not change or abolish the Electoral College.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact guarantees the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. With the National Popular Vote:
- Every vote in every state in every presidential election will be equal. No battleground states, no spectator states.
- The candidate with the most votes across all 50 states and DC will win. No 2nd place winners.
- Candidates will be motivated to seek voter support in all 50 states and DC. No more swing states or spectator states.
- Voter participation will increase because voters will know their vote matters.
How We Elect a President Now
On Election Day (or before!), you and I cast our ballots for the candidate of our choice, but the real vote is when 538 electors meet on a constitutionally determined day in December and cast their ballots. Those are the intermediaries who make up the Electoral College. Who chooses them?
Article II, Section I of the US Constitution gives states the sole authority to determine the manner by which it chooses its Electors.
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress .”
Forty-eight state legislatures passed laws to choose its electors by “winner take all." The candidate who wins the most votes gets all of the state’s electoral votes, whether the candidate wins by 100,000 votes or 1 vote.
Maine and Nebraska passed laws to choose their electors by the “district” method; each of those states’ congressional districts choose their elector by the popular vote winner in that district; the rest of the state’s electoral votes go to the statewide popular vote winner—whether the win is by 100,000 votes or 1 vote!
Maine casts 2 of its 4 votes for the winner of the state-wide popular vote. Maine Congressional Districts (CD 1 and CD 2) each cast 1 vote for the winner of the popular vote in their district.
Since the Maine state legislature changed to the district method in 1972:
- Maine cast all 4 votes for a single candidate until 2016.
- Maine split its votes in 2016 and 2020. CD 2 cast its 1 vote for the Republican.
- The Republican candidate won Maine in every election between ’72 and ’92. Votes cast for the Democrat were essentially irrelevant.
- The Democratic candidate won Maine in every election since ’92. Votes cast for the Republican were essentially irrelevant.
Over 2 million votes cast for the Republican candidate between 1988 and 2020 yielded 2 Electoral College votes.
With winner take all, whether state-wide or at the district level, voters who did not vote for the majority winner had their votes effectively given to that candidate. Those voices and votes were muffled.
How it Works
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact works within the Electoral College, and is constitutional. NPV changes nothing about the Electoral College.
States joining the NPV agree to award their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. State legislatures pass the NPV legislation, and can also pass legislation in the future to leave the agreement (except during a 6 month window before Inauguration Day).
NPV becomes effective when states representing 270 Electoral College votes sign on to the agreement. Maryland was the first state to join in 2007. Most recently, Delaware, NM, and Oregon joined in 2019. 15 states and DC have joined. 195 votes have been secured. 75 to go!
When NPV goes into effect, each state will continue to conduct its elections and report results, just as they do today. States in the NPV interstate compact will cast their cumulative 270 (or more) electoral votes for the national popular vote winner, who will become president.
NPV Resolves 4 Defects of the Winner Take All Method of Electing the President:
- Every vote is not equal under Winner Take All.
- A candidate who wins the minority of the national popular vote can (and 5 times has) win the presidency.
- 4 of 5 American voters are totally ignored. Campaigns ignore states that are reliably red or reliably blue and spend 94%-99% of their time and money in “battleground” states.
Benefits of NPV:
- It ensures that the candidates with the most popular votes is elected.
- Every vote in every state would be equal.
- It would increase voters motivation to participate by giving them an incentive to vote in elections even if they are not in the majority in their state.
- It would ensure that candidates run and contest all 50 states, not just those few swing states: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and a few others.
- The League supports the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV). We are working to get this bill enacted into law in Maine. NPV is nonpartisan. It favors voters, not parties, land, geography, factions, or states. NPV works within the constitution, and does not change or abolish the Electoral College.
By: Jesse Wegman
The framers of the Constitution battled over it. Lawmakers have tried to amend or abolish it more than 700 times. To this day, millions of voters, and even members of Congress, misunderstand how it works. It deepens our national divide and distorts the core democratic principles of political equality and majority rule. How can we tolerate the Electoral College when every vote does not count the same, and the candidate who gets the most votes can lose?
Want to read Let the People Pick the President for your next book club? Check out our book discussion facilitation guide.
Big cities, such as Los Angeles, would control a nationwide popular vote for President. FALSE!
Under National Popular Vote, every vote will be equal throughout the US. A vote cast in a big city would be no more (or less) valuable or controlling than a vote cast anywhere else. Want to see the long answer?
Maine, with only 4 electoral votes, would be disadvantaged by the National Popular Vote. FALSE!
The small states (the 13 states with only three or four electoral votes) are the most disadvantaged and ignored group of states under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes; NOT because of their low population, but because they are not closely divided battleground states. Want to see the long answer?
The Electoral College would be abolished by the National Popular Vote compact. FALSE!
The National Popular Vote compact would preserve the Electoral College. It would not abolish it. It would not affect the structure of the Electoral College contained in the U.S. Constitution. Want to see the long answer?
The framers created the Electoral College to protect the small states. FALSE!
The primary division was between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states, not big and small states or cities versus rural (all the states were rural in 1787). Slave states had large populations but far fewer eligible voters (slaves could not vote). Want to see the long answer?
Maine will give up an advantage under NPV, because our Electoral College vote to population ratio is high. FALSE!
Maine is non-competitive and has no advantage. Swing states get the majority of campaign visits and spending (99% of the 2016 campaign was in the battleground states), enjoy almost 8% more in federal funds, and are 2x more likely to get presidential disaster declarations than noncompetitive states. Maine gets none of this. But NH does because it has a similar population, same Electoral votes, but it's a swing state. Want to see the long answer?
It will be too hard to conduct a national recount in a very close election. FALSE!
States will continue to manage their vote count and recount; recounts occur in the state or states that are close. Recounting votes cast for President in the nation’s 186,000 precincts is not a logistical impossibility, as evidenced by the fact that the original count is not a logistical impossibility—far from it. States consistently count the vote accurately the first time around, and have recount procedures in place, if needed. And the need is rare.
FairVote’s 2007 survey of 7,645 statewide elections from 1980 to 2006 determined that statewide elections resulted in a recount once in every 332 elections (23 out of 7,645).
Applied to national presidential elections, this number would mean we might have to conduct a national presidential election recount once every 1,328 years. Want to see the long answer?
National Popular Vote Decreases Turnout. FALSE!
Quite the contrary! Battleground states, where campaigns fight for every vote and every vote matters, have significantly higher voter turnout than “spectator” states.
Turnout was 11% higher in 2016, and 16% higher in 2012, in the dozen closely divided presidential battleground states compared to the rest of the country. In 2008, voter turnout was 9% higher in the 14 closely divided presidential battleground states compared to the rest of the country. The reason for lower voter turnout in the spectator states is that many voters realize that their vote really does not matter in the presidential race. Want to see the long answer?
This is the way the founders wanted it to be. FALSE!
Nothing about our current electoral system is like what the Founders envisioned. The Founders wanted the legislature to select electors, or candidates, who would be the "most enlightened and respectable citizens." There would be no input from the people, or citizens.
But by 1836, all the states were using a statewide “winner take all” system to choose their electors, a system never advocated or envisioned by the founders. Instead of being a deliberative body, the Electoral College in practice was (and is) composed of presidential electors who voted in lockstep to rubber stamp the choices that were made by the nominating caucuses of the political parties.
If Americans want to select a president the way the Founders envisioned, we’d need to give up the statewide popular vote, and return to the days when the legislature selected the electors without input from the people. Or, we can abolish the Electoral College, and while undertaking that long process, join the NPV interstate compact and direct Maine’s electors to cast their votes for the winner of the National Popular Vote. Want to see the long answer?
The state-by-state winner-take-all rule prevents tyranny of the majority. FALSE!
Winner-take-all statutes enable a mere plurality of voters in each state to control 100% of a state’s electoral vote, thereby extinguishing the voice of the remainder of the state’s voters. The state-by-state winner-take-all rule does not prevent a “tyranny of the majority” but instead is an example of it. And, it’s impossible to discern any threat of “tyranny of the majority” that was posed by the 1st place candidates in the 5 elections in which the Electoral College elected the 2nd place candidate to the presidency. Want to see the long answer?'
A national popular vote would be mob rule. FALSE!
The American people currently cast votes for President in 100% of the states, and they have done so in 100% of the states since the 1880 election. In case anyone thinks it is appropriate to characterize the American electorate as a “mob,” it is a long-settled political reality that the “mob” already rules in American presidential elections.
The issue presented by the National Popular Vote proposal is not whether the “mob” will vote for President, but whether the “mobs” in certain closely divided battleground states should be more important than the “mobs” in the remaining states. Want to see the long answer?
California and New York will dominate the election. FALSE!
Not true! In fact, the "winner take all" method distorts the weight of voters in all states, including the big states like New York and California, silencing the votes of the minority while magnifying the votes of the majority winner. Want to see the long answer?
With your help, we're going to get the National Popular Vote Compact signed into law. There are many ways you can get involved:
- Write a Letter to the Editor. Here are samples that you can use.
- Tell your legislators that you expect them to support NPV. You can use this template to draft your letter.
- Attend a training session
- Host an educational NPV zoom meeting (with help from us)
- Help set up legislator meetings
- Want to read Let the People Pick the President for your next book club? Check out our book discussion facilitation guide
- Learn more about the issue
- Explore other ways to help
You can select all of the ways you want to help out, and we will be in touch to share more details and help you get started! Click here to fill out our interest form.