Making Democracy Work

National Popular Vote

In Short

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 Compact 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.

State sizes based on campaign events in 2016

How It Works

The National Popular Vote compact guarantees the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Under NPV, all of the electoral votes from the participating states are given to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide. The compact takes effect when enacted by states constituting a majority of the Electoral College--that is 270 of the 538 electoral votes.

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.

Next Steps

Find more information about our efforts to get the NPV compact in Maine at our Alert page.

Read Our Legislative Testimony on This and Other Priority Issues

Learn More

 Recording from "Every Vote Counts" Maine tour, March 2020

 Webinar with Eileen Reavey from April 29, 2020

Myths debunked!

Myth #1

Big cities, such as Los Angeles, would control a nationwide popular vote for President. FALSE! 

The short answer: 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? 

Myth #2

Maine, with only 4 electoral votes, would be disadvantaged by the National Popular Vote. FALSE!

The short answer: The small states (the 13 states with only three or four electoral votes) are the most disadtagedvan 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? 

Myth #3

The Electoral College would be abolished by the National Popular Vote compact. FALSE!

The short answer: 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?

Myth #4

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?

Myth #5

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? 

Myth #6

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? 

Myth #7

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? 

Myth #8

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?