Last week we reported on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). Colorado had become the 12th state to sign on. Their goal is to get enough states to participate to add up to 270 electoral votes. That group would then say, no matter who wins the election in their state, their electoral votes will go to the winner of the national popular vote. Since it only takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, they would automatically designate the national vote winner as president.
In our article, we suggested an alternative option, in which the current system would remain, but electoral votes would be based on one-person-one-vote. For example, in that scenario, instead of having 55 electoral votes, California would have 205, and instead of 38 votes, Texas would have 149.
As we calculated it, the outcome would have been exactly the same—with Donald Trump again winning 57% of Electoral College votes.
A lively discussion occurred in our pages, with Toto suggesting that the problem was the “winner take all” rule in most states, so that the Electoral Votes are given as a lump sum to the winner of that state, with the second-highest vote-getter receiving no Electoral Votes at all.
That was an interesting suggestion, so we did a calculation of what would happen if the Electoral Votes in each case were divided according to the popular votes of that state. In cases where third-party candidates received part of the vote, the entire state total was not awarded to the top two candidates. Therefore, the total Electoral Votes were 507, instead of 538, with third-party candidates awarded a total of 31 Electoral Votes.
For example, California would have only given 51 of its 55 Electoral Votes to the top two candidates. No other state would have given third parties more than one vote each.
However, the vote was so close in many states that their Electoral Vote would be split evenly. Those states are Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Note that FiveThirtyEight names most of those states as “perennial swing states,” but did not include Colorado, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, or Rhode Island.
OK—so once the Electoral Votes are calculated according to each state’s popular vote, instead of “winner-take-all,” who would have won the Electoral College in 2016? Donald Trump, by 253 over Hillary Clinton’s 252.
As we’ve seen, the current Electoral College gave Trump the win by 57%. And if you calculate the Electoral College by population-per-state, with larger states being allotted the same number of votes per person as the smaller states. . .the result is the same. Trump wins by 57%.
With our new calculation, getting rid of the “winner-take-all” rule, and have the current Electoral Votes divided by the popular vote of that state. . .Trump still wins, but this time, by only one Electoral Vote.
That brings us to our last calculation. If we get rid of the “winner-take-all” rule, allowing votes to be divided among the candidates, AND allot Electoral Votes based on population-per-state, that’s a whole new ballgame. This finally gives Hillary a win.
Remember, this would be allotting Electoral Votes per state, based on the population of the state, not the number of Senators and Representatives. It would also allow the “losing” candidate in each state to receive Electoral Votes commensurate with his or her actual popular vote in that state.
Finally, in this case, Hillary Clinton would receive 827 of the 1700 total Electoral Votes, Donald Trump would receive 803, and the remaining Electoral Votes would go to third-party candidates. Back to the beginning, Hillary would have also won if NPVIC had been in force in 2016. With NPVIC, states with a total of at least 270 Electoral Votes would give all their votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who won that state’s own popular vote.
In the comment section in last week’s article, Larry R. Bradley says that our suggestion from last week (which also gave Trump a 57% Electoral College win) would require a Constitutional Amendment. That’s because the Constitution specifies in Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 2, that the Electors shall number the same as the state’s U.S. Senators and Representatives That was amended in the 24th Amendment, giving the District of Columbia status as a state for this purpose (since DC has more residents than Vermont or Wyoming).
Bradley also directed us to his own page, which suggests that we should use Rank Choice Voting (RCV), which allows you to vote for two candidates. Why would you want to do that? Because you may really want, let’s say, Bernie Sanders, to win, but he wasn’t on the ballot. With RCV, you could hold your nose and vote for Hillary, but still have the ability to express your real choice. That eliminates the dilemma of not wanting to “waste your vote.”
How would Bradley’s proposed system have worked in 2016? Funny you should ask. He answers that here.
The analysis is based on the actual candidates who were on the ballot, so if you were for Bernie, still too bad. But Bradley’s system, if we understand it correctly, is a reverse of the “wasted vote” situation noted above. That is, if you were a Jill Stein fan, you could vote for her, but you could also have voted for Hillary as a second choice, so you wouldn’t be a “spoiler.”
In 2016, Trump got 46% of the popular vote, while Hillary received 48%. Bradley thinks that is one cause for the discontent with our system. We want a real winner—someone with at least 50%. This method could give Trump 283 to Hillary’s 257 Electoral Votes.
But let’s look at the percentages.
Hillary received 48.09% of the popular vote
Trump received 46.18%
Johnson received 3.28%
Stein received 1.07%
McMullen received 0.54%
Castle received 0.15%
It’s pretty clear that the Green Party’s Jill Stein was closest to Hillary, so let’s bump her up to 49.16%. And as the main “NeverTrump” candidate, McMullen votes probably would have gone to Hillary, so let’s add his, moving her to 49.7%.
Now, then, a Constitution Party candidate is probably a conservative, so let’s have him bump Trump up to 46.3%.
That leaves only Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate. Libertarians are a real wild card. They are against foreign adventures and tend to favor social liberalism. However, they do not like regulations and are anti-globalists, so Libertarians tend to move in and out of the Republican Party. For example, the 2016 vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, Bill Weld, has already announced his candidacy for next year’s GOP presidential nomination. Ah, heck, let’s just give the Libertarian votes to Trump. That brings Trump up to 49.58%.
The Wikipedia list includes the above candidates and adds “others,” with a total of 0.56% of the vote. If we knew who they were, and which way they leaned, we could push our major candidates over the top—Hillary with 50.26—or Trump with 50.14%. But, alas, we will never know. . .
As a final note, if you go back to the comments in our other article, you’ll see that writer Toto gives an impassioned support for NPVIC, noting that it would not require a Constitutional Amendment. Toto also points out that Trump has said, at least four times, that he would prefer popular election of the president.
And one final comment on NPVIC. How would it be enforced? If voters in a state vote overwhelmingly for “the other” candidate, wouldn’t they find a way to break out of the compact? And that includes legal action. If a state were to go overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020, let’s say, how could any court (much less the Supreme Court) rule that it’s Constitutional for that state’s Electoral Votes to go to anyone else?