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?

16 COMMENTS

  1. There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents states from making the decision now that winning the national popular vote is required to win the Electoral College and the presidency.

  2. The National Popular Vote bill is 64% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    It simply requires enacting states with 270 electoral votes to award their electoral votes to the winner of the most national popular votes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.

  3. An interstate compact is not a mere “handshake” agreement. If a state wants to rely on the goodwill and graciousness of other states to follow certain policies, it can simply enact its own state law and hope that other states decide to act in an identical manner. If a state wants a legally binding and enforceable mechanism by which it agrees to undertake certain specified actions only if other states agree to take other specified actions, it enters into an interstate compact.

    Interstate compacts are supported by over two centuries of settled law guaranteeing enforceability. Interstate compacts exist because the states are sovereign. If there were no Compacts Clause in the U.S. Constitution, a state would have no way to enter into a legally binding contract with another state. The Compacts Clause, supported by the Impairments Clause, provides a way for a state to enter into a contract with other states and be assured of the enforceability of the obligations undertaken by its sister states. The enforceability of interstate compacts under the Impairments Clause is precisely the reason why sovereign states enter into interstate compacts. Without the Compacts Clause and the Impairments Clause, any contractual agreement among the states would be, in fact, no more than a handshake.

  4. Nothing I noted before was suggesting dividing electoral votes according to the popular votes of a state.

    There are good reasons why no state awards their electors proportionally.

    Electors are people. They each have one vote. The result would be a very inexact whole number proportional system.

    Every voter in every state would not be politically relevant or equal in presidential elections.

    It would sharply increases the odds of no candidate getting the majority of electoral votes needed, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of the popular vote anywhere.

    It would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote;

    It would reduce the influence of any state, if not all states adopted.

    It would not improve upon the current situation in which four out of five states and four out of five voters in the United States are ignored by presidential campaigns, but instead, would create a very small set of states in which only one electoral vote is in play (while making most states politically irrelevant),

    It would not make every vote equal.

    It would not guarantee the Presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country.

    The National Popular Vote bill is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees the majority of Electoral College votes to the candidate who gets the most votes among all 50 states and DC.

    • I agree that an elector’s vote can’t be split so long as that vote is being cast by a live human being. Given the way states have forced Electors to vote for who they are “supposed” to vote for, an argument could be made that no humans are allowed and rather elector allocation is just a number to be sent forward from the states for the final total.
      See my comment at the end.

      • I want to clarify, the proposal I made of equalizing the Electoral College by increasing the Electoral Votes did not “split votes,” it increased them, so that only whole Electoral votes would be added. One odd quirk of that system would be that many states would not go to either candidate–their whole votes would be divided equally, between the candidates. If there were an odd number of Electoral votes for that state, the candidate with the plurality of the popular vote would get the extra Electoral vote.

        But let me ask you this: wouldn’t your proposed change be, in effect, “one person, two votes”? And in order to establish it in all the States, wouldn’t it still need a Constitutional Amendment? The Constitution says the individual States will determine how Electoral votes are cast. Some States might decide that they could become a “prize” by reinstating winner-take-all in just their State?

        Also, wouldn’t the result make it even less likely that a third-party candidate could win? I personally feel that Ross Perot might have won in 1992. The polls showed him well ahead of both Bush and Clinton before he ended his bid. (I sort of felt that the idea of actually winning scared him out.) Anyway, with your system, my guess is that fervent supporters and loyal party members probably would not have used their second vote, while Perot voters probably would have thought, if he can’t win, I hope Bush (or Clinton) does, instead. In that case, while it might give one candidate an actual majority, wouldn’t it doom third parties altogether?

        Here’s another question: If someone were adamant for Bush, let’s say, if they cast both of their ranked votes for Bush, couldn’t they have some legal recourse for having their second Bush vote cancelled?

        • I’m working another priority right now. Good thoughts. I’ll get back with you shortly. I will say that I was not saying your proposal splits votes. I’m simply offering the food for thought that (regardless of whether you determine the number of Electors by the current method or by your proposal, which I very much like) if we use my idea to spit the Electors based on percentage of Popular Vote the two attained using Ranked Choice Voting that we calculate the split using decimals. Example with 100 electors. Candidate A gets 52.3%% of the vote and 52.3 Electors to carry forward to the final totaling. Candidate B gets 47.7% of the vote so he/she gets 47.7 Electors to carry forward to the final total.

          The states have fixed it so its nigh impossible for there to be a faithless elector, so let’s do away with the charade and go with a calculated number based on the rules I’m proposing, as shown in my example above.

        • Ok, I’m back for a bit. Regarding your paragraph two above about whether my method would require a Constitutional Amendment. It could be pursued that way I think the states can be leveraged/persuaded to adopt it, especially if each state’s citizens want what the other states have. I discuss that, along with my other two reform proposals at this link. http://www.thecenterstrikesback.org/three.asp

          Regarding your comment about my method making it less likely that third parties would win. The opposite is true. The use of Ranked Choice only strengthens third parties who show intelligence, vision and common sense. There is no penalty any longer for voters with the advent of Ranked Choice. They no longer fear that voting for their preferred candidate will result in the candidate they’re most opposed to winning. That’s very freeing.

          As we have it today, we have one of the two major parties who offers voters a radio, but no heater in their political transport. The other major party offers voters a heater, but no radio. Its possible for political transport to have both a radio and a heater, but the two parties force voters to choose. What ranked choice does is enable a party to emerge that will offer both a radio and a heater. That means the potential exists for the two major parties to quickly become minority parties.

          If you haven’t spent any time on my web site, blog or Facebook page or that of FairVote.org, you might want to do so.

          A corollary to Murphy’s law is that “Before you do anything, you have to do something else first.” Getting ranked choice into our elections is the something else we need to solve our political issues.

        • I appreciate the intelligent discussion we’re having here. If you only want one candidate to win, then mark that candidate as your first choice. You have nothing to gain by marking them as #2. You may be thinking of approval voting. The ability to manipulate approval voting is why I favor Ranked Choice. Marking a candidate twice only denies you the ability to name a second choice when your first candidate is eliminated (should that happen.)

    • Most people don’t realize that the current system actually does risk a tie. There are 538 Electors. If someone had won California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, the total electors would be 269. The other candidate would also have 269, and the House would have decided who won. And with so many of the other scenarios, Trump would have also won that way.

      It is surprising that it has never happened, so far.

  5. Is the Democratic party determined by however many perturbations they have to go through to have the coastal states control the rest of the country? That doesn’t sound very Democratic to me.?

  6. Thanks for including my methodology in this edition. Here is the analysis I did post election in 2016 on my Blog. http://blog.thecenterstrikesback.org/?p=161 As I comment there, knowing how voters would behave is pure guesswork. We take existing numbers and try to extrapolate from them, but we don’t know how voters would have behaved had they been operating under new rules, yours or mine.

    One other comment, if I may. In 48 out of the 50 states (and, in essence, the other two, as well) we allow a Presidential candidate with only the largest plurality of the vote (40 some percent) to get 100% of the Electors. We need a system that will allow a determination of a majority winner or the top two via an instant runoff process like RCV in determining who gets a state’s Electors.

    We want government that reflects the will of the majority within the bounds of the Constitution. That means we need to use our elections to determine what the will of the majority truly is.

  7. The kind of reporting that produced this piece is a blight on democracy. Always treating politics like a horse race and talking about who’s up, who’s down, in different scenarios, etc., instead of focusing on actual issues and providing voters with the tools they need to evaluate candidates based on their beliefs, character, and records, rather than simple tribal loyalties or who they think has what chances of winning.

    When everyone is trying to “game the system” by voting based on how the media tells them to expect other people to vote, instead of voting their consciences, democracy is broken, because the outcomes will never reflect the true views of the electorate.

    • If you look at our other articles, you’ll find lots of discussion of candidates and their policies, as well as stories about specific issues–and seek out diverse viewpoints to share. This particular series of articles simply explained the system, so readers could see that it is being gamed. Don’t shoot the messenger.

      • Thank you for your response. It is always good to see the people who run news outlets, and produce content, publicly engaging with their readers/viewers/listeners, because it doesn’t happen often enough.

        Admittedly I am not a frequent enough reader of US Presidential Election News to debate the accuracy of the claims you make in your defense. I hope they are true. It is possible that I misjudged and unfairly impugned your outlet based on this one piece, so please allow me to ask a couple follow-up questions to determine whether that may be the case.

        Does USPEN typically present U.S. presidential elections to voters on an equal playing field by dedicating comparable amounts of coverage to alternative party candidates as to candidates of the 2-party ruling cartel?

        In articles that do explicitly or implicitly compare candidates in terms of their relative popularity, fundraising, chances of being elected, etc., does USPEN typically provide the background information that is needed to put these comparisons in context – the ballot access laws that favor the 2-party cartel and require alternative parties to spend large percentages of their resources just getting their candidates before voters, the polls that exclude most alternative party candidates, the cartel-controlled Presidential Debate Commission that has excluded every alternative presidential candidate since 1992, and the approach of most of the media that fails to present all ballot-qualified candidates on a level playing field in terms of the amount of coverage they receive?

        “Don’t shoot the messenger” is a valid defense when a messenger is
        simply a messenger, but when the “messengers” are involved in not just
        delivering but producing the messages in question, it
        no longer applies.

        • Actually, after I thought about it, the article in question was not a “horse race” piece, it was sort of making fun of that, as evidenced in the “gee whiz” attitude, especially near the end.

          We do try to cover a wide range of information. We recently did an article on Bill Weld’s entry into the race as a Republican. When new candidates enter, you’ll see us cover some of their background and chosen issues, as well.

          In addition, if you check our back articles, you’ll see that we also cover related issues, such as the difficulty of polling when almost no one has a landline-and even they have caller ID. There was a detailed discussion of Venezuela–but why he stands, not about whether he should go. Before that, we did an article of how racism and sexism are becoming large campaign issues. There were back to back articles, “If Democrats were smart (they’re not),” and “If Republicans were smart (they’re nmot).” Then there was a question of whether Saudi Arabia’s behavior may force us into more democracy here. . .a condemnation of lame duck sessions. . .the fact candidates who lose once will never win afterward (in the same party). . .Colin Kaepernick. . .North Korea. . .AltRight vs. AltLeft, and so on. We find what is being said elsewhere and bring it to you,asking YOUR opinion.

          As in the article you mentioned, you’ll notice that we read all our mail, and OFTEN take leads from posts to do full articles. So keep writing. Thanks.

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