Brief #79—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an affiliation of U.S. states that has put together an agreement that has the potential to enact sweeping changes in future elections of the U.S. President.

The current system in place as put forth by the U.S. Constitution dictates that the President and Vice – President, who run on the same ticket, will be elected if they receive a majority of the votes from the Electoral College. With 538 members in the Electoral College 270 votes is the minimum number needed to win. Members of the Electoral College are selected by the states according to the total number of a state’s congressional delegation (number of senators (2) plus number of representatives). By custom, states have permitted the political party of the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state to select the electors for that state. If the Republican nominee for President wins the popular vote in the state, then the Republican list of electors is chosen to vote for the state in the Electoral College. And, if the Democratic nominee for President wins the popular vote in the state, then the Democratic list of electors is instead sent to the Electoral College to cast the state’s votes.

What the NPVIC aims to do is to change the way electors are selected. National Popular Vote bills have been introduced in a number of states and will now commit a state to award its slate of electoral voters to the presidential and vice – presidential ticket who wins the popular vote nationwide regardless of the results in their individual state. As of March 2019, eleven states and the District of Columbia have passed National Popular Vote bills accounting for 172 electoral college votes, 63.7% of the total needed to win the presidency. LEARN MORE

The National Popular Vote movement has been around for more than a decade but it has begun to pick up steam recently. The immense unpopularity of President Donald J. Trump and his administration and his stunning elevation to the presidency despite losing the popular vote to opponent Hillary Clinton has called into question the usefulness of the Electoral College and whether citizen votes for President really matter. The sense was that if changes to the Electoral College and the process in electing the president were going to be undertaken it would be an unlikely endeavor given the difficulties in marshaling support for a constitutional amendment.

However, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution specifically states that state legislatures have the power to select the electors for the Electoral College. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have now gone ahead and have passed National Popular Vote legislation that has been signed by each state’s respective governors. Once more states approve legislation and reach the 270 electoral votes threshold, the agreement to award each state’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in a presidential election will go into effect. While there has been some pushback, notably from Republicans, it is interesting to note that this movement is gaining wide support. The total number of electoral votes from states that have approved these bills is 172 which is already more than half of what is needed to win the presidency. And, support has come from both small and large states and from across the country. D.C. and Vermont with 3 electoral college votes have signed on. Washington with 12, New Jersey with 14 and Illinois with 20 have also come on board. And two of the largest states in terms of electoral college votes, New York with 29 and California with 55, have signed laws granting their electoral votes to the nationwide popular vote winner.

This week, Colorado’s governor Jared Polis has stated he will sign the bill passed by the Colorado Legislature to join the compact and become the 12th state to award its electoral votes in this manner. This is a significant addition to the compact and will bump up the electoral votes under the compact to 181, only 89 electoral college votes short of 270. Additionally, another 16 states introduced National Popular Vote bills in their legislative houses this year. While there is no guarantee that all those states will pass those bills this year, it does appear that the movement for the election of the U.S. President align with the results of the nationwide popular vote is making significant headway and could become the determining and dominant factor affecting the 2020 and 2024 presidential election. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers


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