by Rob Richie and Elise Helgesen of FairVote

The National Popular Vote (NPV) plan guarantees election of the presidential candidate who earns the greatest number of votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. NPV does not dispense with the Electoral College, and is not a constitutional amendment. Rather, the plan is based on two clear powers given to the states under the Constitution: the power under Article 2 Section 1 to choose how to allocate its presidential electors, and the power under Article 1 Section 10 to enter into interstate compacts.

States in early U.S. history often exercised the power to change rules for allocating electoral votes. While today, 48 states and the District of Columbia award their electoral votes to the winner of that state’s popular vote, the founders did not originally contemplate this type of system, as James Madison explained in 1823.

NPV is an interstate compact, a binding contract entered into by state law. Once the states that enact these NPV laws exceed the threshold of a majority of electoral votes (270 out of 538), the plan will take effect. Even where states choose not to participate in the NPV compact, the votes from those states will be incorporated on an equal basis into the total national popular vote, which in turn determine which candidate earns the electoral votes in NPV states.

Currently eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to join the NPV interstate compact. The states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, and Vermont. The NPV plan is now at its halfway point, meaning that states that have entered into the interstate compact make up 132 electoral votes, or 49% of the 270 electoral votes needed.

Even with this milestone in sight and polls consistently showing strong support in states across the U.S., the NPV plan faces individual opposition as well as specific legal challenges to its effectiveness. The concerns are answered effectively by the authors of Every Vote Equal, and supportive groups like National Popular VoteSupport Popular Vote, and FairVote.

This analysis addresses one particular challenge raised recently by NPV opponents such as Sean Parnell: that NPV is unconstitutional as based on Article II Section 1 of the Constitution. The second clause of this section states: “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 . . . .” Continue reading