Nevada has become the most recent state to pass a bill that could change the very fabric of how we elect the President of the United States of America. For the entirety of American history, the president is technically selected by the Electoral College. The process varies a little bit state to state and can be a little confusing, but this summary from Wikipedia does a pretty good job:
The Electoral College is a body of electors established by the United States Constitution, constituted every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, and an absolute majority of 270 electoral votes is required to win an election. Pursuant to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, the legislature of each state determines the manner by which its electors are chosen. Each state’s number of electors is equal to the combined total of the state’s membership in the Senate and House of Representatives; currently there are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Additionally, the Twenty-third Amendment provides that the District of Columbia (D.C.) is entitled to a number of electors no greater than that of the least populous state (i.e. 3).
Following the national presidential election day in the first week of November, each state counts its popular votes pursuant to that state’s laws to designate presidential electors. Almost all states allot all their electoral votes to the winning candidate in that state, no matter how marginal the candidate’s win. State electors meet in their respective state capitals in December to cast their votes. The results are certified by Congress, where they are tabulated nationally in the first week of January before a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives. If a majority of votes are not cast for a candidate, the House resolves itself into a presidential election session with one presidential vote assigned to each of the fifty state delegations, excluding the District of Columbia. The elected president and vice president are inaugurated on January 20. While the electoral vote has given the same result as the popular vote in most elections, this has not been the case in a few elections, including the 2000 and 2016 elections.
However, several states are looking to change the way the Electoral College works by essentially forming an “alliance” called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
So far, 14 states have passed measures that would give their states electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in the presidential election. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Nevada will now also be added to that list if the passed bill is signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak.
The measure will only kick in if the Compact gets to the point of representing the 270 Electoral Votes needed to elect a president. With the addition of Nevada, the total is now 195.
Prager U attempts to break down the need for the Electoral College in the following video:
In every presidential election, only one question matters: which candidate will get the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College? Our Founders so deeply feared a tyranny of the majority that they rejected the idea of a direct vote for President. That’s why they created the Electoral College. For more than two centuries it has encouraged coalition building, given a voice to both big and small states, and discouraged voter fraud.
Unfortunately, there is now a well-financed, below-the-radar effort to do away with the Electoral College. It is called National Popular Vote or NPV, and it wants to do exactly what the Founders rejected: award the job of President to the person who gets the most votes nationally.
Even if you agree with this goal, it’s hard to agree with their method. Rather than amend the Constitution, which they have no chance of doing, NPV plans an end run around it.
Here’s what NPV does: it asks states to sign a contract to give their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state’s popular vote.
What does that mean in practice? It means that if NPV had been in place in 2004, for example, when George W. Bush won the national vote, California’s electoral votes would have gone to Bush, even though John Kerry won that state by 1.2 million votes! Can you imagine strongly Democratic California calmly awarding its electors to a Republican?
Another problem with NPV’s plan is that it robs states of their sovereignty. A key benefit of the Electoral College system is that it decentralizes control over the election. Currently, a presidential election is really 51 separate elections: one in each state and one in D.C.
These 51 separate processes exist, side-by-side, in harmony. They do not — and cannot — interfere with each other. California’s election code applies only to California and determines that state’s electors. So a vote cast in Texas can never change the identity of a California elector.
NPV would disrupt this careful balance. It would force all voters into one national election pool. Thus, a vote cast in Texas will always affect the outcome in California. And the existence of a different election code in Texas always has the potential to unfairly affect a voter in California.
Why? Because state election codes can differ drastically. States have different rules about early voting, registering to vote, and qualifying for the ballot. They have different policies regarding felon voting. They have different triggers for recounts.
Each and every one of these differences is an opportunity for someone, somewhere to file a lawsuit claiming unfair treatment. Why should a voter in New York get more or less time to early vote than a voter in Florida? Why should a hanging chad count in Florida, but not in Ohio? The list of possible complaints is endless.
And think of the opportunities for voter fraud if NPV is passed! Currently, an attempt to steal a presidential election requires phony ballots to appear or real ballots to disappear in the right state or combination of states, something that is very hard to anticipate. But with NPV, voter fraud anywhere can change the election results — no need to figure out which states you must swing; just add or subtract the votes you need — or don’t want — wherever you can most easily get away with it.
And finally, if NPV is adopted, and winning is only about getting the most votes, a candidate might concentrate all of his efforts in the biggest cities, or the biggest states. We could see the end of presidential candidates who care about the needs and concerns of people in smaller states or outside of big cities.