by Mary Lou Masters
An organization’s efforts to circumvent states’ rights are “getting desperate” as they try new ways to push their interstate compact through state legislatures, two pro-Electoral College advocacy groups told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The National Popular Vote (NPV) is a group initiative to reform the U.S.’ two-step, Electoral College system by ensuring that the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide becomes the president. Now that NPV has enacted its interstate compact in all of the “easy,” bluer states as a standalone bill, it is getting creative to force the law through in swing states like Minnesota, Nevada, Michigan and Maine, Trent England of Save Our States and Jasper Hendricks of Democrats for the Electoral College told the DCNF.
“The National Popular Vote has won all of the easy states for them, all of the really blue states, and the states like California, New York and Illinois that stand to benefit the most from their proposal,” England, the founder of pro-Electoral College group Save Our States, told the DCNF. “At this point, they seem to be getting desperate. … It’s been several years since they won any states and, I think just to maintain credibility, they feel like they need a win somewhere.”
The campaign, which would essentially nullify the Electoral College without having to amend the Constitution, “will guarantee” that the candidate with the most votes nationally will become the president, according to the NPV website. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C., have all enacted the interstate compact.
The interstate compact will go into effect once they lock up 270 out of 538 electors — enough to elect a president — by getting enough states to enact it. As the campaign stands today, NPV has garnered 190 electoral votes from the 15 states plus Washington, D.C., and is nearly three-fourths of the way there; if the compact gets enacted in Minnesota, Nevada, Michigan and Maine, NPV will gather 36 more electoral votes, which will increase its total close to 85%.
In Minnesota, where NPV attempted to push a standalone bill in 2019, the provision was tucked into an omnibus spending bill, unrelated to elections, that just passed the state’s House chamber on Tuesday.
“It became part of an omnibus bill because they feared they were not going to be able to have the votes to pass a standalone bill,” said Hendricks, director of Democrats for the Electoral College and former Hillary Clinton elector from Virginia in 2016. “They’re sliding it in on page 80 of a larger bill in hopes that people would not see or raise objection.”
In Nevada, NPV’s interstate compact passed the House on Monday as a state constitutional amendment that does not require the signature of the governor. This was likely done in anticipation that Nevada’s Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo would not approve a standalone bill, according to England; they also tried to pass it as a standalone bill in 2019, but the then-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed it.
In 2021, NPV pushed for their interstate compact to be on the ballot in Michigan, as a standalone bill had also failed in the state in both 2008 and 2018. Michigan’s Board of Canvassers under the Board of Elections considered and approved the initial signature-gathering process for a ballot initiative in late 2021, but it never came to fruition.
“If Michigan would have been a part of this National Popular Vote compact, then their votes would have been overlooked [in 2016],” said Hendricks. “Those voters who chose Trump — for whatever reason — their votes would’ve been overlooked.”
Maine is rumored to start the ballot initiative process, according to England, after a standalone bill failed in both 2008 and 2019. In both Michigan and Maine, standalone interstate compact bills have recently been filed, in March and April, respectively.
“The National Popular Vote campaign would completely upend the Constitutional process that we use for electing the president,” said England. “It would rip away state lines from presidential elections, which means removing all the checks and balances that come with this decentralized system that we have.”
Both Save Our States and Democrats for the Electoral College work to educate state legislators on how “dangerous” NPV is in hopes that they won’t vote for an interstate compact bill, and agree NPV’s latest attempts in Minnesota, Nevada, Michigan and Maine are “out of desperation,” they said.
“It adds another layer of confusion and chaos to the election process, and it’s something that we do not need,” Hendricks told the DCNF. “They’ve tried before and have not been successful, so they’re looking at these other approaches.”
Many Democrats are in favor of circumventing the Electoral College, as the current system has lost them two elections in modern times — 2000 and 2016 — when the Democrat won the popular vote but lost the electoral. Democrats also make the claim that it doesn’t properly represent every American voter, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
“Well, my view is that every vote matters,” Warren told CNN. “And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting. And that means get rid of the Electoral College and everybody counts.”
NPV’s interstate compact is marketed as a “minor tweak,” but it has serious consequences like promoting regionalism and disregarding states’ voices, according to England. The campaign would ensure that the regions with the biggest urban areas and media markets that are largely Democrat-leaning would always decide elections and determine who the president is, he said.
“If you live out in rural and small town America, you’re definitely going to be left behind under National Popular Vote,” said England.
“The background of National Popular Vote could not be more transparent: it was founded by a former Al Gore elector who was upset that Al Gore didn’t win in 2000,” said England. “This is a sour grapes campaign.”
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Mary Lou Masters is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Election Day 2022” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.