The Electoral College is closer to death than most people realize. It may seem like the only way to change the US’s peculiar election process is through the Constitution, which would be almost impossible in today’s political environment. However, there’s another path available to those who hope to end the Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact offers an ingenious way around the Electoral College and towards a system that truly embodies the goal of “one person, one vote.”

Rather than formally ending the Electoral College, the Interstate Compact asks states to commit to sending all of their electors to the candidate that wins the popular vote. However, this provision would only go into effect in any participating state once states accounting for at least 270 Electoral Votes (a majority) sign on. This would ensure that no state would sacrifice their Presidential Electors without a guarantee that enough other participatory states would as well. Once states with a combined total of at least 270 Electoral Votes join the Interstate Compact, whoever wins the popular vote will be guaranteed at least 270 Electoral Votes and will therefore be elected President. Without formally ending or altering the Electoral College, the Interstate Compact could render it ineffective. The ball is in the hands of the states.

The Interstate Compact was created in 2006 by a computer scientist named John Koza. Maryland became the first state to approve the National Popular Vote Bill and join the Interstate Compact in 2007, and has since been followed by 14 others and the District of Columbia. These 16 jurisdictions total 195 Electoral Votes, leaving the Interstate Compact only 75 votes short of enactment. However, the path forward for the Compact is significantly more challenging. 

So far, every state that has approved the National Popular Vote Bill to join the Compact has been a deep-blue state that voted for Biden and has a Democratically-run government. The most purple of the 16, likely Colorado, still voted for Biden by 13 percent. The fact that only blue states so far have joined the Compact makes sense politically because Republicans are currently benefiting from the Electoral College. George Bush and Donald Trump each famously won the Presidential Election in 2000 and 2016 respectively without winning the most votes. In 2020, although Joe Biden won the popular vote by almost 5 percent, Trump still came within just 1-2 percent of winning the Electoral College via a few key states. Since 2016, most Democrats have embraced eliminating the Electoral College and Republicans have become much more resistant. But to push the Interstate Compact into use, advocates will have to find ways to persuade Republicans or flip state legislatures. This task might be made easier by the fact that the Compact has proven to be quite popular among voters in blue and red states alike. For example, in Oklahoma in 2015, 79 percent of voters expressed support for the Interstate Compact, including 71 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats.

Fortunately for such advocates, there is a central argument in favor of the Interstate Compact in addition to the partisan one which only appeals to Democrats. Because only a few states – termed “swing states” – are likely to be close in each Presidential Election, Presidential Candidates spend the vast majority of their time in these few states to appeal to key voters. For example, in 2020, 96 percent of Biden and Trump’s campaign visits occurred in just 12 states. Once in office, Presidents are also more likely to focus efforts more on swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Georgia. This process, many argue, is detrimental to the hundreds of millions of Americans who live outside of these few states. For that reason, some deep-red states, such as Oklahoma, have considered the Interstate Compact. Although state-lawmakers in Oklahoma would be disappointed to see Democrats eliminate their structural advantage in the Electoral College, they would possibly be more pleased to see their state receive more attention during Presidential Campaigns and in White House administrations. Under the Compact, a vote in Oklahoma would be worth the same to a Presidential hopeful as a vote in Pennsylvania, Florida, or California. In 2014, the Oklahoma Senate actually passed the National Popular Vote Bill to join the Compact, but it was never taken up by the House. However, Oklahoma isn’t the only state to seriously consider, but not sign onto, the bill in the past few years, leaving a viable path to the 270 votes necessary to end the Electoral College.

For starters, three states under complete Democratic governance have yet to join the Compact. Nevada and Maine, representing six and four Electoral Votes respectively, both came close in 2019. Maine passed the bill out of both chambers but failed to align the two versions of the bill, then the State House later voted it down. Nevada sent the bill through both chambers before it was vetoed by their Democratic Governor. While neither state has moved on a National Popular Vote bill since 2019, they’re both expected to be controlled by Democrats into the near future and could conceivably join soon. Virginia, which has 13 Electoral Votes and is also entirely controlled by Democrats, passed the Compact through its State House in 2020 before the pandemic, but the State Senate never took it up. If Virginia, Nevada, and Maine all join, the Compact would gain 23 Electoral Votes, pushing it to 218. 

These three states are the most obvious prospects for the Compact, but beyond that, Minnesota and Michigan both seem to be within striking distance. Minnesota Democrats control the State House and Governor’s mansion and are only one seat down in the State Senate. If Democrats manage to flip a single seat in the State Senate in the near future while holding onto the State House and Governor’s mansion, they would have the power to join the Compact on their own, adding ten more Electoral Votes. Michigan is more challenging for Democrats. The state is gerrymandered to favor Republicans, which makes it more challenging for Democrats to gain legislative power. However, a ballot initiative campaign recently began in Michigan to join the Compact without going through the legislature. If the campaign gets enough signatures and a majority of voters approve of it, which polling suggests is likely, that would be another 15 Electoral Votes. Adding 25 more to 218 would put the Compact at 243, within striking distance of 270.

At this point, the path is more perilous for advocates. Still, there’s a number of conceivable ways they could finish the job and get to 270. First, one or more red states like Oklahoma could boldly decide to officially sign on, which could dramatically close the gap. Texas, for example, has 40 Electoral Votes, which alone would be enough from 243. Most likely, the Compact will be completed by states that Democrats entirely control. Fortunately for Democrats, there are a number of purple states where they could conceivably have legislative majorities in the near future. Swing states such as Arizona, Florida (30 EVs), Georgia (16 EVs), Wisconsin (10 EVs), and Pennsylvania (19 EVs) all could elect Democrats into power in the near future.

The Compact gives the millions of Americans opposed to the Electoral College some real hope that our Presidential Elections could soon be run purely on the principle of one person, one vote. With legislative execution in blue states, electoral organizing in a few purple states, and perhaps some luck in one or two red states, the Electoral College might come to an end.

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