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Short Explanation
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee a majority of the Electoral College to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote in the Electoral College reflects the choice of the nation's voters for President of the United States.   more
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The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law in states possessing 165 electoral votes — 61% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the legislation.

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  • Rhode Island - 4 votes
  • DC - 3 votes
  • Hawaii - 4 votes
  • New Jersey - 14 votes
  • Illinois - 20 votes
  • New York - 29 votes
  • California - 55 votes

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    4. Myths about the Small States

    1.4.1       MYTH: The small states would be disadvantaged by a national popular vote.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • The small states (the 13 states with only three or four electoral votes) are the most disadvantaged and ignored group of states under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes. The reason is that political power in presidential elections comes from being a closely divided battleground state, and almost all of the small states are noncompetitive states in presidential elections.
  • The small states are not ignored because of their low population, but because they are not closely divided battleground states. The 12 small non-battleground states have about the same population (12 million) as the closely divided battleground state of Ohio. The 12 small states have 40 electoral votes—more than twice Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. However, Ohio received 73 of 253 post-convention campaign events in 2012, while the 12 small non-battleground states received none.
  • The current state-by-state winner-take-all system actually shifts power from voters in the small and medium-sized states to voters in a handful of big states that happen to be closely divided battleground states in presidential elections.
  • The fact that the small states are disadvantaged by the current state-by-state winner-take-all system has long been recognized by prominent officials from those states. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly small states in suing New York (then a closely divided battleground state) in the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to get state winner-take-all statutes declared unconstitutional.
  • Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, a vote for President in Wyoming is equal to a vote in California—both are politically irrelevant.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Tara Ross, an opponent of the National Popular Vote plan, writes:

    “NPV will lessen the need of presidential candidates to obtain the support of voters in rural areas and in small states.”[194]

    A brochure published in 2010 by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington states:

    “The seven smallest states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) and the District of Columbia each have three electoral votes. A national popular vote would render all low-population states almost permanently irrelevant in presidential political strategy.[195] [Emphasis added]

    Ross has also stated:

    “Minority political interests, particularly the small states, are protected [by the current system].” [196] [Emphasis added]

    “Ultimately, the Electoral College ensures that the political parties must reach out to all the states.” [197] [Emphasis added]

    Professor Robert Hardaway of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law has said:

    “If we had National Popular Vote, you take a state like Alaska, which has a very low population. If it was a national popular vote no presidential candidate would be interested in going up there, because the population is so low. But, as you pointed out, if they have 3 electoral votes, that’s the compromise that brought this nation together, that’s a lot of votes, that’s a lot of electoral votes compared to the population, so you’ll see presidential candidates visiting some of those outlying areas.” [198]

    Referring to the National Popular Vote plan, Senator Mitch McConnell said:

    “If the only vote total that counted was just running up the score, query, when would be the next time if you had a state with one congressmen or 2 congressmen and you had a tiny population, when would be the next time you would see or hear from any candidate for president?” [199]

    Professor Walter E. Williams of George Mason University says:

    “Were it not for the Electoral College, presidential candidates could safely ignore less populous states.” [200]

    Gary Gregg II of the University of Louisville, a strong supporter of the current system of electing the President and editor of a book defending the current system, says that a national popular vote for President:

    “would mean ignoring every rural and small-state voter in our country.” [201]

    The facts directly contradict all of the above statements.

    Far from being “protected,” the small states are the most disadvantaged and ignored group of states under the current system of electing the President.

    Table 9.7 shows the states in which the presidential and vice-presidential candidates held their 300 post-convention general election campaign events in 2008. The table is organized according to each state’s number of electoral votes. [202] The data come from the Washington Post campaign tracker. The data cover the period from September 5, to November 4, 2008. [203]

    Table 9.7 Post-convention campaign events in 2008

    Electoral votes

    State

    Campaign events

    3

    Wyoming

     

    3

    District of Columbia

    1

    3

    Vermont

     

    3

    North Dakota

     

    3

    Alaska

     

    3

    South Dakota

     

    3

    Delaware

     

    3

    Montana

     

    4

    Rhode Island

     

    4

    Hawaii

     

    4

    New Hampshire

    12

    4

    Maine

    2

    4

    Idaho

     

    5

    Nebraska

     

    5

    West Virginia

    1

    5

    New Mexico

    8

    5

    Nevada

    12

    5

    Utah

     

    6

    Kansas

     

    6

    Arkansas

     

    6

    Mississippi

     

    7

    Iowa

    7

    7

    Connecticut

     

    7

    Oklahoma

     

    7

    Oregon

     

    8

    Kentucky

     

    9

    Louisiana

     

    8

    South Carolina

     

    9

    Alabama

     

    9

    Colorado

    20

    10

    Minnesota

    2

    10

    Wisconsin

    8

    10

    Maryland

     

    11

    Missouri

    21

    11

    Tennessee

    1

    11

    Indiana

    9

    11

    Arizona

     

    11

    Washington

     

    12

    Massachusetts

     

    13

    Virginia

    23

    15

    New Jersey

     

    15

    North Carolina

    15

    15

    Georgia

     

    17

    Michigan

    10

    20

    Ohio

    62

    21

    Pennsylvania

    40

    21

    Illinois

     

    27

    Florida

    46

    31

    New York

     

    34

    Texas

     

    55

    California

     

    538

    Total

    300

    Table 9.7 shows that, with the exception of New Hampshire (the sole battleground state among the 13 smallest states), the 13 smallest states (those with three or four electoral votes) received hardly any attention in the 2008 campaign.

    Table 9.8 shows the states in which the presidential and vice-presidential candidates held their 253 post-convention general-election campaign events in 2012. This table is based on CNN’s “On the Trail” campaign tracker and covers the period from September 7, 2012 (the day after the Democratic National Convention) to November 6 (Election Day).[204], [205] The data was compiled by FairVote. The table is sorted according to a state’s number of electoral votes.

    Table 9.8 Post-convention campaign events in 2012 (by state size)

    Electoral votes

    State

    Total

    3

    Alaska

     

    3

    Delaware

     

    3

    D.C.

     

    3

    Montana

     

    3

    North Dakota

     

    3

    South Dakota

     

    3

    Vermont

     

    3

    Wyoming

     

    4

    New Hampshire

    13

    4

    Hawaii

     

    4

    Idaho

     

    4

    Maine

     

    4

    Rhode Island

     

    5

    Nebraska

     

    5

    New Mexico

     

    5

    West Virginia

     

    6

    Iowa

    27

    6

    Nevada

    13

    6

    Arkansas

     

    6

    Kansas

     

    6

    Mississippi

     

    6

    Utah

     

    7

    Connecticut

     

    7

    Oklahoma

     

    7

    Oregon

     

    8

    Kentucky

     

    8

    Louisiana

     

    9

    Colorado

    23

    9

    Alabama

     

    9

    South Carolina

     

    10

    Wisconsin

    18

    10

    Minnesota

    1

    10

    Maryland

     

    10

    Missouri

     

    11

    Arizona

     

    11

    Indiana

     

    11

    Massachusetts

     

    11

    Tennessee

     

    12

    Washington

     

    13

    Virginia

    36

    14

    New Jersey

     

    15

    North Carolina

    3

    16

    Michigan

    1

    16

    Georgia

     

    18

    Ohio

    73

    20

    Pennsylvania

    5

    20

    Illinois

     

    29

    Florida

    40

    29

    New York

     

    38

    Texas

     

    55

    California

     

    538

    Total

    253

    As can be seen from table 9.3, only three of the 25 smallest states received any campaign events in 2012, namely:

  • New Hampshire (4 electoral votes),
  • Nevada (6 electoral votes), and
  • Iowa (6 electoral votes).
  • The 25 smallest states (possessing 116 electoral votes in 2012) received 53 of the 253 post-convention campaign events. In contrast, Ohio (with only 18 electoral votes in 2012) received 73 of the 253 post-convention campaign events.

    Although the small states theoretically benefit from receiving two extra electoral votes (corresponding to their two U.S. Senators), this “bonus” does not, in practice, translate into political influence. Political power in presidential elections comes from being a closely divided battleground state—not from the two-vote bonus conferred on all states in the Electoral College.

    Under the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each separate state), candidates have no reason to visit, advertise, build a grassroots organization, poll, or pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a small handful of closely divided battleground states.

    The small states are the most disadvantaged and ignored group of states under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system because all but one of them are reliably Democratic or Republican in presidential races. Consequently, presidential candidates have nothing to lose by ignoring and nothing to gain by soliciting votes in the small states. Under the current system, the small states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided battleground states.

    In the last seven presidential elections (1988 through 2012), six of the 13 small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes) have regularly gone Republican:

  • Alaska,
  • Idaho,
  • Montana,
  • North Dakota,
  • South Dakota, and
  • Wyoming.
  • Six others have regularly gone Democratic:

  • Delaware,
  • District of Columbia,
  • Hawaii,
  • Maine,
  • Rhode Island, and
  • Vermont.
  • The exceptions to this currently prevailing 6–6 split were minor and occurred years ago. [206]

    New Hampshire has been the only closely divided battleground state among the 13 small states in the last seven presidential elections (1988 through 2012). [207]

    The 12 small non-battleground states (named above) have a combined population of 11.5 million. Coincidentally, Ohio has almost the same number of people as these 12 small states. Because of the bonus of two electoral votes that every state receives, the 12 small non-battleground states have 40 electoral votes, whereas Ohio has less than half as many (18 after the 2010 census).

    However, political power does not arise from the number of electoral votes that a state possesses, but instead, from whether the state is a closely divided battleground state.

    In 2008, there were 62 post-convention campaign events in the closely divided battleground state of Ohio (out of a nationwide total of 300 events), whereas the 12 small non-battleground states received only three (and all three of these events were “exceptions that prove the rule”) [208].

    In 2012, there were 73 post-convention campaign events (out of 253) in the closely divided battleground state of Ohio, whereas the 12 non-battleground small states each received none.

    In short, in 2012, the 11.5 million people in the 12 small non-battleground states received no campaign events, advertising, polling, or policy consideration by presidential candidates because the outcome of the presidential race in those states was a foregone conclusion. In contrast, the state-by-state winner-take-all rule makes the same number of people in Ohio the center of attention.

    Note that the 12 small non-battleground states are not ignored because they are small. They are ignored because they are not closely divided politically.

    Indeed, presidential candidates pay considerable attention to New Hampshire (with four electoral votes) because it is a closely divided battleground state. As a result, New Hampshire received 12 of the 300 post-convention campaign events in 2008 and 13 of the 253 events in 2012. [209]

    Meanwhile, the voters of the 12 other small states were ignored because the political division of their voters was outside the 46%–54% range that determines (more or less) whether presidential candidates consider a state to be worth contesting. [210]

    A national popular vote would make a voter in each of the 12 small non-battleground states as important as a voter in battleground states such as New Hampshire. In fact, the National Popular Vote plan would make every vote in every state politically relevant in every presidential election.

    Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, New Hampshire received 13 of the 253 campaign events in 2012, while the 12 other smallest states each received none. Under the National Popular Vote plan, it would be inconceivable that presidential candidates would campaign in only one small state, while ignoring the 12 other small states. Most likely, each of the 13 smallest states would each receive one campaign event under a nationwide vote for President.

    Most of the states with five or six electoral votes are similarly noncompetitive in presidential elections (and therefore disadvantaged in the same way as almost all of the 13 small states).

    The fact that the small states are disadvantaged by the current state-by-state winner-take-all system has long been recognized by prominent officials from those states.

    In a 1979 Senate speech, U.S. Senator Henry Bellmon (R–Oklahoma) described how his views on the Electoral College had changed as a result of serving as national campaign director for Richard Nixon and a member of the American Bar Association’s commission studying electoral reform.

    “While the consideration of the electoral college began—and I am a little embarrassed to admit this—I was convinced, as are many residents of smaller States, that the present system is a considerable advantage to less-populous States such as Oklahoma.… As the deliberations of the American Bar Association Commission proceeded and as more facts became known, I came to the realization that the present electoral system does not give an advantage to the voters from the less-populous States. Rather, it works to the disadvantage of small State voters who are largely ignored in the general election for President. [211] [Emphasis added]

    Senator Robert E. Dole of Kansas, the Republican nominee for President in 1996 and Republican nominee for Vice President in 1976, stated in a 1979 floor speech:

    “Many persons have the impression that the electoral college benefits those persons living in small states. I feel that this is somewhat of a misconception. Through my experience with the Republican National Committee and as a Vice Presidential candidate in 1976, it became very clear that the populous states with their large blocks of electoral votes were the crucial states. It was in these states that we focused our efforts.

    “Were we to switch to a system of direct election, I think we would see a resulting change in the nature of campaigning. While urban areas will still be important campaigning centers, there will be a new emphasis given to smaller states. Candidates will soon realize that all votes are important, and votes from small states carry the same import as votes from large states. That to me is one of the major attractions of direct election. Each vote carries equal importance.

    “Direct election would give candidates incentive to campaign in States that are perceived to be single party states.” [212] [Emphasis added]

    Because so few of the small states are closely divided battleground states in presidential elections, the current state-by-state winner-take-all system actually shifts power from voters in the small and medium-sized states to voters in a handful of big states that happen to be battleground states in presidential elections.

    The fact that the small states are disadvantaged by the current state-by-state winner-take-all system has long been recognized by prominent officials from those states.

    In 1966, the state of Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly small states (including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, and Pennsylvania) in suing New York (then a closely divided battleground state) in the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to get state winner-take-all statutes declared unconstitutional. [213]

    David P. Buckson (Republican Attorney General of Delaware at the time) led the effort. Delaware’s brief in State of Delaware v. State of New York [214] stated:

    “The state unit-vote system [the ‘winner-take-all’ rule] debases the national voting rights and political status of Plaintiff’s citizens and those of other small states by discriminating against them in favor of citizens of the larger states. A citizen of a small state is in a position to influence fewer electoral votes than a citizen of a larger state, and therefore his popular vote is less sought after by major candidates. He receives less attention in campaign efforts and in consideration of his interests.” [215] [Emphasis added]

    In their brief, Delaware and the other plaintiffs stated:

    “This is an original action by the State of Delaware as parens patriae for its citizens, against the State of New York, all other states, and the District of Columbia under authority of Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and 28 U.S. Code sec. 1251. The suit challenges the constitutionality of the respective state statutes employing the ‘general ticket’ or ‘state unit-vote’ system, by which the total number of presidential electoral votes of a state is arbitrarily misappropriated for the candidate receiving a bare plurality of the total number of citizens’ votes cast within the state.

    “The Complaint alleges that, although the states, pursuant to Article II, Section 1, Par. 2 of the Constitution, have some discretion as to the manner of appointment of presidential electors, they are nevertheless bound by constitutional limitations of due process and equal protections of the laws and by the intention of the Constitution that all states’ electors would have equal weight. Further, general use of the state unit system by the states is a collective unconstitutional abridgment of all citizens’ reserved political rights to associate meaningfully across state lines in national elections.”

    The plaintiff’s brief argued that the votes of the citizens of Delaware and the other plaintiff states are

    “diluted, debased, and misappropriated through the state unit system.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision). Ironically, the defendant (New York) is no longer an influential closely divided battleground state (as it was in the 1960s). Today, New York suffers the very same disadvantage as the plaintiff states because it, too, has become politically noncompetitive in presidential elections. Today, a vote in New York in a presidential election is equal to a vote in Delaware—both are equally irrelevant.

    The Electoral College is not the bulwark of influence for the small states in the U.S. Constitution. The bulwark of influence for the small states is the equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate. The 13 small states (with 3% of the nation’s population) have 25% of the votes in the U.S. Senate—a very significant source of political clout. However, the 13 small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes) have only 26 extra votes in the Electoral College by virtue of the two-vote bonus—not a large number in relation to the overall total of 538 electoral votes. Although the 13 small states cast 3% of the nation’s popular vote while possessing 6% of the electoral votes, the extra 3% is a minor numerical factor in the context of a presidential election. More important, this small theoretical advantage is negated by the fact that the small states are equally divided between the two major political parties and because the one-party character of 12 of the 13 small states makes them irrelevant to presidential campaigns.

    The states that are important in the presidential election can usually be identified very early in each election cycle—even before the party nominations are settled. In the spring of 2008, both major political parties acknowledged that there would be 14 battleground states (involving only 166 of the nation’s 538 electoral votes) in the 2008 presidential election. [216] In other words, two-thirds of the states were acknowledged to be irrelevant even before the national nominating conventions were held. New Hampshire (with 4 electoral votes) was the only small state that was identified as being a battleground state. The net result is that the current system shifts power from voters in the small states to voters in a handful of closely divided battleground states (almost all of which are big states).

    A mere four weeks after the November 2010 congressional elections, a debate was televised on C-SPAN among candidates for chair of the Republican National Committee. The debate touched on the question of how the party would conduct the presidential campaign in the 14 states that were expected to matter in 2012. [217] Thus, two years before the 2012 presidential election, 36 states had been written off.

    Tara Ross claims that

    “NPV will lessen the need of presidential candidates to obtain the support of voters in rural areas and in small states.”[218]

    The political reality is that the National Popular Vote plan cannot possibly “lessen the need” of candidates to win the support of small states because candidates have no need whatsoever to solicit the support of the small states under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system. In fact, it is the winner-take-all rule that renders the small states “almost permanently irrelevant in presidential political strategy.” [219]

    In fact, a national popular vote is the only way to give voters in the nation’s small states a voice in presidential elections. For example, proposals to award electoral votes by congressional district or proportionally (section 9.23) would have no meaningful effect in states with only three or four electoral votes. Under a national popular vote, a voter in a reliably one-party small state would become as important as a voter anywhere else in the country.

    4.2       MYTH: Thirty-one states would lose power under a national popular vote.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • Morton Blackwell’s calculation purportedly showing that 31 states would “lose power” under a national popular vote is based on a politically irrelevant calculation comparing each state’s percentage of the nation’s 132 million voters with its percentage of the 538 electoral votes.
  • This arithmetic calculation gives the impression that the 31 smallest states have clout in presidential elections because their percentage of the 538 electoral votes is larger than their percentage of the nation’s voters (because of each state’s two senatorial presidential electors). However, this calculation ignores the political reality that clout in presidential elections comes from being a closely divided battleground state.
  • Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, the political reality is that a vote for President in most below-average-sized states is politically irrelevant.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Morton C. Blackwell (who hails from the battleground state of Virginia) stated in a 2011 article entitled “National Popular Vote Plan Would Hurt Most States” that

    “31 states would lose power in presidential elections under [the National Popular Vote] plan.” [220]

    Blackwell bases this statement upon an arithmetic calculation that compares each state’s percentage of the nation’s 132 million voters to its percentage of the 538 electoral votes.

    For example, Wyoming’s three electoral votes is 0.56% of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. The 256,035 popular votes cast in Wyoming in 2008 were 0.19% of the nation’s 132 million voters—a much smaller percentage than 0.56%. The difference between 0.56% and 0.19% is 0.37%, and this 0.37% difference represents a loss of 66% from the original 0.56%.

    Blackwell then interprets this 0.37% drop as meaning that Wyoming would “lose power.”

    As Blackwell says:

    “If NPV had been in effect in 2008, Delaware would have lost 44% of its power. Rhode Island would have lost 51.49% of its power. Wyoming’s power would have dropped by 65.48%. The pattern is the same for all the smaller-population states.

    “Gainers under NPV would be the larger states.”

    Table 9.7 shows that 33 states have fewer electoral votes than 11—the number of electoral votes possessed by the average-sized state. For each of these 33 states, the state’s percentage of the 538 electoral votes is (because of each state’s two senatorial electoral votes) larger than the state’s percentage of the nation’s population.

    A calculation similar to Blackwell’s creates the impression that these states would “lose power” under a national popular vote; however, this arithmetic calculation ignores the political reality (as explained in detail in section 9.4.1) that political clout in presidential elections comes from being a closely divided battleground state—not from a state’s number of electoral votes.

    As can be seen from a glance at table 9.7, most of the 33 below-average-sized states are ignored under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system because they are not battleground states. Only 10 of these below-average-sized states received any of the 300 post-convention campaign events in 2008. These 10 states together received 72 of the 300 post-convention events. Moreover, six states received 67 of these 72 events:

  • New Hampshire–12
  • New Mexico–8
  • Nevada–12
  • Iowa–7
  • Colorado–20
  • Wisconsin–8.
  • Twenty-three of the 33 below-average-sized states received no campaign events. Yet, Blackwell claims that the below-average-sized states somehow benefit from the current state-by-state winner-take-all system.

    In summary, far from having enhanced influence under the current system, most below-average-sized states have no clout in presidential elections because they are not battleground states.

    4.3       MYTH: The small states are so small that they will not attract any attention under any system.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • The small states (those with three or four electoral votes) are not ignored because they are small, but because almost all of them are noncompetitive one-party states in presidential elections. The battleground state of New Hampshire received 13 of the 253 post-convention campaign events in 2012, while the 12 other small non-battleground states received none.
  • Serious candidates for office solicit every vote that matters. Every vote in every state would matter in every presidential election under the National Popular Vote plan.
  • Under a national popular vote, a voter in a small state would become as important as any other voter in the United States.
  • The 13 small states together have approximately the same population as Ohio, and no one would suggest that Ohio would be ignored in a national popular vote for President.
  • In most cases, small states offer presidential candidates the attraction of considerably lower per-impression media costs.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Some argue that the small states have so few people that they will not attract any attention from presidential candidates under any system. However, the fact is that serious candidates for office solicit every voter that matters regardless of location.

    Table 9.9 addresses the argument that small states are too small to attract the attention of presidential candidates. For the 13 small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes), the table shows the distribution of presidential and vice-presidential campaign events during the post-convention general election campaign for 2008.

    The table shows that the determinant of whether a state receives attention is whether it is a closely divided battleground state—not its size.

    Because it was a closely divided battleground state, New Hampshire received 12 of the 300 post-convention general election campaign events in 2008 and 13 of the 253 post-convention events in 2012.

    Because Maine awards electoral votes by congressional district, and its 2nd congressional district is a closely divided district, Maine’s 2nd district received two post-convention campaign events in 2008.

    Aside from one campaign event in the District of Columbia, all of the other small states received no attention whatsoever.

    Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Idaho were all ignored not because they were small, but because presidential candidates had nothing to gain by paying any attention to them under the state-by-state winner-take-all system.

    Table 9.9 Campaign events in the 13 smallest states in 2008

    State

    Campaign events

    Wyoming

    District of Columbia

    1

    Vermont

    North Dakota

    Alaska

    South Dakota

    Delaware

    Montana

    Rhode Island

    Hawaii

    New Hampshire

    12

    Maine

    2

    Idaho

    The fact that serious candidates solicit every voter that matters was also demonstrated in 2008 by Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district (the Omaha area). Even though each congressional district in the country contains only 1/4% of the country’s population, the Obama campaign operated three separate campaign offices staffed by 16 people there. The Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media reported that $887,433 in ads were run in the Omaha media market in 2008. [221] The reason for this activity in the Omaha area was that Nebraska awards electoral votes by congressional district. Both parties paid attention to the 2nd district because it was a closely divided battleground district where one electoral vote was at stake. The outcome in 2008 was that Barack Obama carried the 2nd district by 3,378 votes and thus won one electoral vote from Nebraska.

    The fact that serious candidates solicit every voter that matters was also demonstrated by the fact that Mitt Romney opened a campaign office in Omaha in July 2012 in order to compete in Nebraska’s 2nd district [222] and that the Obama campaign was also active in the Omaha area. [223]

    One Nebraska state senator whose district lies partially in the 2nd congressional district reported a heavy concentration of lawn signs, mailers, precinct walking, telephone calls to voters, and other campaign activity related to the 2008 presidential race in the portion of his state senate district that was inside the 2nd congressional district, but no such activity in the remainder of his state senate district. Indeed, neither the Obama nor the McCain campaigns paid the slightest attention to the people of Nebraska’s heavily Republican 1st district or heavily Republican 3rd district, because it was a foregone conclusion that McCain would win both of those districts. The issues relevant to voters of the 2nd district (the Omaha area) mattered, while the (very different) issues relevant to the remaining (mostly rural) two-thirds of Nebraska were irrelevant.

    Similarly, in Maine (which also awards electoral votes by congressional district), the closely divided 2nd congressional district (in the northern part of the state) received campaign events in 2008, whereas Maine’s predictably Democratic 1st district was ignored.

    When votes matter, presidential candidates vigorously solicit those voters. When votes don’t matter, they ignore those areas.

    In many cases, small states offer presidential candidates the attraction of considerably lower per-impression media costs (as discussed in section 9.31.7).

    Although no one can predict exactly how a presidential campaign would be run under the National Popular Vote plan, we do know how candidates conduct campaigns when running for other offices in elections in which the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire jurisdiction. In campaigns for Governor, U.S. Senator, mayor, and state legislator, candidates pay attention to their entire constituency.

    It would be inconceivable for a serious candidate for Governor to ignore four out of five voters in the state.

    The 13 small states have approximately the same population as Ohio (about 12 million people). No one would suggest that Ohio would be ignored in a national popular vote for President. Therefore, there is no reason to expect that the 12 million people in the 13 small states would be ignored. Under a national popular vote, a vote in a small state would be equal to a vote in Ohio.

    1.4.4       MYTH: The small states oppose a national popular vote for President.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. As of 2012, the bill has been approved by a total of nine legislative chambers in small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes).
  • Public support for a national popular vote for President runs slightly higher than the national average in most of the small states.
  • In a 1966 lawsuit, the state of Delaware and a group of 12 predominantly small states argued that the state-by-state winner-take-all rule “debases the national voting rights and political status of Plaintiff’s citizens and those of other small states.”
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    The facts speak for themselves. As of 2012, the National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law by Hawaii, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. In addition, it has passed a total of nine legislative chambers in small states (i.e., those with three or four electoral votes), including the Delaware House, Maine Senate, and both houses in Rhode Island.

    The concept of a national popular vote for President has a high level of support in small states.

  • Alaska (70%),
  • Delaware (75%),
  • District of Columbia (76%),
  • Idaho (77%),
  • Maine (77%),
  • Montana (72%),
  • New Hampshire (69%),
  • Rhode Island (74%),
  • South Dakota (75%),
  • Vermont (75%), and
  • Wyoming (69%). [224]
  • In fact, public support for a national popular vote runs slightly higher than the national average in most of the small states. The Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll in 2007 showed 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. The reason may be that small states are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system (as discussed in section 9.2).

    As discussed in greater detail in section 9.4.1, the state of Delaware and a group of 12 predominantly small states (including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, and Pennsylvania) argued in a 1966 lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court that the state-by-state winner-take-all rule

    “debases the national voting rights and political status of Plaintiff’s citizens and those of other small states.” [Emphasis added]

    1.4.5       MYTH: Equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate is threatened by the National Popular Vote plan.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • The equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate is explicitly established and protected in the U.S. Constitution and cannot be affected by passage of any state law or interstate compact.
  • The National Popular Vote plan does not affect the equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    Equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate is explicitly established in the U.S. Constitution. This feature cannot be changed by any state law or an interstate compact.

    In fact, equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate may not even be amended by an ordinary federal constitutional amendment. Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides:

    “No State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

    Thus, this feature of the U.S. Constitution may only be changed by a constitutional amendment approved by unanimous consent of all 50 states.

    In contrast, the U.S. Constitution explicitly assigns the power of selecting the manner of appointing presidential electors to the states. The enactment by a state legislature of the National Popular Vote bill is an exercise of a state legislature’s existing powers under the U.S. Constitution.

    In short, enactment of the National Popular Vote compact has no bearing on the federal constitutional provisions establishing equal representation of the states in the U.S. Senate.

    4.6       MYTH: The distribution of political influence envisioned by the Great Compromise would be upset by a national popular vote.

    QUICK ANSWER:

  • The distribution of political influence among the states in the Electoral College changed dramatically after political parties emerged in 1796 and winner-take-all statutes became widespread (by 1832).
  • Political influence in the Electoral College today is not based on the distribution of electoral votes among the states, but instead on whether a state is a closely divided battleground state.
  • MORE DETAILED ANSWER:

    The “Great Compromise” (also known as the “Connecticut Compromise” and “Sherman’s Compromise”) was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in July 1787. It was one of the most important compromises that permitted the Constitutional Convention to proceed to a successful conclusion.

    The Great Compromise established a bicameral national legislature in which the U.S. House of Representatives was apportioned on the basis of population, and the U.S. Senate was structured on the basis of equal representation of the states (i.e., two Senators per state).

    The National Popular Vote compact deals exclusively with the method of appointing presidential electors. It would, therefore, have no effect on the structure of the nation’s national legislature (that is, Congress). Changing the structure of Congress would require a federal constitutional amendment.

    The delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not reach a compromise on the method of electing the President until the end of the Convention in September. [225] By that time, all of the other major issues had been settled. In particular, the notion of having a bicameral national legislature was settled at that time.

    When the Convention finally agreed that the President would be elected by an Electoral College, each state was allocated as many presidential electors as it had members in the two houses of Congress. That is, the allocation of votes in the Electoral College mirrored the overall allocation of votes in Congress, and the Electoral College became a “shadow” Congress (in which members of Congress are ineligible to serve).

    The National Popular Vote bill is state legislation and therefore would have no effect on the formula in the U.S. Constitution for allocating electoral votes among the states. Changing the formula for allocating electoral votes among the states would require a federal constitutional amendment.

    A posting to an election blog questioned the constitutionality of the National Popular Vote interstate compact on the basis of the Great Compromise:

    “The NPVIC also undercuts the Great Compromise which was necessary to creation of the Constitution, by in effect changing the balance of power in choice of the President so that it does not reflect the two electoral votes that each state is to have as a result of simply being a state.” [226] [Emphasis added]

    The “balance of power in [the] choice of the President” has been dramatically changed by state legislation in the past—most notably by the widespread adoption of the winner-take-all rule in the 1820s and 1830s by means of state legislation. [227]

    Once the winner-take-all rule became widespread, a state’spower in [the] choice of the President” was primarily determined by whether the state was a closely divided battleground state, not its number of electoral votes.

    The Great Compromise intended to confer a certain amount of extra influence on the less populous states by giving every state a bonus of two electoral votes corresponding to its two U.S. Senators. The Founders also intended that the Constitution’s formula for allocating electoral votes would give the bigger states a larger amount of influence in presidential elections.

    The Founding Fathers’ goals with respect to both small states and big states were never achieved because of the widespread adoption by the states of the winner-take-all rule.

    Despite the Great Compromise, small states (i.e., those with three and four electoral votes such as Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, and Idaho) have no power in choice of the President” because they are one-party states that are consistently ignored because of state winner-take-all statutes. The small states still nominally retain the number of electoral votes assigned to them by the Constitution, and they still dutifully cast their full number of electoral votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. However, their political “power in [the] choice of the President” was extinguished in the 1830s as a result of state winner-take-all statutes.

    Similarly, numerous big states (e.g., New York, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey) have had no power in [the] choice of the President” for decades because of state winner-take-all statutes. These big states still nominally retain the number of electoral votes assigned to them by the Constitution, and they still cast their full number of electoral votes in the Electoral College. However, everyone knows that they do not matter in presidential elections.

    The fact that power in [the] choice of the President” flows from a state’s battleground status rather than its number of electoral votes can be seen by comparing two states with an identical number of electoral votes. New York and Florida each have 29 electoral votes. Since 1996, Florida has received considerable attention in presidential campaigns because it has been a closely divided battleground state. Meanwhile, New York (with the same 29 electoral votes as Florida) has been ignored.

    One can similarly compare New Hampshire with any other small state (say, Rhode Island) possessing the same four electoral votes. For many decades prior to 1992, New Hampshire was consistently ignored in the post-convention general-election campaigns because it was safely Republican. However, since 1992, the issues of concern to New Hampshire voters have been foremost in the minds of the presidential candidates because it has been a closely divided battleground state. Meanwhile, safely Democratic Rhode Island was ignored.

    The National Popular Vote compact would not change the Constitution's allocation of electoral votes among the states. Nonetheless, like the winner-take-all rule, it would decidedly change “the balance of power in [the] choice of the President.” Under the National Popular Vote compact, every voter in every state would be politically relevant in every presidential election.

    The Great Compromise still governs a state’s relative political influence in terms of the process of activating the National Popular Vote compact. Small states have greater influence than their population alone would warrant in the process of determining whether the compact has the support of states possessing a majority of the electoral votes.

    In short, the Great Compromise relates to the formal structure and numerical allocation of electoral votes among the states—a state’s “power in choice of the President.”


    196 Id.

    197 Debate at the Larimer County, Colorado, League of Women Voters on June 28, 2012 with Robert Hardaway of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Professor Robert Hoffert of Colorado State University, Elena Nunez of Colorado Common Cause, and Patrick Rosenstiel of Ainsley-Shea. 18:00 minute mark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_yCSqgm_dY.

    198 McConnell, Mitch. The Electoral College and National Popular Vote Plan. December 7, 2011. Washington, DC. 19:36 minute mark.

    199 Williams, Walter E. In defense of the Electoral College. Gaston Gazette. November 21, 2012.

    200 Gregg, Gary. Keep Electoral College for fair presidential votes. Politico. December 5, 2012.

    201 For the reader’s convenience, the same information is presented in table 1.10 (where it is sorted according to the number of post-convention campaign events in 2008) and in table 9.1 (where it is sorted according to Obama’s percentage of the two-party vote in 2008).

    202 This count is based on public campaign events (e.g., rallies, speeches, town hall meetings). It does not include private fund-raisers, private meetings (e.g., Palin's meetings with world leaders in New York), non-campaign events (e.g., the Al Smith Dinner in New York City or the Clinton Global Initiative dinner), televised national debates (e.g., flying into Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, and Missouri just to participate in the debate), or interviews in television studios (e.g., flying into New York City to do an interview). A “visit” to a state may consist of one or more individual events held at different places and times within the state. A joint appearance of a presidential and vice-presidential candidate is counted as one event.

    203 This count is based on public campaign events (e.g., rallies, speeches, town hall meetings). It does not include private fund-raisers, private meetings, non-campaign events (e.g., the Al Smith Dinner in New York City, the Clinton Global Initiative dinner), televised national debates (e.g., flying into a state just to participate in the debate), or interviews in television studios (e.g., flying into New York to do an interview). A “visit” to a state may consist of one or more individual events held at different places and times within the state. A joint appearance of a presidential and vice-presidential candidate is counted as one event. Additional information is available at http://www.fairvote.org/presidential-tracker.

    205 There were only four exceptions to this 6–6 split in the 60 state-level presidential elections conducted in these 12 states between 1988 and 2012. In 1992, Bill Clinton carried Montana (presumably due to Ross Perot’s presence on the ballot). In 1988, George H.W. Bush carried Delaware, Maine, and Vermont. Since then, these states have become reliably Democratic in presidential elections.

    206 New Hampshire went Republican in 1988, Democratic in 1992 and 1996, Republican in 2000, and Democratic in 2004, 2008, and 2012.

    207 The two campaign events in Maine in 2008 were the “exceptions that prove the rule.” Maine awards two of its electoral votes by congressional district. The two events in Maine in 2008 were in the state’s 2nd congressional district. That particular district was closely divided—that is, it was a “battleground district.” When there is even one electoral vote to be won or lost, candidates pay attention. The presidential candidates ignored Maine’s other congressional district because it was reliably Democratic. Therefore, neither party had anything to gain by paying any attention to it. The third campaign event in a small jurisdiction in 2008 was another “exception that proves the rule.” This event occurred in the District of Columbia (which occasionally receives campaign events because it is convenient to the candidates).

    208 It should be noted that it is only since 1992 that New Hampshire has been a closely divided battleground state in the post-convention campaign period. Prior to 1992, New Hampshire received virtually no attention in general election campaigns because it reliably voted Republican in presidential elections.

    209 See table 1.2.

    210 Congressional Record. July 10, 1979. Page 17748.

    211 Congressional Record. January 14, 1979. Page 309.

    212 State of Delaware v. State of New York, 385 U.S. 895, 87 S.Ct. 198, 17 L.Ed.2d 129 (1966).

    213 In the 1960s, New York was a battleground state and also the state with the most electoral votes (43).

    214 Delaware’s brief, New York’s brief, and Delaware’s argument in its request for a re-hearing in the 1966 case of State of Delaware v. State of New York may be found at http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/misc/de_lawsuit.php.

    215 Already, Obama and McCain Map Fall Strategies. New York Times. May 11, 2008.

    216 Freedomworks debate on December 1, 2010, available at http://www.freedomworks.org/rnc.

    217 Written testimony submitted by Tara Ross to the Delaware Senate in June 2010.

    219 Blackwell, Morton C. National Popular Vote plan would hurt most states. June 25, 2011. http://www.westernjournalism.com/national-popular-vote-plan-would-hurt-most-states/.

    220 The 2008 ad spending figure was reported in Steinhauser, Paul. Nevada number one in ad spending per electoral vote. CNN Politics. July 4, 2012.

    221 Walton, Don. Romney will compete for Omaha electoral vote. Lincoln Journal Star. July 19, 2012.

    222 Henderson, O. Kay. Obama trip targets seven electoral college votes in Iowa, Nebraska. Radio Iowa. August 13, 2012.

    223 These polls (and many others) are available on National Popular Vote’s web site at http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/polls.

    224 Edwards, George C., III. 2004. Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    225 In order to promote free-flowing debate of speculative ideas, the blog involved does not permit attribution.

    226 The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the winner-take-all rule is constitutional. Williams v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 288 F. Supp. 622 - Dist. Court, ED Virginia 1968. The full opinion may be found in appendix FF. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this decision in a per curiam decision in 1969. Williams v. Virginia State Board of Elections. 393 U.S. 320 (1969) (per curiam).

    227 Von Spakovsky, Hans A. Protecting Electoral College from popular vote. Washington Times. October 26, 2011.

    Reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote reflects the nationwide popular vote for President