The National Popular Vote Plan

The 2016 presidential election marked the 5th time in US history–and the second time in the past two decades–that the person elected to the presidency failed to win the popular vote (see also 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000). Popular sentiment for reforming the Electoral College to prevent such occurrences has waxed and waned over time. While some have called for the abolition of the Electoral College, the high bar for successfully amending the US Constitution to do so (⅔ majority vote in the House and Senate, plus ratification by ¾ of the states) makes this an unlikely outcome.

The Constitution, however, says nothing about how states must allocate their electoral votes. 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place requiring electors to vote for the popular vote winner in their respective states, but the penalties for ‘faithless’ electors who vote otherwise are minimal. 21 states have no legal requirements directing how electors should vote.

Since 2006, National Popular Vote, Inc. has advocated its National Popular Vote Plan to essentially strip the Electoral College of relevance in presidential elections without having to constitutionally abolish it. The plan calls for states to allocate all of their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote, instead of their individual statewide popular vote. Consequently, if every state participated in the plan, whoever won the nationwide popular vote would win the Electoral College by a vote of 538-0. So, the Electoral College would still exist, but its significance would be dramatically reduced under this scheme (see additional resources pages on the National Popular Vote Plan from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Project FairVote).

As of July 2018, 11 states and the District of Columbia have voted to approve their participation in the plan (NJ did so in 2008; the most recent state to do so is Connecticut, in May 2018). Together, these 12 jurisdictions have a combined 172 electoral votes. If states with a combined 270 electoral votes (just over 50% of the total) approved the plan, then it would go into effect.

As you will discover with a bit of research, the National Popular Vote Plan has numerous critics. What are some of the possible pros and cons of adopting this plan? What arguments do you find (or not find) persuasive? Why?

INSTRUCTIONS: Respond to the prompt in the comments section of this entry. The strongest responses will draw directly from at least one specifically cited external source to inform their comments. Each student must draw from unique sources that another student has not yet cited, so there is a ‘first mover’ advantage in responding to this question in a timely fashion.

9 Replies to “The National Popular Vote Plan”

  1. The national popular vote has increasingly become more popular over the past couple of years, but it still is unknown to most Americans. There are strong arguments on both sides of the bill, which have both become more relevant today. One of the main arguments for the national popular vote is that it will give every vote a meaning unlike now with the electoral vote. Supporters of this act argue that the United States is a democracy, and we indirectly elect our president, which is the opposite of what we should be doing. Many people feel that their vote does not mean anything, and that is part of the reason why they do not participate in elections. If the bill were to be enacted every vote would matter and it would mark the beginning of the president being elected directly by the people. In Pearl Korn’s article “Is it time to implement a National popular vote in presidential elections?”, for the Huffington Post, she mentions how a popular vote will get rid of swing states, and states that vote heavily liberal or conservative. In this scenario candidates will have to focus on the whole country and not just the states that they can potentially swing in their favor, which help them win the election.

    The negatives of the national popular vote is that a president could get elected with only thirty percent of the nation electing him or her. Part of the problem is that the campaign becomes more of a national campaign with much of ads coming from tv, and other media. In Curtis Gans article for the Huffington Post, he mentions how the president might not be sufficient for the position, but could have so much money backing him that it helps him get elected with the majority vote, but the percentage still being a small amount.

    The two arguments that I find persuasive are the president could get elected with a small percentage of the United States, and that it would help eliminate swing states to focus on the individual person. The president is the most powerful person in the country and possibly the world, so if there is a national popular vote there needs to be some type of rule that they must get a certain amount to be elected. The person elected needs to be qualified for the job even if the public did vote for them. I find that this is easily persuasive for people not to want this bill to pass. Lastly, is the possibility of every state getting just as much attention as they should. By the people running for office to only go after swing states shows they are only there to get their votes. That is the same with the states that vote heavily in one direction because they will not go there because they feel that state will not vote for them. This argument is very strong for the national popular vote because it will give the chance for the people running to persuade individuals over states.


  2. The National Popular Vote Plan is an initiative that is supposed to give equal political value to all citizens. It provides a way for the electoral college to be fairer without violating article II of the constitution. The premise is that states give their electoral votes to the overall popular vote. This could be good because it does still ensure that states keep their right to choose who the votes go to. It would also insure that every single political vote is given value, which provides presidents with more incentive to campaign in all states. According to the video for the National Popular Vote Plan, presidents tend to ignore the states with fewer electoral votes. Presidents will be forced to pay more attention to smaller places and more of the population, which in essence is forcing them to do their job.
    In the article I referenced it gives many cons onto why it may be unconstitutional for the NPV plan would not be the best option. The article stated that “In recent months, the potential chaos of states being allowed to change their methods of electing the President has become all too clear”. The articles talk about the dangers of states having too much power over their laws and people. The article also says “Such a change would be extremely damaging to the Democratic Party’s nominee for President” due to the majority of our population being republican. The article suggests that a better idea would be to “proposes that the state copy Maine and Nebraska’s formula of allowing congressional districts to determine who receives an electoral vote”.
    I personally think that it would be more in the interest of the people if we did incorporate this plan. I think what is really important is that presidents pay more attention to every single American and not those that favor their interest. Presidents will have to work a little harder to get the popular vote, which will motivate them to take more issues into account and increase overall morale in politics.

  3. After doing some research on the increasingly popular, national popular vote, there are many conflicting thoughts on why said idea is good and bad. One of the main pros that continues to be displayed in each article was the theory that now every vote will count. Citizens will be represented equally, and swing states will no longer be as much as an issue. There are many people who do not vote and their reasons vary, but many believe their vote does not make a difference. Another pro to the popular vote is it can be considered more fair, or democratic. The US uses a representative democracy rather than direct democracy which is how presidential candidates could win the majority vote yet lose the election. One compelling argument I came across against the popular vote is the disproportion of state sizes. The larger and more populated states would hold more leverage than the smaller, rural states. This could lead to having a president whom did not have broad support, but regional support. This is believed to cause a “fractured and less cohesive country, according to the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.”

    In regards to the national popular vote, I still need sometime to decide if I support the idea. The main point for me is the idea that all votes will count. When looking at the argument regarding the disproportion of state sizes, it makes it difficult to believe that every vote will count. The two ideas contradict each other. As fas as swing states, this will eliminate a few votes on deciding the candidate for that state. I think a popular vote would work for swing states, but of course we can not only apply a popular vote to the swing states. Looking at the last presidential election I do not think the Electoral College is the best voting system, and yes it should be replaced, but I do not think the national popular vote is the best either.

  4. The biggest pro when it comes to the National Popular vote plan is that it should increase a bigger voter turnout. We have learned in the lectures that voter turnout is pretty low and we are one of the lowest in turnout rates when it comes to developed countries. Voters may be more inclined to come out and vote if they felt as though their vote counts more. It would be much more simple to understand, the person with the highest votes wins. Supporters state that, “Every person in the United States has the right to an equal voice in how our country is governed, and enacting a national popular vote ensures that right is upheld.” This would help eliminate any confusion with people on how the electoral college works and also make them feel as though their voice is not being heard.

    A con with the electoral college is that is makes candidates focus primarily on states with the highest amount or “swing” states. Candidates are more likely to spend their time campaigning in states like California and Florida then in Vermont or Wyoming. This would allow for a whole new type of campaigning strategies to emerge. A negative of this on the contrary could be candidates just focusing on highly populated areas or buying votes. The electoral college forces them to win state by state. England states that, “This means candidates can’t just go to their strongholds and drive up turnout—or stuff ballot boxes. The Electoral College makes candidates go to the most evenly divided parts of our country to make their case to those voters.” Learning about how the elections work, my whole life I always thought that the benefit to the electoral college was to make it a more fair playing field. This way states like Rhode Island, with a lower population, could not determine the outcome of the presidency or have more say in it then states with a higher population. States with more people should have more weight in the outcome. However, the National Popular vote plan address these concerns as well. In my opinion, it seems as though the national popular vote could be cheated more easily and I am not sure if I would trust the end results 100%

    Hartford, C. A. (2018, May 06). Connecticut set to join states aiming to pool electoral college votes. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from

    England, T. (2012, November 05). The Electoral College Serves the Interests of All People. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from

  5. Prior to this course, I was familiar with the basic idea of the National Popular Vote (NVP) Plan but had never taken the time to look into the pros and cons of it. After doing some research, I personally am in favor of the plan. The last election in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump showed that many citizens who were eligible to vote, chose not to. The reasons for not voting vary, but there are many polls out there that suggest that one common theme is that Americans do not feel that their vote matters. With the results of Donald Trump winning due to the electoral college vote, even with not having more popular votes than Clinton, one could argue that many of those who voted, as well as those who didn’t, will continue to feel that way.

    Since amending the constitution is highly unlikely, forcing the states to allocate their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner does seem like a solid route to pursue. Especially with the there already being 12 states who have signed bringing the total to 172 electoral votes of the needed 270. One problem that could block this plan in its entirety is if the Supreme Court considers it to be unconstitutional (see Reference 1, Section 6.3). With the recent appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Trump, there’s an obvious conservative bias amongst all of the current justices. It’s no secret that Republicans are for the most part against limiting the power of the electoral college being that it’s helped them win elections in the past where the popular vote was not on their side.

    Having a voting system where the average citizen’s vote ultimately decides who the country’s President will be, would most likely cause more citizens to participate in voting, which would also force candidates to address more broad topics instead of focusing on their respective party’s audience.

    Reference 1:

    Reference 2:

  6. The National Popular Vote Plan is one that would enable Americans the power to elect whom they see fit without interference from the electoral college and the discretion representatives use to chose who leads the country. Regardless of the popularity that can be displayed in the states that they are advocating for. If the country decided to use this plan, then the candidate who receives the most votes (the popular vote) would absolutely be the candidate to win the election. Which as of right now is not always the case as we saw with the most recent presidential election. As of right now campaigning from each candidate is focused in what we consider to be “swing states”. States that have higher amounts of electoral votes and ones that aren’t always guaranteed to be either red (Republican) or blue (Democrat). These presidential candidates pour endless amounts of money into these states to try and nudge them in their own direction. They get bonuses that other states don’t always receive. “These states receive 7 percent more federal grants than so-called “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more superfund enforcement exemptions and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.” (Huffington Post, Is it Time to Implement National Popular vote In Presidential Elections) So it’s safe to say that one huge downside to changing the way we do presidential elections is that the states that get this special treatment may lose out a little bit and that would make those states unwilling to cooperate. Not that this should be a main reason we don’t implement this plan, special treatment to states simply because they have more electoral votes hardly seems like a strong reason not to do something if it overall benefits the country as a whole. Especially since there is a good chance that there will still be a good deal of campaigning in the same states because they are more likely to swing their vote then states that have voted in the same fashion for multiple elections.

    One massive issue that continues to exist in America is the feeling that someone’s vote doesn’t matter. If you live in a state where the electoral college traditionally always votes democrat, yet you are a republican you feel invalidated and useless. If you go around asking people if they think their vote matters they are likely to give you an argument that the electoral college makes it so the individual vote means less. It certainly has an impact on the voting turnout for each election and the National Vote Plan would change that. Everyone’s vote would mean just a little bit more than it did before. Candidates would be held to a slightly different standard and anomalies like candidates winning even though they didn’t get the popular vote would completely cease to exist. Overall I think it would be a step in the right direction to implement this plan, we already see that the president who gets the popular vote more than likely wins the election. This plan would just guarantee it, its important that the candidates pay attention to each vote in order to better the country and this plan would put a little more pressure on them to do so.

    Korn, P. (2014, August 17). Is It Time to Implement a National Popular Vote in Presidential Elections? Retrieved from

  7. The National Popular Vote plan clearly seems to be something that is widely controversial, yet very intriguing. It centers around the idea that the entire country would allow for a “winner take all” race, while having a more direct connection between the voters and the candidates. The policy itself seems to creates issues between both sides of aisle, and has critics jumping in from every corner. The idea itself does not seem to be awful, however, it is true that America is a nation that is sometimes afraid of change.

    To begin, much of the critiques regarding the plan, are coming from the right side. Republicans seem to be mostly against the idea (Alberta). This is probably due to the fact that within the past two decades, Democrats have won the popular vote twice, but have had to turn over the win to the Republicans, due to the majority of the electoral votes. Although the idea behind allowing the popular winner to become president is very enticing, some political scientists point out that it may lower voter participation in areas that are considered larger states with bigger populations (Alberta). The idea behind this is that individuals who are in the minority opinion, will become less likely to vote because they would feel so outnumbered. This type of critique is something that will likely be discussed frequently in years to come as more states attempt to ratify the policy.

    On the other hand, many also seem to be in favor of the plan. Democrats especially seem to believe that it is something worthy of the nation’s time. One very beneficial factor of this plan surrounds the fact that presidential candidates would be forced to campaign in a majority of more states than they normally do during the race (Koza). Often times, nominees campaign harder in the swing states in order to get ahead in race. However, with this type of plan in place, they would have to campaign in both the constant blue and red states as well, due to the fact that they would no longer have electors to rely on. Many individuals see this as a fairer and simpler way of conducting the American voting system.

    Personally, I believe that the National Popular Vote plan should definitely go into effect. I feel as though the argument behind it, “lowering voter participation rates,” is a bit exaggerated and that the opposite will happen. If citizens understand that their vote has an even heavier effect on the presidential race, then I believe that more individuals will begin to vote. However, I do agree with the idea that this plan will force politicians to campaign more, and therefore, call for a more fair and even race. Overall, the decision of whether or not this plan will go into effect remains heavily on the shoulders of the remaining states who have yet to allow the plan to begin.

    Purdy, Jedediah, et al. “Is the Electoral College Doomed?” About Us, POLITICO, “We Need a National Popular Vote.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report,

  8. The National Popular Vote Plan has been a topic of discussion in recent years on presidential elections. Even more so during the most recent presidential election between President Trump and Hilary Clinton. There has been only four times in the history of elections where a candidate has won the popular vote yet has lost the election due to losing in the Electoral College. In 2016, despite Hilary winning the popular vote by 2.8 million votes she lost the electoral college by 74 votes to President Trump. As the adoption of this plan has become more relevant in recent years we must weigh the pros and cons. In my opinion I believe the most important pro to this plan is simple, every vote counts. If we adopted this plan the candidate with the most votes will simply win, whereas the states with more electoral votes hold more value. As noted in our lecture the VEP of this turnout of this election has been low with approximately 107,000 combined votes separating Trump from Clinton in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. As 107,000 votes might not seem much at the time IF the eligible voters actually came out to vote then the election would have for sure taken a turn. I believe the biggest scapegoat for people who didn’t vote is “we know which way our state would swing”. Although a particular state such as New Jersey would typically go Democratic this new plan could alter future elections. In addition another pro to the National Popular Vote is that it disables the swing states to have so much power in elections. For example presidential campaigns are almost certain states such as California who are very liberal will sway to the Democratic party, yet states such North Carolina, Florida and Ohio would be considered swing states. With that being said presidential campaigns will pour more of their budget money to campaign in these fewer swing states to control the electoral college. On the other hand the biggest downside to abolishing the electoral college would be the attention smaller states such as Ohio and South Dakota will receive. If there were to be a National Popular Vote we could almost guarantee these candidates will be focusing 90% of their time in metropolitan cities such as New York/Los Angeles/Chicago where there is a dense population. If that’s the case then the smaller states wouldn’t receive the attention needed to address the issues in their districts leaving them marginalized. Lastly an electoral college is what our founding fathers sought to be the most ideal. If we were to abolish this ideology we’d be going against the framework of our Constitution. These electoral votes were put into place to have the votes coming from the educated voters to hold more value. Ideally the more votes coming from these educated people will ensure a person most suitable for the job will be elected. Alexander Hamilton quoted, “The founders wanted to balance the will of the populace against the tyranny of majority in which the voices of the masses can be drown out minority interests.” In other words he feels although the system is not perfect he feels some sort of checks and balances must be inserted to avoid a “popularity contest”.

  9. The National Popular Vote Plan awards the presidency to the person with the most votes nationally, which instructs the electorate college to award its votes to the candidate with the most votes. The National Popular Vote Plan is away of changing the way we elect our officials without having to change the constitution.
    Supporters of the National Popular Vote Plan would say it unites the nation to act together as a whole to choose their President. With this type of direct representation it allows each citizen to feel a sense of individual civic duty instead of the “my vote doesn’t matter” argument proudly touted by the uninformed non-voting body every election.
    Under the National Popular Vote Plan the state election codes would be uniform nationwide. If we were to adopt this plan it would be a great defeat against voter suppression which specifically targets minorities and disenfranchised areas. If the National Popular Vote Plan was in place years ago it would have changed the course of American history which is the reason states are taking their time before ultimately joining the plan, the latest being Connecticut.
    The amazing thing about the National Popular Vote Plan is the fact that it has gained support Bi-Partisan and across many different demographics, and its popularity is rising especially after the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election.
    While I completely support the National Popular Vote Plan there are many critics who are not fans of the new way of electing our president, by claiming voter fraud would be easier which could ultimately tip the election. However, I do not find this argument persuasive as evidence and history have determined that voter fraud is rare and not the national emergency Republicans would like us to believe it to be. In fact, when the President dissolved the commission to find voter fraud after he didnt win the popular vote, his attorney stated “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.” (BusinessFinder)
    Some critics fear that acting as one voting body will cause the candidate to have less concern about the issues of the citizens of the state. In my opinion, this argument is not concrete as presidential candidates are really not as concerned about the easily forgettable issues of each state’s citizens once a campaign is won, and it’s naive to think they do. Another reason some are opposed to the plan is the loss of identity and sovereignty of the state when voting for President. This argument also places the needs of state above the needs of its citizens for direct representation.
    Critics have been asking the question of the constitutionality of the popular plan as the framers have placed the electoral college in place to avoid direct representation. But as time goes on our rules and laws must be updated to keep up with our modern day world. Taking this power out of the hands of a select few and creating a more national cohesive body is what we need to move America forward and eliminate surprise election results for good, allowing the most popular candidate to win.

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