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.