Liberals now have launched a crusade to impose direct election of the president without amending the Constitution. The National Popular Vote effort proposes an interstate compact among states that possess, together, a majority of electoral votes. The states in the compact would agree to cast their electoral votes as a bloc for the winner of the national popular vote. Direct election of the president would thus replace our current state‐based electoral districts for selecting the president.
National Popular Vote advocates argue they need not amend the Constitution to bring about direct presidential election, but the framers of the Constitution explicitly considered and rejected direct election by a vote of nine states to one. Whatever one makes of the Constitution, it cannot provide for direct election of the president.
An amendment unlikely
Of course, the framers were not infallible. We can amend the Constitution through supermajority votes in Congress and among the states. National Popular Vote supporters recognize that they don’t have enough support to amend the Constitution to do away with the Electoral College. Hence, they propose an end run around the intentions of the framers.
Many people believe the Electoral College favors small states that, in turn, control enough votes to defeat an amendment to impose direct election. The Constitution allocates presidential electors on the basis of a state’s representatives in the Senate and the House. Since all states have the same number of senators, small states appear to have greater leverage over a presidential election than they would have under direct election. Several states with a large number of eligible voters might well acquire more power under direct election.