A Critique of the National Popular Vote

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The National Popular Vote plan (NPV), introducedin more than 40 states, and adopted by 4,proposes an interstate compact to bring aboutdirect election of the president of the UnitedStates. The proposal eliminates states as electoraldistricts in presidential elections by creating anational electoral district for the presidential election,thereby advancing a national political identityfor the United States. States with small populationsand states that are competitive may benefitfrom the electoral college. Few states clearly benefitfrom direct election of the president. NPVbrings about this change without amending theConstitution, thereby undermining the legitimacyof presidential elections. It also weakens federalismby eliminating the role of the states in presidentialcontests. NPV nationalizes disputed outcomesand cannot offer any certainty that stateswill not withdraw from the compact when theresults of an election become known. NPV willencourage presidential campaigns to focus theirefforts in dense media markets where costs pervote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidateswill continue to be ignored under NPV.For these reasons, states should not join theNational Popular Vote compact.

John Samples

John Samples is director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. He is the author of The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform and the editor of James Madison and the Future of Limited Government.