The first state to ratify the Constitution became the 13th state to join an effort to sidestep the Electoral College when Gov. John Carney signed legislation yesterday to join Delaware to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV). Gov. Carney cast the measure as "pretty simple," but NPV is actually a Rube Goldberg way of getting around the Constitution.
The whole point of NPV is to end the Electoral College. Most NPV supporters admit this, except those paid to lobby for NPV legislation. The lobbyists claim it's a selling point that their plan leaves the Electoral College structure, but hijacks it to create the effect of a direct election.
States that join the NPV compact agree to ignore their own voters in presidential elections. Instead, they will appoint presidential electors based on their calculation of the national popular vote. They argue that state legislators can award electors anyway they want, even contrary to the original intent, and that congressional consent for the compact is not required. The compact has a trigger so that it only takes effect if adopted by enough states that they control 270 electoral votes and thus the outcome of presidential elections.
NPV creator John Koza bragged to the New York Times that the plan is an "end run" around the Constitution. Jonathan Soros, son of leftist financier George Soros, argued in the Wall Street Journal that NPV was the easiest way to undo the constitutional system, which he called "antidemocratic" and "no longer in line with our expectations" of how presidential elections should work.
The trouble is that even for those who want to junk the constitutional system, NPV is a mess. For one thing, it does not actually create a "national popular vote." Each state would still have its own rules for who gets on the ballot, who votes, how elections are conducted, and what happens when things go wrong. While the NPV compact has a provision for a perfect tie, it says nothing about disputes or recounts.
With NPV, each compact state would certify for itself a "national popular vote" total. This means each state would have to take every other states word for it. With no control and no oversight, state election officials would certify a vote total that includes the votes from all across the country. What could possibly go wrong?
If MSNBC was reporting on election night that red states were engaged in voter suppression, would officials in blue states certify a result where the red state votes made the difference? Or if Fox News was airing stories of voter fraud in Los Angeles and Chicago, would red state officials blithely accept the results from California and Illinois? To put it another way, could elected officials in these states be relied on to buck their own state's politics in hard-fought presidential contests?
NPV also has no limit to how small a plurality could win. The Electoral College requires a majority of electoral votes, and while this allows a plurality winner, it makes a small plurality winner less likely and makes it difficult to game the system with a "spoiler" candidate. NPV would eliminate all this, opting for a system that would encourage a multiplicity of candidates and thus tend toward smaller and smaller plurality winners.
Despite all this, Delaware and Colorado have joined NPV in 2019, with New Mexico likely to follow soon. You see, it's about being part of The Resistance. In other words, it's about re-fighting the last election. Hopefully these legislators, and those considering NPV in other states, will come to their senses and remember that what matters most in elections is having rules in place that actually work and that voters can rely on. NPV is not such a set of rules.