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John Koza puts NPV politics ahead of math
Trent England • Apr 12, 2024

My last post, responding to comments by John Koza, addresses the most obvious conflict between ranked-choice voting (RCV) and the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV). The issue is that RCV provides first-round results and, if no candidate has a majority, final-round results that are different. At the end of a multi-round RCV election, some candidates and their votes have been eliminated. Whatever Koza claims, his compact gives the power to an official in each NPV state to decide which results to use from other states.

There is a more serious problem, however, and it’s something of an unforced error. This is the position, taken by many NPV advocates, that final, RCV-adjusted vote totals ought to be the ones used to create national popular vote totals.

Let me be blunt: That is not democracy. That is not “every voter equal” (the slogan of the NPV campaign). Nor is it “one person, one vote.”

RCV wonks know this very well. Every RCV election process requires consolidating ballot data first, then performing the RCV process on all the ballots together. You cannot run the RCV process by precinct, or county, or any other sub-level and then add up the final-round results to get a result. This is basic math (adding RCV-adjusted totals is akin to adding percentages, a basic math mistake.)

I described this in February at RealClear Policy:

Because democratic elections are based on simple addition, rejecting math puts democracy at risk. Combining adjusted vote totals destroys the premise of a national popular vote.

It might not be an issue of just a few votes, either. Consider what happened in Maine in the 1992 presidential election, when Bill Clinton came in first and independent candidate Ross Perot edged out George H.W. Bush for second. Perot received 206,820 popular votes while Bush received 206,504. Had RCV been in effect, Bush would have been eliminated and his vote total reduced to zero. If his supporters ranked other candidates, their votes would have been redistributed; if not, their ballots would be ignored.

Now consider a hypothetical future election with the NPV compact in effect and one or more large states using RCV. An independent candidate’s second-place finish in just one state could delete millions of votes for a major party candidate and even flip the outcome.

Whatever that is, it is not a national popular vote. And while these scenarios may not happen often, any combination of adjusted vote totals is mathematically meaningless.

Koza, who not only invented the NPV compact but also the scratch-ticket lottery system, must know this. While lacking a background in law, political science, or history, Koza certainly does understand mathematics. So why ignore this serious flaw, which undermines his own case for NPV? The answer can only be politics. RCV advocates were prickly at early suggestions that RCV states stop using the system if NPV takes effect. Rather than teaching them basic math, NPV advocates took the easier path of just ignoring math altogether. As I said in the conclusion of my RealClear piece:

Like it or not, there is logic to our current presidential election process. Opponents of the Electoral College may dislike its two-step democracy. But at each level it is, in fact, democratic. There is no logic that supports a mashup of ranked-choice voting and the NPV compact—only politics.