A funny thing about the National Popular Vote campaign, which pushes the National Popular Vote interstate compact, is how often its official lobbyists are contradicted by all its other supporters. This is on full display in Florida, where a former Al Gore campaign attorney now in the legislature has filed an NPV bill.
Most support for NPV comes from the political left, for both ideological and political reasons. Those on the left tend to view checks and balances, particularly as applied to democratic processes, with suspicion. They also draw much of their political power from big cities in big states—clearly the winners, at least in the short run, from a direct election for president.
Because NPV cannot win with blue states alone, it has shifted its lobbying to focus on Republicans. It has also shifted its message. In the beginning, NPV-founder John Koza bragged it was a way around the Electoral College. But today the group protests loudly that their plan would not technically abolish the Electoral College. Even though the American Founders considered and rejected a national popular vote for president, NPV lobbyists claim their proposal does not contradict the constitutional design.
While lobbyists push that messaging on Republican legislators, the actual supporters of NPV along with some of the media are far more honest. “Joe Geller wants to help axe Electoral College process,” is the headline for a Florida Politics article on the new NPV bill there. Later in the report, the author describes NPV as “a system designed to usurp the Electoral College.”
NPV activists are even more explicit. An op-ed published earlier this year (and rife with errors) attacks the Electoral College as having “no intrinsic value” and being “not consonant with the concept of a modern democratic republic.” The author advances NPV as the closest thing to abolishing the Electoral College. Indeed the League of Women Voters, a political organization that supports NPV, has called for amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College since 1970.
Despite the claims of NPV lobbyists, the only reason to support their plan is a disagreement with the constitutional system. The NPV compact seeks to overlay a direct election system on top of the state-by-state process not because it’s better, but because it’s easier. The trouble is, using this shortcut and attempting this overlay is also a particularly dangerous way to change the presidential election process.