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NPV's large thermal exhaust ports
Sean Parnell • Jan 19, 2021

Sometimes I describe the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV) as the election version of the Death Star, with a twist. Rather than a single “small, thermal exhaust port” the size of a womp rat that requires a direct hit, the compact has numerous exhaust ports scattered about its surface large enough that even a Stormtrooper could hit one. But, like the Death Star, just one is enough to destroy the whole thing.

What are some of these critical weaknesses? One of the most obvious is that NPV relies on the full cooperation of every state—even those not in the compact—in order to work. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only compact so reliant on non-member states.

What could non-member states do that would be like a proton torpedo hitting the reactor? They could delay certification and reporting of vote totals because, for example, they are still counting the votes or the results are being litigated. They could submit inaccurate vote counts that NPV would then require member states to use. In states with ranked-choice voting, they might have to submit two sets of vote totals (the initial and the final) and possibly erase the votes of a major party candidate who finished behind a third-party or independent candidate (as happened in 1992).

These are just some of the unintentional ways non-member states could prevent NPV states from obtaining the uniform and conclusive vote totals needed for the compact to work. A state that wanted to intentionally frustrate the compact could report and certify only the winning candidate’s vote totals, or it could simply follow federal law and standard practice in not making public before the Electoral College something known as the Certificate of Ascertainment, which the NPV organization identifies in its self-published book as the source of “official” vote totals. It could also consider each vote for a slate of electors as multiple votes, one per elector, vastly inflating its vote totals.

Those are just some of the ways non-member states could, intentionally or accidentally, cause NPV to explode. Another problem is that a state legislature or court might try to withdraw from NPV before an election to avoid giving electoral votes to a candidate they strongly oppose. While NPV claims to prevent this, it provides no enforcement mechanism. The compact also faces constitutional questions and could be struck down by state or federal courts.

In the event of a close national vote, a full and fair recount would be impossible. Some states would conduct recounts while others looked on. In states with a single dominant party, activists might engage in voter fraud or suppression.

The compact doesn’t contain a mechanism for resolving disputes between member states – what if some NPV states refuse to accept vote counts that they believe are the result of voter fraud or suppression?

These are just a handful of the weaknesses of NPV, any one of which could lead to a political, legal, and constitutional crisis. In their attempt to subvert the Electoral College’s state-by-state process of electing the president, NPV advocates have created a system that is destined to fail if it ever becomes fully operational.