Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Update your browser
Defending the Electoral College and the Constitution since 2009

what are you looking for?


One person… how many votes? (Part 1)
Sean Parnell • Apr 10, 2024

One of the main arguments made by advocates for the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV) is that it embraces the idea of “one person, one vote.” NPV, Inc.’s website claims: “It will apply the one-person-one-vote principle to presidential elections and make every vote equal.”

But it’s worth asking – could NPV deliver on this promise? It turns out it doesn’t and can’t. This, the first of three posts on this topic, explains how something called “approval voting” would give each voter multiple votes in the presidential election. Interestingly enough, NPV, Inc. has seemingly endorsed giving voters more than a single vote for president.

Approval voting (like ranked choice voting) is an alternative to normal plurality voting. Under approval voting, voters are allowed to cast one vote for as many candidates as they like. If there are seven candidates for an office, a voter might decide that three of them are acceptable and cast one vote for each of them. When votes are tabulated, the candidate with the most votes wins (more information on how this works is here).

Let’s consider how this would work in a presidential election, using Oregon as an example. The Beaver State reported 2,374,321 votes for presidential candidates in 2020, cast by 2,374,321 voters. Now imagine Oregon had approval voting and a large number of voters opted to cast votes for two or three candidates. In the statewide results, there might be 3 or even 4 million votes reported in Oregon. So long as those vote totals are only used in Oregon, the fact that just under 2.4 million voters cast 3 or 4 million votes isn’t a problem (setting aside objections to approval voting itself). But under NPV, Oregon’s 2.4 million voters would add three or four million votes into the national count.

Oregon isn’t looking at adopting Approval Voting any time soon, but it may vote on something known as STAR Voting (Score Then Automatic Runoff) this fall if Petition 2024 – 011 gets enough signatures. One component of STAR Voting is that voters first assign candidates a “score” of between 0 and 5, and can give more than one candidate the same score (more details are here).

Here's where things get interesting. The group behind the Oregon initiative explained in one of its filings with the Oregon Secretary of State that “a popular vote provision needed to be included in our Act” and that they “consulted with the founder of the NPVIC, John Koza, who specifically requested we do so.” The provision included in the STAR Voting for Oregon initiative treats a voter’s top-scored candidate or candidates as having received a popular vote from that voter – as that same filing explains, it “…effectively translates [STAR Voting] into Approval votes…” because, if a voter has given two or more candidates their highest score, then that voter will have two or more popular votes included in the state’s popular vote totals.

It isn’t clear just how involved Koza, chairman and founder of National Popular Vote, Inc., was in crafting this particular provision, but on Twitter the people behind the Oregon initiative stated they had “…met with the founders of the NPVIC and made sure to confirm compatibility and vet our proposal for how that can work.” In its filing with the Oregon Secretary of State the group also said it was working with NPV, Inc. to craft another interstate compact addressing NPV and alternative voting. So it seems fair to conclude that, at a minimum, the head of NPV, Inc. has signed off on approval voting being used in tandem with the compact, thus allowing voters to cast more than one vote for president under it.

So much for “one person, one vote.”