Advocates for the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV) claim it’s simple—direct democracy is the only legitimate way to hold an election. This is an attack on every parliamentary system or other two-step democratic processes (this handout explains) and would seem to discredit other constitutional limits on majority power (think the Bill of Rights). But it also discredits the NPV compact itself.
If state legislators really believe that the candidate who receives the most raw popular votes should win every time, no matter how small the plurality or how narrow their regional support, then why wait? The NPV law is written as an interstate compact in order to use a “trigger” to bring all of the state laws into effect at once. But that means a long delay (or never taking effect at all) for states that have already passed NPV.
NPV changes how a state chooses its presidential electors. Instead of being based on the vote of residents in that state, it would be based on the national vote total (still certified by state official—there would be no official, single NPV total and different states might come up with different numbers). But NPV only takes effect if passed by enough states that they control at least 270 electoral votes—a majority that would control the outcome.
But why? Without the trigger, an NPV law would still make it more likely that the candidate with the most raw popular votes wins. The trigger, on the other hand, ensures that NPV states actually control the outcome. In other words, the trigger is about politics and maximizing the power of NPV compact states. Without the trigger, the claim that NPV is a moral crusade for direct democracy would be easier to believe.
Finally, if legislators are really concerned about their state winner-take-all law, there are other alternatives, as explained here.