No election in the United States has ever crossed state lines. Districts for local, state, and federal officials are all contained within individual states. Presidential electors are chosen by states, and the Constitution requires that they meet within their own states to cast their ballots.
The National Popular Vote campaign (NPV) seeks to change all that. It lobbies state legislatures to change state laws to choose presidential electors based on the nationwide popular vote. More than a dozen states have passed such a law, although NPV’s proposal only takes effect if passed by states that together control an electoral vote majority (270 or more electoral votes).
A practical challenge for NPV is that every election law on the books assumes that elections are conducted within individual states. An even greater roadblock may be state constitutions, some of which make this explicit by requiring that voters be residents of their own state. These are called “citizen voter” provisions.
Ironically, both an NPV statute and a citizen voter constitutional amendment were on Colorado’s ballot last year. Both passed (NPV with 52%; citizen voter with 63%). Yet the latter may overrule the former—a constitutional provision always trumps a statute.
Colorado’s constitution now says: “Only a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections” (emphasis added). But Colorado’s NPV law, should it take effect, would have the state’s presidential electors chosen by all voters nationwide.
This is just one of many legal flaws in the drafting of the National Popular Vote interstate compact. By trying to manipulate the Constitution’s state-by-state presidential election process, NPV would create legal and political chaos.