What is NPV?
National Popular Vote is a San Francisco-based lobbying organization founded, chaired, and funded by a computer scientist named John Koza. It is also the name of Koza’s plan to change how we elect the President of the United States.
The NPV plan is state legislation. States commit to ignore their own voters and instead give away their electoral votes based on the national popular vote. This would create a direct election—the very idea rejected by the American Founders when they created the Electoral College
Because the Constitution gives state legislatures power to appoint their electors, there is a chance that NPV would be upheld by the courts. This is true even though the purpose of this state flexibility is to allow states to best represent the will of their own people (rather than to ignore their state altogether).
NPV legislation creates an interstate compact that takes effect if passed by states with a total of 270 or more electoral votes—a majority that would control who becomes president.
NPV leaves the Electoral College structure in place, but eliminates its effects thus doing away with its benefits.
At the same time, NPV fails to create any national standards for which candidates are on the ballot, who gets to vote, how votes are counted, and how they might be recounted. Because NPV is an end-run around the constitution, it cannot create an authentic national election and would likely lead to chaos.
NPV would, however, eliminate the practical benefits of the roll of states in the presidential election process.
Part of the genius of the Electoral College is that it turns states into the equivalent of watertight compartments on an ocean liner: a problem in one compartment—or state—can be isolated and then fixed.
NPV would make American presidential elections the electoral equivalent of the Titanic.
The NPV proposal would also allow a candidate to win without any sort of majority, encouraging more candidates to run and thus ensuring that future Presidents would be elected with smaller and smaller pluralities (for example, under NPV you might have five serious candidates and the winner could receive less than a third, or even less than a quarter, of the national vote).
Even worse, if NPV ever succeeded, the next step in nationalizing American elections would be a national election bureaucracy—presidential appointees in charge of presidential elections.
NPV is a clever political tactic for Electoral College opponents frustrated by the hard work required to change the Constitution. But clever tactics are often bad public policy—Koza’s NPV plan would manipulate the Electoral College and endanger election integrity.
Koza’s first foray into politics was to convince states to adopt lotteries using his patented scratch-off ticket system (and then to pay royalties back to Koza). NPV is a bigger—and much more dangerous—gamble.