I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison’s blog about software, marketing, politics, photography, time lapse and the occasional well deserved rant. Follow along with a monthly email, RSS or on Facebook. About 7,250,102,766 people have not visited yet so it might be your first time here. Suggested reading: Got It, or roll the dice.

You can help fix one of the biggest problems with American democracy.

We elect our President via the Electoral College. States get a vote for each Representative and each Senator. Representatives are somewhat proportional to population but every state has two Senators. This creates a huge imbalance in the power of your vote.

Population per Electoral College vote. Red states have less influence, green states have more (Source: US Census Bureau, 2016 forecast population by state)

If you live in Texas that’s 733,226 people per elector. In Wyoming it’s just 195,167. Occasionally this has consequences.

Bush and Trump

Presidents we could have avoided.

As well as sacrificing one person one vote there are other issues with the Electoral College.

Presidential candidates largely ignore states where the outcome is nearly certain. If you live in a solid Republican or Democrat state then you will be taken for granted.

Originally the Electoral College was supposed to be a safeguard against the electorate making a horrible mistake. You might have good reason to believe that it no longer serves this purpose.

National Popular Vote

We could fix the imbalance with an amendment to the Constitution. This would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters (38) of the States.

Luckily there is another option. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The plan is quite simple. Each State passes legislation that promises to throw its Electoral College votes behind the popular vote winner. This only comes into force when enough States have enacted the NPVIC to have a majority in the Electoral College (270 votes)

You might be surprised to learn that the National Popular Vote already has 165 Electoral College votes. Adding Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Texas would be enough to switch to a popular vote. They are also all states that are among the least well represented by the current system.

Most Americans support the National Popular Vote (78% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 73% of Independents):

For future presidential elections, would you support or oppose changing to a system in which the president is elected by direct popular vote, instead of by the electoral college? (Source: Washington Post, 2007)

What can I do?

You can make a difference. Please do at least one of the following:

  1. Sign a petition or five: Daily Kos, Change.org, MoveOn, Democracy for America and Demand Progress.
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  3. Call your State representatives and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  4. Donate to the National Popular Vote (this site has no affiliation with National Popular Vote Inc.)

National Popular Vote progress. States shaded green have enacted the NPVIC, totalling 165 Electoral College votes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does American democracy really need fixing?

In 2017 the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded America from a full democracy to a flawed democracy. One factor in the score is that it is possible to win the Presidency without receiving the most votes.

Doesn’t the Electoral College serve an important purpose in protecting the rights of small States?

Don’t forget that most States initially limited voting to white, male property owners. This certainly protected their rights at the expense of many others. Over time we recognized that voting rights should be extended to other races, sexes and even renters. Today it’s time to recognize that Alaskans should not have more influence than Texans.

Won’t a National Popular Vote mean that we’re just ruled by California and New York?

There are plenty of Republicans in blue states and plenty of Democrats in red states. A National Popular Vote would make all states competitive and all voices matter.

Wouldn’t the National Popular Vote require a Constitutional Amendment?

States have the right to choose how they award their Electoral College votes. Most states do this under a winner-take-all system and a handful based on Congressional districts. There is nothing in the Constitution that would prevent States from adopting the National Popular Vote.

Isn’t America a Constitutional Republic rather than a democracy?

The Constitution is a living document and not a suicide pact. If we decide that our country would be better with one person one vote then we’re empowered to make that change.

Wouldn’t we lose an important protection against tyranny?

The Founding Fathers intended the Electoral College to protect us from demagogues, unqualified persons and those who are under foreign influence. In 2016 a handful even attempted to fulfil their constitutional obligation. It’s clear that this institution will not act to protect us from unsuitable Presidents. It would almost certainly be a bad thing if they did. It’s up to us to change the election process rather than relying on the largely ceremonial and outdated Electoral College.