How to elect a president that wins both the popular and electoral vote

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By Michael Tarnoff
Special to WJW

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is a nonpartisan movement to elect the president of the United States via a national popular vote. Maryland and District of Columbia are among the 16 jurisdictions, with a total of 195 electoral college votes, that have enacted the NPVIC and joined the compact. Virginia is one of eight states, with 84 electoral votes, to pass NPVIC in one house of the legislature.


Because many citizens and voters have no idea what the NPVIC is or how it works, the following is a brief explanation:

The definition of “national popular vote” is “count up all the votes nationwide and the candidate with the most votes wins.” This concept is often abbreviated or referred to as “One Person / One Vote.” It is critical to note that NPVIC does NOT — and is not intended to — abolish or eliminate the Electoral College. In fact, it requires the Electoral College to remain intact in order to work.

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As its name implies, the NPVIC is an agreement among states to award/allocate their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This agreement is as opposed to, or instead of, the current winner-take-all method used by 48 of the 50 states, in which the states award/allocate 100 percent of their Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state. In order for states to award/allocate their Electoral College votes to anyone, the Electoral College must remain intact and continue to function exactly as it does now.

The only thing that changes is the way in which states that join the NPVIC award/allocate their Electoral College votes. Article II of the Constitution gives each state the right to award/allocate their electoral college votes “in such manner as shall be determined by the Legislature thereof.” The current “winner-take-all” method used by 48 of the 50 states is not in our Constitution, and in many cases states did not adopt this method until 100 years after the Constitution was created.


There are states that use different methods, and almost every state has changed the method they use to award/allocate their Electoral College votes at least once — and in some cases several times — over the 245 years since our Constitution was adopted.

The 16 jurisdictions’ 195 electoral votes is 72 percent of the way toward the 270 votes required to elect a president. And when states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes enact the National Popular Vote bill and join the compact, then the winner of the national popular vote and the winner of the electoral college vote will always be the same person.

There is good reason to believe that when presidential candidates, and the political parties that nominate them, know that they must win the national popular vote if they expect to win the White House — instead of winning a tiny margin of victory in a small handful of battleground or swing states — it will force American politics back toward the center, where values such as collaboration, cooperation and compromise are respected and practiced.

Numerous national organizations support this movement, because they also support the values reflected by collaboration, cooperation and compromise. A list of those national organizations is as follows: League of Women Voters, ACLU, NAACP, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy for America, Make Every Vote Matter, Fair Vote, Jewish Democratic Council of America, Equal=Citizens, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, representUS, RockTheVote, Sierra Club and Working Families.

To support this important nationwide movement, please go to NationalPopularVote.org.

Michael Tarnoff is chairman of Make Every Vote Matter.

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