States allocate their electoral college votes however they want to. Some, including California, legalized NPVIC (national popular vote interstate compact). This forces the state to give all its electors to whomever wins the national popular vote. California is a core blue state, but under NPVIC it would go red if a Republican won nationally. However, California Democrats were more in favor of NPVIC. Why is this?

Perhaps the short-term gain in California would be offset by a long term nation-wide adoption in which small red states like Idaho would lose their disproportionate share.

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    because one day, they might be in the majority, and NPVIC gives up a whole lot of power. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 19:18
  • It increases the risk posed by a third party candidate. That candidate could only receive 35% of the votes in any given state with out winning an electoral vote and still end up being the popular choice... Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 22:10
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    @SoylentGray What it really does is increase the risk posed by any candidate capable of winning the popular vote. Your example isn't any different than the current scenario, where a candidate can get a majority of the votes by winning more votes in big states, but losing the overall electoral college.
    – C. Helling
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 14:36
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    Republicans are against it because the current electoral system is more favorable to them. It's as simple as that.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:41

7 Answers 7


This is the official position of the Republican party but not necessarily the position of the members or the Republican party. When polled in 2008, 70% of California residents and likely voters supported the change to the president being elected by direct popular vote, while 21% of residents and 22% of likely voters preferred the current Electoral College system. Democrats (76%) and independents (74%) were more likely to support the change to direct popular vote than Republicans, but 61 percent of Republicans also supported the change. Among likely voters, support for the change was 6 points higher than in October 2004 (64%).

Some notable members of the Republican Party of California who are in support of the NPV include:

  • James Brulte served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.
  • Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

History of the National Popular Vote

Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

The National Popular Vote bill would change current state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

When states with a combined total of at least 270 electoral votes enact the bill, the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the needed majority of 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for: they don't matter to their candidate! In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don't matter to candidates. Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided to Kerry (1,235,659).

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    This is a great writeup of what this compact does, and why states would want it as a whole, but doesn't really address the question of why Republicans would oppose it, which is what the OP asks. So +1 for informative, and -1 for off topic.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 22:08
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    When polled in 2008, 70%of California residents and likely voters supported the change to the president being elected by direct popular vote, while 21% of residents and 22% of likely voters preferred the current Electoral College system. Democrats (76%) and independents (74%) were more likely to support the change to direct popular vote than Republicans, but 61 percent of Republicans also supported the change. Among likely voters, support for the change was 6 points higher than in October 2004 (64%). -- NationalPopularVote.com
    – toto
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 23:11
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    Interesting... So the answer to the OP might be: "They don't actually oppose it" or at least "They don't actually oppose it as a group". If you edit something like that into your answer, you'll get my upvote. Welcome to Politics.SE!
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 23:18
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    I don't see how "every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election". It would do the exact opposite, as votes in less populated states would no longer matter. The election would be decided by New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
    – RWW
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 20:48
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    @RWW: I don't hear much about voters in Rhode Island, North Dakota or Alaska. Those aren't swing states. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 2:50

To clarify, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is essentially an agreement between an electoral majority of states(270+) to go from using the electoral college in National elections to using the popular vote.

They're not actually removing the electoral college system so much as they're using the electoral college to enforce the popular vote.

Republicans might be against this, because it increases proportional the voting power of higher-population states, who tend to be more democrat than not.

Some supporters and opponents of the NPVIC have based their position at least in part on a perceived partisan advantage of the compact. Governor Du Pont, a Republican, has argued that the compact would be an "urban power grab" and benefit Democrats.[16] However, Saul Anuzis of the Republican National Committee wrote that Republicans "need" the compact, citing what he believes to be the center-right nature of the American electorate.[25] New Yorker essayist Hendrik Hertzberg maintains that the compact would benefit neither party, noting that historically both Republicans and Democrats have been successful in winning the popular vote in presidential elections.[26] In the last four elections, Democrats enjoyed an advantage from the electoral vote system in three elections (2012, 2008, and 2004), whereas in 2000 the electoral system provided the Republicans with an advantage.[27][28]

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    A lot of people focus on the (per-capita) over-representation of small states tending to benefit Republicans, but ignore the winner-take-all system tending to benefit Democrats.
    – dan04
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 10:28

The answer is extremely simple: Republicans have twice won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote - in 2000 and 2016. Given the changes in demographics it's likely that the trend will continue in the future as pro-Democratic groups of voters become more populous.

It is therefore in the interest of California Republicans to sabotage the Interstate Vote Compact as far as they can, lest they risk losing the presidency for a long time. The opinion of local Californian voters on this matter is of little relevance.

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    I am not convinced by this. While the teams have seemed to form as you state, I suspect that this answer has not sufficiently evaluated whether there are objective reasons to oppose the NPVIC, such as legal ambiguity and paradoxes related to vote counting. Naturally, the proponents of NPVIC would tend to have voted for Gore / Clinton and so the opponents of NPVIC would be associated with the victories of Bush / Trump even if their reason for opposing it were completely procedural and not "political". Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 19:37

Any state is free to cast its electoral votes according to such rules as its legislators see fit to write.

If a state legislator wanted to mandate legislatively that it should unconditionally cast its electoral votes in such fashion as to agree with the national popular vote, it could do so. But the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is plainly defective: under the Compact, the actions of Compact states are contingent upon the actions of non-Compact states.

In scenarios where states disagree, the relevant clauses of the Compact are consistently irrelevant or ambiguous when they need to be crystal-clear!

Let's say that a state's legislature passes the Compact, but there are court challenges regarding when it should become effective: then that state's status with regard to the Compact would be unclear. If court challenges arise in two states, an election outcome in each contested-Compact state could depend upon the outcome in each other, in such a way as to render the election nothing more than a matter of judicial fiat.

Another thing to consider is that if any moderate-sized states opposed the Compact, they have the legal ability to throw a wrench in the works by refusing to release their entire election vote counts. Let's say that such a state required that the top vote-getter would only be entitled to a certified statement giving the candidates' ranking, the total number of ballots cast, the combined vote total for the top two candidates, the number of ballots cast for each candidate below the top two, the number of ballots which did not select any candidate, and the number of spoiled ballots. Then the official vote counts would not reveal the top vote-getter's winning margin and the votes cast for other candidates. The relative margin between the top two candidates would not be released or certified until February 1 of the following year unless requested by the second-best candidate.

If a runaway victory in one large state seemed likely to tip the popular vote, the runner-up could refuse to have the exact margin published. And the candidate that won the state would have no legal basis for complaint! Other states might want to know the winning margin, but neither those states nor the winning candidate would have any basis for demanding it. The second-best candidate who wanted to contest his loss would have a basis for demanding to know the losing margin (along with a more precise voting breakdown), but if he simply conceded the loss, there'd be no legitimate basis for determining the margin.

Even if one favored having a national popular vote (IMHO a very bad idea, for many reasons), the design of the popular-vote compact is so grossly defective that it should not be supported by anyone who favors orderly elections.

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    Interesting. Can you cite from the text of the compact to highlight these flaws? I'm having a hard time following your claims, and quotes help to break up walls of text.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 14:34
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    //This agreement shall take effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have enacted this agreement in substantially the same form and the enactments by such states have taken effect in each state.// If state X doesn't feel that state's Y's enactment is in "substantially the same form" and that, as a consequence, it's not going to consider the agreement effective for that election, then the fact that X wouldn't agree to be bound by the agreement in that election would reduce by X's Electoral Vote count the weight of states that were bound by the agreement.
    – supercat
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 3:49
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    Perhaps things would get resolved before the election, but it would be unclear exactly whom would have the standing to file what lawsuits and on what bases. The whole thing would be virtually guaranteed to turn into a mess. Further, as noted, states have no duty to count votes beyond those necessary to determine the winner and demonstrate to any losers that they lost. If a state decides to stop counting ballots as soon as half-plus-one have been tallied for a particular candidate, and the loser is cool with that, nobody would have standing to demand better numbers.
    – supercat
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 3:54

We have two modern examples of the plurality winner of the national popular vote not winning the electoral college. In both examples, it was the Democrat who won the plurality of the popular vote while a Republican won the electoral college. So from a purely partisan viewpoint, the National Popular Vote interstate compact would have helped the Democrats in two out of the past five presidential elections while helping the Republicans in zero.

We can't say that this will always be true. The Republicans could win the popular vote and lose the electoral college. However, we have no instances of that happening. Even if we're willing to go back to 1876, both of the additional elections involved a Republican winning the electoral college over a Democrat who won a plurality or majority of the national popular vote. In the fifth example, both candidates were nominally of the same party. However, the loser in the House of Representative who won a plurality of the national popular vote would later become the first Democrat to win the presidency.

There are less partisan reasons to oppose the compact. Consider what would have happened in 1824 if the plurality winner would have been awarded the election. Andrew Jackson would have won the presidency with only 41.4% of the vote. More than 58% of voters preferred someone else. What happened next should be familiar to anyone from a multi-party country. Two of the candidates pulled together and formed a coalition government. One became president while the other became Secretary of State.

A better version of the NPV interstate compact would insist on some form of ranked voting rather than plurality voting. That way if two similar candidates run against one different candidate, the different candidate won't win purely by lack of competition among that base. Consider a 2020 possibility of Bernie Sanders (Independent) and Andrew Cuomo (Democrat) running against Donald Trump in 2020. Sanders and Cuomo split the anti-Trump vote, allowing Trump to win the national popular vote with just 37% to Sanders' 36% and Cuomo's 26%.


If there is a disparity between popular and electoral vote, that disparity will always play out in the form of less populated states exercising their proportionally bigger power. California, being the highest populated state, would probably favor anything that cedes more power to the majority. This would increase their power.

Example (numbers are not actual, just illustrative.)

Let's say that a Congressional district translates to a nice, round 1,000,000 people. If you have less, then you get a minimum or one House Member, Two Senators, three Electoral College Delegates

Each state gets one Electoral Vote for each Congressional member. Washington DC gets the same number as the smallest states, regardless.

California has roughly 40 million people. Under my simplified scenario, they get 42 Electoral Votes.

The bottom 21 states, plus the District of Columbia, have about 37 million people. With the minimum House members, plus everyone getting the same number of Senator-generated Electoral votes, that represents 82 Electoral Votes, or almost double the amount of Electoral votes than a state with the more total popular votes.

If all these states adopted this measure, and Californians voted unanimously for Tree-Hugger McDufus, and the people in the bottom-22 populated states and districts all voted unanimously for Oil-Burner McCapitalist (and the rest of the nation mysteriously ceased to exist), then all 124 electoral votes go to McDufus. Otherwise, McCapitalist gets almost double the number of electoral votes.

Either way, the Irish win, apparently.

  • Of course, one of these candidates runs in the Evil Party and the other in the Stupid Party. I shouldn't have to tell you which is which, it's just that obvious.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 18:52

This notion that a number of states controlling 270 electoral votes (theoretically possible with the approval of only 11 states) should be able, by a contract among themselves, affect a "poor man's constitutional amendment" to the Constitution of the United States is fascinating. This should be abhorrent to anyone with the slightest interest in the vitality and history of the Constitution. Such a plan would reduce the combined voting impact of the voters of Vermont, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota in the presidential race to that of Brooklyn.

There could be no greater irony than Governor Cuomo signing a bill to disenfranchise the roughly 13,000,000 million registered voters of New York. Ignoring all intellectual positions, the Governor must know that if in 2004, 59,300 Ohioans had voted for John Kerry instead of George W. Bush, Senator Kerry would have become President despite having lost the national popular vote by over 3 million votes. New York voted overwhelmingly (58%) for Mr. Kerry. If the National Popular Vote Compact had been in place, every New York electoral vote would have gone to President Bush and made him the President of the United States instead of Mr. Kerry.

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    The constitution explicitly grants states the ability to choose their own electors in any manner they choose. I like to use the example that it would be Constitutionally valid for a state to choose electors based on whether a given tree has bloomed by a given date. That said, this is a valid argument against the NPVIC, but the question was why Californian Republicans objected to it.
    – Bobson
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 17:34

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