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My understanding of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is that, once 270 electoral votes worth of states pass the law, all of the joining states will appoint electors pledged to casting their ballot for the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections.

Seeing as how these laws are being passed as state law and the makeup of state governments can change, it is possible that 270 electoral votes worth of states give or take could join and then one election later one state has a different government that chooses to repeal the law, pushing the number of electoral votes that have signed on below the 270 vote threshold needed to choose the winner. Does the text of the law that states are passing make any allowances for that circumstance?

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Yes - the bill text contains a provision for a state to withdraw from the agreement. Under Article IV - Other Provisions:

Any member state may withdraw from this agreement, except that a withdrawal occurring six months or less before the end of a President’s term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President shall have been qualified to serve the next term.

It also sets out the notification obligation placed on the chief executive of the state under this circumstance:

The chief executive of each member state shall promptly notify the chief executive of all other states of when this agreement has been enacted and has taken effect in that official’s state, when the state has withdrawn from this agreement, and when this agreement takes effect generally.

With regard to what happens if a majority of electoral votes are reached, the agreement takes effect, and then a state withdraws, leaving the signatories without a majority of electoral votes, this is handled at the end of Article III. Although the bill text states that

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,

which seems to leave open the question as to what happens if the agreement takes effect, but a majority of electoral votes is lost, the last provision of Article III states:

This article shall govern the appointment of presidential electors in each member state in any year in which this agreement is, on July 20, in effect in states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes.

This provision, combined with the fact that a withdrawal from the agreement in the period six months prior to the end of a President's term is blocked from taking effect until after the election of the new President, ensures that the agreement will only be used to appoint electors when the signatories control a majority of electoral votes.

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  • are there any qualified opinions on whether this time limit on withdrawing violates the principle that one legislature may not bind a future legislature, that the legislature is always free to make new superseding laws? – Steve Estes Jul 7 at 15:58
  • @SteveEstes: American state legislatures usually hold regularly-scheduled elections in November (on the same day as federal elections, though sometimes in odd-numbered years when no federal elections are regularly scheduled), and the winners take office in or before January-ish. The legislature in July would (probably, usually) be the same body as the legislature in November (barring an out-of-cycle special election). – Kevin Jul 7 at 18:45
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    @SteveEstes Seems unlikely that it would be legally binding. Legislatures can generally repeal a law whenever they want. Only their own state Constitution (or the United States Constitution) would be able to set binding limits on that. A law saying the legislature can't pass a law can simply be repealed by the exact same legislature at will. Just like how Congress changes the debt ceiling whenever they want/need to. – reirab Jul 8 at 3:12
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    @reirab - I'm not going to even begin to guess how they'd rule on something like that, in the compressed timeframes involved. But it'd certainly be grounds for bringing the case and trying to force them to comply. – Bobson Jul 8 at 18:20
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    @Bobson Sure, they could try, but it would be very, very likely to fail, IMO. Especially in light of Article I, Section 10, paragraph 3, which explicitly bans states from entering into compacts with each other without the express consent of Congress in the first place. The NPVIC is already explicitly unconstitutional, it's just not clear that anyone would have standing to bring suit directly against it or what possible remedy the court would have if they did. – reirab Jul 8 at 18:22

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