If the goal is to get the electoral college to better reflect the popular vote, the simple solution is to avoid the winner-take-all system and apportion votes by congressional district based on the popular vote in the state. So why don't the states who signed the interstate compact do exactly that? It does not require any other states to go along with it and can have an immediate effect.

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    Huh? The goal is to reflect the national popular vote. Apportioning electoral votes by congressional district would approximate that, but going off the full popular vote would be the best
    – divibisan
    Oct 29, 2020 at 21:30
  • @divibisan: But that is counter to the basis of federalism. It's also counter to the text and the spirit of the constitution which was established to protect the rights of the minority and the rights of smaller states. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:42
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    @RainWillow The states that favor federalism most are the states that benefit most from it, and that would be states that are mostly rural and have small populations. States with large populations are disenfranchised in the Senate, and even in the House. Moreover, those states with large urban populations benefit from uniform regulations across the country. The purpose of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is to circumvent the compromise that protects small states that is built-in to the concept of an Electoral College. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:51
  • @DavidHammen: "Moreover, those states with large urban populations benefit from uniform regulations across the country." ...How so? Oct 29, 2020 at 21:55
  • Several disparate examples, @RainWillow. (1) Imagine if each state had its own regulations on train track widths. There were several competing gauges of railroad track. The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 made a standard gauge the law of the land and opened up the west. (2) Radio communications. Fortunately the federal government saw the mess that could have been ahead of time and created the Federal Communications Commission in 1934. (3) Television (an offshoot of the FCC). NTSC ("Not The Same Color") is bad enough. I can only imagine how bad things would if standards were left to each state. Oct 29, 2020 at 22:21

3 Answers 3


Since the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact only takes effect once it covers enough electoral college votes to decide the presidential election, and the compact dictates that the signers allocate all their votes to whoever wins the national popular vote, the result of the electoral college vote will be brought into line with the national popular vote once it takes effect (regardless of what non-signing states do).

If the signers instead immediately started dividing their electoral college votes to proportionally match the popular vote of those in the area, the immediate effect would be diluting the power of their votes. Without all states signing it, the compact could not force the electoral college vote to match the national popular vote, and those states not signing would effectively become stronger "swing states" - a few votes in a non-signing winner-takes-all state could change the outcome of the electoral college vote, while a few votes in a signing proportional-allocation state would change significantly fewer electoral college votes.

  • Your answer suggests that the unstated, real purpose of the interstate compact is to ensure Democrats win close elections as opposed to the publicly stated goal of reflecting the popular vote. This is further supported by the fact that only blue states have signed the compact. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:47
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    @RainWillow I'm not aware of how my answer suggests that. Can you explain why you think it suggests that?
    – Extrarius
    Oct 29, 2020 at 21:50
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    @RainWillow You've put the same comment on two fine answers. But it is only showing your opinion. There is nothing in this or the other answer that implies that the goal is to ensure Democrats win close elections. The question states that the goal of the NPCIC is to ensure that the winner of the popular vote takes the presidency, and nothing else.
    – James K
    Oct 29, 2020 at 21:58
  • @JamesK: Your second paragraph. "the immediate effect would be diluting the power of their votes." Those are all blue states. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:58
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    Irrelevant..... It would equally dilute the power of red states.
    – James K
    Oct 29, 2020 at 21:59

Because you can use gerrymandering to make it so that the popular vote in a state doesn't win the majority of the congressional districts in that state. This of course is not counting for the two votes that each state gets for its Senators.

In the end the only way to ensure the popular vote winner gets the votes is to award it solely based on the popular vote alone.


  • True, but I wonder if doing it by CD would be a compromise more sates would accept once the EC backfires on the group it's recently been helping.
    – dandavis
    Oct 31, 2020 at 19:18
  • @dandavis I know that Republicans tried to get rid of the system breaking it down by House districts in Nebraska after a Democrat managed to get one of Nebraska's electoral college votes.
    – Joe W
    Oct 31, 2020 at 19:24

The issue would be that unless every state agreed, those that changed their method of apportionment would likely have less influence overall. Take California, for example, with its 55 electoral votes. Today, that is a very blue state so the Democrats can basically count on getting all 55 electoral votes every election. If California decided to apportion electors by district (I'll assume the 2 extra go to the overall state winner), and assuming the election went the same way as the last House election, Republicans would take 7 or 8 of those 53 districts (a previously Republican seat is vacant) so you'd end up with 47 or 48 electoral votes for the Democratic candidate and 7 or 8 for the Republican candidate. Effectively, that reduces the impact of winning California from a net of 55 to a net of ~40 electoral votes.

If California allocated its votes proportionately to the statewide popular vote, eliminating the impact of district gerrymandering, then based on the 2016 results, it would have given ~1/3 of the votes to the Republican and ~2/3 to the Democrat. Lets say that works out to 37 votes for the Democrat and 18 for the Republican (depending on the rules, the Libertarian and Green parties might have won an elector as well). Now the winner of the state only nets 19 more electoral votes than the loser.

Abolishing the Electoral College is something that has more support among Democrats than Republicans. If the solidly Democratic states decided to change how they apportioned electors while the Republican states stayed as winner-take-all, it would become extremely difficult for a Democratic candidate to win the White House. You would need the solidly Republican states to reciprocate before elections where some states had adopted the change and others had not were fair.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact doesn't take effect until it is ratified by states representing at least 270 electors. Solidly Democratic states don't want to put their candidate in a position where he or she has to win the national popular vote to get all the Democratic states plus win additional winner-take-all states in order to win the election.

  • Your answer suggests that the unstated, real purpose of the interstate compact is to ensure Democrats win close elections as opposed to the publicly stated goal of reflecting the popular vote. This is further supported by the fact that only blue states have signed the compact. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:45
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    @RainWillow - No. It suggests that the Democrats are realists who don't want to intentionally put themselves at a structural disadvantage. They would prefer to reflect the popular vote but don't want to be in a position where they have no chance of winning in the interim. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:49
  • Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe. Our arguments are the two sides of the same coin. You are basically repeating the same idea I expressed but doing so in a way that uses more positive words to describe the same behavior. What we both agree on is that the behavior is the result of a political calculation by the Democrats. Oct 29, 2020 at 21:53
  • @RainWillow: both sides want to win, nothing sinister about that, that's the point of having sides.
    – dandavis
    Oct 31, 2020 at 19:21

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