Twice this century—and we are only two decades in—the person who has won the White House has received fewer voters nationwide than his opponent. As a direct result, more and more people are interested not just in who should be president but also in how that person ought to be selected.
One of the most significant reform proposals—what’s known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate-compact plan—has gained momentum. As of today, 15 states and the District of Columbia have joined the agreement. As signatories, each jurisdiction pledges to select Electoral College members who support the presidential candidate who won the most votes nationally, regardless of which candidate won the most votes in that particular jurisdiction. By its terms, the compact will go into effect only when states totaling at least 270 Electoral College votes—the number needed to win the White House—enact the plan. So far, jurisdictions accounting for 196 votes—more than 70 percent of the needed 270—have signed on.
The idea is to get the country closer to having a national popular election for president within the current constitutional framework and without the need for a constitutional amendment. Under this system, the Electoral College would still exist, and it would still pick the president. As a constitutional matter, Article II gives each state the power to select its Electoral College members—what the Constitution calls “electors”—by whatever means the state chooses. It is perfectly within a state’s authority to decide that national popularity is the overriding substantive criterion by which a president should be chosen. And there is no constitutional problem with a state using other states’ voting tallies, even if the states have different voting rules and ballot forms. As long as each state treats people within its own borders equally, there is no equal-protection issue.