National Popular Vote: Repeal Efforts are a Flop

by Neal Suidan // Published April 16, 2010
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An argument being made by opponents of the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill is that states that have already adopted it are trying to go back and opt out of the deal. For example, Maine state legislator Herb Adams recently said, “Of those five [states having passed NPV], as of last week, three are now making efforts to repeal their endorsement of this bill before us today.  Those states are New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington State, which joined the list just last week.  In fact, it wishes to move to the system of casting electoral votes that Maine now has, moving to the congressional system, because they think we have a good thing going and they'd like in on it.”

The perception Rep. Adams and other opponents have sought to get across is that these states feel that they’ve made a mistake and are feeling strong ‘voter’s remorse’. So I thought I would take a look and see what’s going on in the five states that have adopted National Popular Vote.

Maryland was the first state to pass the bill in 2007. In 2009-2010 some of the opponents of NPV from that debate introduced a bill to repeal it, but it never left committee (HB1122).

New Jersey entered the compact in early 2008. In the next session, a bill to repeal New Jersey’s involvement in the National Popular Vote was introduced (A2641). It, too, died without ever moving out of committee.

Washington joined the compact in 2009. In 2010, a bill (HB2715) to repeal NPV and award electoral votes by congressional district winner was brought forward (I’ll address the severe shortcomings of this proposal in a coming post). Similar legislation was presented in the 2008-2009 session New Jersey (S778). In both states, this legislation has stalled.

To this date, there does not seem to have been any legislative action in Illinois or Hawaii to remove them from the National Popular Vote compact.

Simple introduction of a bill is hardly a strong indication of legislative backlash. But how about populist backlash? In Washington, opponents tried to get a referendum on the ballot. The required number of signatures was 120,577. They failed to get 300.

I think it’s pretty clear what conclusion I’ve come to: there is no ‘voter’s remorse’ in states that have passed the NPV bill. What we have continually found instead is a strong majority of support nationally among voters (72%), an ever-growing base of editorial support, and political support that seems to be one of the few issues these days that can boast true bipartisan appeal.

I’ll end with this: proponents of the system today rely on support for the current version of the Electoral College because it is the way that it is and the way that is has been. But let’s just assume for one second that it wasn’t. Just imagine the public outrage that would be felt if it was proposed that we change from a national popular vote to the current Electoral College system.

Steve Chapman said it best in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece a few years back, when describing why he changed his position from for the Electoral College to against it. “Upon reconsideration, I think the critics have the better argument,” he said. “If the Electoral College didn't exist, no one would invent it.”

When this movement has finally won and the National Popular Vote is law, no one will long for the days of disproportionate voting and swing-only influence. And states that have already made that giant step towards the National Popular Vote – they aren’t looking to go back either.