What is the National Popular Vote?
The concept of the National Popular Vote is simple: it is the idea that the Popular Vote should determine who becomes President, rather than the Electoral College. This is not currently the case in the United States.
Understanding the U.S. Electoral System: Popular Vote vs. Electoral College
In the United States there is no direct democracy -- people do not directly vote to elect a President (what is referred to as the Popular Vote). Instead, when voters cast their ballot for a President and Vice President, they are actually voting to elect specific people who will vote for them. These people are called electors.
Electors are people who are appointed by political parties in each state to cast votes on behalf of the people in that state (referred to as Electoral Votes). The number of electors in every state is equal to the number of senators and members of the House of Representatives for that state. For example, California has 55 electors, whereas Vermont has only 3. All the states, plus the District of Columbia, amount to a total of 538 electors* (referred to collectively as the Electoral College). The winner of a Presidential election is the candidate who gets the majority of electoral votes -- 270 or more.
So, in reality when presidential candidates are campaigning, they are not campaigning to win the vote of hundreds of millions of people -- they are campaigning to win at least 270 electoral votes.
*The District of Columbia has 3 electors, even though it has no representatives in the Senate or House.
Why The Electoral College Is a Problem
While many states historically vote for the same major party (i.e. "blue states" always vote for the Democrat Party candidate and "red states" vote for the Republican Party candidate), there are also so-called swing states which do not have a historical allegiance to a party and can go either way. This is why presidential candidates tend to focus their campaigning activities in swing states, trying to tip over the vote in their favor.
The disadvantage of the Electoral College is that even if a candidate wins the popular vote in a state by as little as a 0.1% margin, they still get all the electoral votes for that state. (Nebraska proportionately allocates its electoral college votes and Maine allocates by Congressional District).
So in a swing state like Florida, for example, which has a large number of electors (29), even if the difference between two candidates is barely 1,000 votes, all 29 electoral votes will still be cast for the candidate who received the most votes.
A Possible Solution: The National Popular Vote Plan
The National Popular Vote Plan is a proposed initiative that addresses the Electoral College problem. The NPV plan is to create "an agreement among states to award all of their electoral votes collectively to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote".
It isn't even necessary to have all states participate in this agreement! All it takes is just enough states that collectively have 270 of the 538 electoral votes. If NPV is enacted, this guarantees that the winner of the national popular vote will win an Electoral College majority.
The Green Party of the United States advocates the abolishment of the Electoral College. However, as a step in that direction, the Green Party supports the National Popular Vote initiative.
In addition, the Green Party platform calls for a range of Political Reform issues:
1. Electoral reform
- Enact proportional representation voting systems for legislative seats on municipal, county, state and federal levels. Proportional representation systems provide that people are represented in the proportion their views are held in society and are based on dividing seats proportionally within multi-seat districts, compared to the standard U.S. single-seat, winner-take all districts. Forms of proportional representation include choice voting (candidate-based), party list (party-based) and mixed member voting (combines proportional representation with district representation).
- Enact Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) for chief executive offices like mayor, governor and president and other single-seat elections. Under IRV, voters can rank candidates in their order of preference (1,2,3, etc.) IRV ensures that the eventual winner has majority support and allows voters to express their preferences knowing that supporting their favorite candidate will not inadvertently help their least favored candidate. IRV thus frees voters from being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, and saves money by eliminating unnecessary run-off elections.
- Provide full public financing of federal, state and local elections, including free and equal radio and television time on the public airwaves for all ballot-qualified candidates and parties.
- Prohibit corporations from spending to influence elections, preferably by constitutional amendment abolishing granting corporations constitutional rights guaranteed to natural persons, or as a condition of receipt of a corporate charter by federal chartering of corporations.
- Eliminate all ballot access laws and rules that discriminate against smaller parties and independents, and otherwise place undue burden on the right of citizens to run for office.
Abolish the Electoral College and provide for the direct national election of the president by Instant Runoff Voting. As a step in that direction, support National Popular Vote legislation which would guarantee the Presidency to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia), which would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
- Create a new publicly-funded People's Commission on Presidential Debates, and open its presidential debates to all candidates who appear on at least as many ballots as would represent a majority of the Electoral College and who raise enough funds to otherwise qualify for general election public financing. Any candidate who refuses to participate in such debates would lose general election public financing for their candidacy. Amend federal law to remove the non-profit tax exemption status that allows corporations to fund the existing Commission on Presidential Debates and other such exclusive privately controlled debate entities.
- Amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to change the percentage of the presidential popular vote required for a new party's candidate to receive first time General Election public funding from 5% in the previous General Election to 1%; and change the percentage of the presidential popular vote required for a new party to receive public presidential convention funding from 5% for its candidate in the previous general election to 1%.
- Include the option to vote for a binding None of the Above (NOTA) on all party primary and general election ballots.
- Support the right to initiative, referendum and recall at all levels of government. Enact signature gathering standards that empower volunteer collection efforts and financial disclosure requirements that identify the sources of funding behind paid signature efforts.
- Enact a national "right to vote" law or constitutional amendment to guarantee universal, automatic, permanent voter registration, along with fail-safe voting procedures, so that eligible voters whose names are not on the voter rolls or whose information is out-of-date can correct the rolls and vote on the same day.
- Enact statehood for the District of Columbia. Ensure that residents of the District of Columbia have the same rights and representation as all other U.S. citizens.
- Restore full citizenship rights to felons upon completion of their sentence, including the right to vote and to run for elected office. Enable greater enfranchisement of overseas voters.
- Support strong enforcement of the Federal Voting Rights Act and, where applicable, state voting rights acts like the California Voting Rights Act.
- Make Election Day a national holiday and/or have weekend elections.
- Amend the U.S. Constitution to require that all vacancies in the U.S. Senate be filled by election rather than appointment.
2. Reducing corruption
- Develop publicly-owned, open source voting equipment and deploy it across the nation to ensure high national standards, performance, transparency and accountability; use verifiable paper ballots; and institute mandatory automatic random precinct recounts to ensure a high level of accuracy in election results.
- Establish guarantees that every citizen's vote counts, and that all U.S. voting systems—including electronic ones—are verifiable, transparent and accurate.
- Establish a National Elections Commission with the mandate to establish minimum national election standards and uniformity, partner with state and local election officials to ensure pre-election and post-election accountability for their election plans, require nonpartisan election boards, and depoliticize and professionalize election administration across the United States.
- Establish independent and transparent non-partisan redistricting processes to stop partisan gerrymandering and protect minority rights and representation.
- Increase the number of polling places, and increase the pay for poll workers.
- Strengthen "sunshine laws" to provide citizens with all necessary information and access to their political system.
- Ensure that all important federal, state and local government documents are on the Internet, especially texts of bills, searchable databases of voting records, draft committee and conference reports, and court decisions.
- Reinvigorate the independent investigative agencies, such as the General Accounting Office and the inspectors general.
- In addition to allowing members of Congress to send mail to their constituents for free, letters from citizens to their members of Congress shall also be free.
- Enact tough new federal anti-bribery and gratuity laws to stop corporations and the wealthy from purchasing government action, and vigorously enforce of anti-corruption laws by the Justice Department.
- Prohibit members of Congress, Governors, state legislators and their staffs from accepting for their own personal benefit any gifts of any amount from lobbyists or the general public.
- Require outside counsel to investigate ethics complaints against members of Congress, and toughen punishments within the congressional ethics processes for corruption, abuse of power and other wrongdoing.
- Replace the Federal Election Commission with a vigorous watchdog empowered to enforce federal campaign finance laws.
- Expand revolving-door lobbying "cooling off" periods for members of Congress and their top staff to at least two years.
- Allow any member of Congress to require a floor vote on any congressional earmark, to stop wasteful spending.
- Support the ability of cities to establish civilian police review boards to increase understanding between community members and police officers, provide a public forum to air concerns on policy matters and to ensure public oversight and accountability of their local police department.