Since 1970, the League of Women Voters has held that electing our president and vice president by direct popular vote is essential to representative government. It is the best way to ensure voter participation in elections and to protect public confidence in the outcome. And it is what Americans from Maine to California want.

Americans are tired of presidential elections that focus on the six largest battleground states and ignore the rest of the country. Two-thirds of the country end up as bystanders. To make matters worse, the candidate with the most popular votes does not always win, as has happened in five elections.

Maine has the power to join with other states to fix this broken system with the National Popular Vote Compact. One stubborn misconception standing in the way of this reform is that the Constitution does not allow us to choose the president by popular vote.

The Constitution gives each state a number of electoral votes but says nothing about how the electors themselves are chosen. That decision is left entirely up to the states, which have used many different methods. Electors initially were chosen by state legislatures. Later, the states changed the rules to designate electors through political conventions, or special elector districts, and Maine and Nebraska use a congressional district allocation. Now, all but Maine and Nebraska award all of their electors on a winner-take-all basis, so a candidate who gets the most votes in that state is rewarded with 100 percent of the electors, whether the candidate wins by one vote or a landslide.

The National Popular Vote Compact simply allows states to exercise their constitutionally granted authority to choose electors based on the outcome of the national popular vote rather than by state. To enact this change, enough states must pass identical legislation to join the compact to guarantee the election to the popular-vote winner, or states possessing 270 or more electors. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have already enacted the National Popular Vote Compact; two more, Delaware and New Mexico, just passed it. When those states’ governors sign the legislation, as they say they’ll do, the compact will have 189 electoral votes out of the 270 needed, 70 percent of the required total.

The league believes that the person with the most votes should become president. The people – all of the people – should be the electors. Although with the National Popular Vote Compact, the Electoral College still meets, it would be purely ceremonial. Instead, we pick our president. This is easy to understand, fair to all and the way of choosing our nation’s leader that is the most consistent with the founding principles of “we the people.” The president is, after all, the president of the entire country. To make our one national election fair and representative, the voters should elect the president directly with their votes.


Adopting the national popular vote will also help change the way candidates campaign for our nation’s highest office. With the current “winner take all” approach at the state level, the candidates focus all their attention on the “battleground” states, of which Maine is not one. We get virtually no attention from presidential candidates. But with a national popular vote, each vote would count exactly the same, creating a greater incentive for candidates to visit more states, talk to a greater variety of voters and, ideally, deepen their understanding of the needs and desires of a greater number of Americans.

The National Popular Vote Compact will give us a more representative government. It will ensure that each voter’s vote matters. It will increase voter engagement because voters know that their vote will count the same as a vote in Texas or Massachusetts or Oregon or Maine. It will make elections more responsive to the will of all the people.

Enacting this change does not require amending the Constitution. It does not violate any constitutional principles. Under the National Popular Vote Compact, voters across the country will vote as they have done for decades. Except this time, the vote will be binding. The candidate with the most popular votes will win. The National Popular Vote Compact is straightforward and fair. It’s simply self-government in action, and its time has come.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.