The National Popular Vote Compact (NPV), which has its roots in the most contested presidential election in U.S. history, sets in state law a policy that awards all a state's electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
Under the Electoral College system used today, 48 states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all the state’s electoral votes to the person who gets a majority of votes in that state. The Electoral College does not take into consideration that national popular vote.
Sixteen states, along with the District of Columbia, have passed the NPV agreement. They are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.
While legislation has been passed in the 16 states and the District of Columbia, the agreement would not go into effect until states with a collective 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win the presidency — agree to join.
Currently, the District of Columbia and the 16 states in the agreement hold a combined total of 196 electoral votes, meaning the pact would need enough new state members to get 74 electoral votes.
Supporters say the system would give the person who got the most votes country-wide the presidency he or she deserves.
Opponents say states would be forced to hand over electoral votes to a candidate who did not win that state.
For instance, in the 2016 election, a state such as Florida, in which President Donald Trump earned more votes, would have had to pledge its 29 electoral votes to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, who won the national popular vote in the 2016 election.
The Electoral College of today was established by the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution which replaced the method for electing the president and vice president provided in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3.
Under the system, when voters cast a ballot for president, they are actually choosing members of the Electoral College, called electors, who are pledged to that presidential candidate.
Following the election for president, electors then meet to choose the president.
Electors almost always vote for their state’s popular vote winner, and some states have laws requiring them to do so.
However, electors are not bound by federal law to vote for a specific candidate – for instance, the one who won the popular vote in their state.
In 29 states and the District of Columbia, electors are bound by state law or by a pledge they sign to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote of the state they represent.
Five men have won the presidency in the Electoral College while not winning the country’s popular vote: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.
The National Popular Vote campaign goes back to Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's loss to Bush in 2000, according to The Associated Press. Gore won the popular vote but lost the election over a vote count in Florida.