It’s Time To Make Our Elections Truly National

Suhail Khan Institute for Global Engagement

Our nation’s presidential election is no longer truly national. This is a challenge for our democracy.

Fifty percent of our nation’s presidential campaign is happening in just four states. Since the national conventions in July, 64 of 172 campaign events have taken place in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. The other 108 events have all taken place in the other seven states identified by media outlets such as Politico and The Hill as “battleground” states.

Our current system is flawed, prioritizing voters and their policy issues in only a handful of states. It doesn’t have to be this way.

A promising solution—the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)—is now moving forward in the states, the “laboratories of democracy.” Authorized under the U.S. Constitution, this proposal will allow state legislatures to award electors to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

The NPVIC will only take effect when states possessing 270 electoral votes—a majority of the Electoral College—enact the same bill authorizing the compact. This is how interstate compacts work.

The genius of the NPVIC is that it achieves the policy outcome of a national popular vote, without amending the U.S. Constitution or stripping the power to award electors from state legislatures.

Eleven states—with 165 electoral votes—have already passed legislation to adopt the NPVIC. For several reasons, I’m hopeful other states to adopt it as well.

First, the NPVIC is the constitutionally appropriate approach to fix our broken election system. It DOES NOT amend the Constitution but instead allows state legislatures to use their powers, explicitly enumerated in the Constitution (Article II; Section 1), to appoint in a manner of their choosing Presidential Electors. The NPVIC also preserves the power of the states to withdraw should unintended consequences occur.

Second, the NPVIC will level the political playing field for Republicans and Democrats. The victor is the candidate who delivers the most resonant message to the majority of American voters. The NPVIC will make every voter, in every state, politically relevant in every presidential election.

When the NPVIC takes effect, it will guarantee the presidency to the candidate receiving the most votes in all fifty states. Presidential campaigns will no longer concentrate their efforts in a handful of battleground states, but will instead need to take their message to the voters in all fifty states.

Third, the out-sized influence of narrow-minded, electoral politics will be minimized in Washington policy-making. In our current system, “battleground” states receive more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, additional Superfund enforcement exemptions, increased No Child Left Behind exemptions, and so on. Toledo or Pittsburgh is more likely to receive federal aid after a natural disaster than Phoenix or Tucson because of the importance of Ohio and Pennsylvania to presidential elections. Under our current flawed system, electoral politics circumvents public policy.

Finally, by making presidential campaigns truly nationwide races—not the limited, state-focused races we have today—nominees will have to pursue agendas that unite, not divide, voters. For my Republican Party, this is especially critical. This year, we could be hearing mainstream, conservative themes of individual rights, personal responsibility, economic opportunity, and fiscal prosperity. These messages would help grow the Party, build stronger political movements in every state and win elections. Ultimately, the NPVIC will lay the foundation for better, stronger, more responsible governance, regardless of the winner.

Pure and simple: the candidate who earns the most votes in all fifty states should be elected president; every voter, in every state should be politically relevant in every presidential election; and I, for one, am not afraid to bring our center-right ideas and policies to a center-right country.

Let’s put the NPVIC in place for the 2020 presidential election. We can then ensure our presidential candidates will take their winning message to all the American people.

Suhail A. Khan is a life-long Reagan conservative and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement, a Christian religious freedom think tank.