The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

More and more states want the popular vote to decide the 2020 election. Nevada may be next.

With criticism flying about the electoral college, here's what you need to know about our system for electing the president. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
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The Nevada state Senate voted to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact on Tuesday, slating it to become the newest member of a growing group of states trying to sidestep the electoral college system.

Members of the compact — which already has 14 states and the District of Columbia — pledged their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the most ballots from all 50 states. In effect, it hands the 2020 presidential election to whoever wins the nationwide popular vote.

But there’s one caveat: The compact will only take effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes pass the law. If passed, with six electoral votes, Nevada would bring the total to 195.

Those involved in the effort doubt that the electoral college delegate procedures can be changed in enough states before the 2020 presidential election, Reed Hundt, chairman and co-founder of Making Every Vote Count, told The Washington Post.

Because Republican-controlled legislatures haven’t embraced the effort, it will be difficult to reach the 270 combined electoral votes needed to become president, he said. (They remain hopeful, though, that the compact will be in effect for the 2024 presidential election.)

The popular vote could decide the 2020 presidential election, if these states get their way

Under the Constitution, states have the power to determine how they award their electoral votes in national elections. Today, many states have winner-take-all laws, which award all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes within the state.

Most states swing either Democrat or Republican, making the winner of a given election in the majority of jurisdictions a foregone conclusion. The result has led to five presidents who have taken office without winning the national popular vote, most recently in 2000 and 2016. The 2004 election was also a close call.

To Hundt’s point, Tuesday’s vote in Nevada was along party lines, with all Republicans voting against the proposal, NPR reported.

“All the Democratic legislatures and governors will end up passing it by [next spring],” expects Hundt, who previously served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

“The people in those states by a two-thirds margin support the national vote winner always becoming president,” he added. “They’re happy to go along with the will of the people.”

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The popular vote could decide the 2020 presidential election, if these states get their way

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