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Some states are especially keen on a popular vote for U.S. President

March 4, 2019

Last week, Colorado became the latest state to pass legislation and join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

This initiative aims to eliminate state-by-state “winner-take-all” counting for electoral votes. In the words of the National Popular Vote Inc., a nonprofit organizer for the initiative, the system would “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

Curiously, the initiative would not eliminate the Electoral College itself.

Together with Colorado, the other states in the Popular Vote Compact include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Truth in Accounting’s “Taxpayer Burden” measure provides a snapshot of the fiscal condition of state and local governments, including all unfunded debt on a per-taxpayer basis.  Truth in Accounting calculates a Taxpayer Burden averaging $24,000 for the 11 states in the Compact -- more than four times as high as the average Taxpayer Burden for the other 39 states in the Union.

And the average Taxpayer Burden for the Popular Vote Compact states has deteriorated 35% since 2009, in contrast to modest improvement, on average, elsewhere throughout the Union.


Here’s one way to reflect on the motivations for the popular vote initiative: there are also movements afoot in some states to enact a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution. As a general rule, states that have “signed on” to that initiative tend to be in much better shape, financially, than the states that haven’t.

In the vote for President, the current system has a floor of 3 electoral votes per state, regardless of population. And states with few electoral votes tend to be in better shape, financially, than states with lots of electoral votes.

Is it possible that states are voting with their wallets? Especially relating to any possible federal bailout for states in bad financial condition?

(Note: The image at the top of this article is a certificate for the electoral vote for Louisiana for Rutherford B. Hayes in the Tilden v. Hayes presidential election in 1876. See "The Disputed Election of 1876")

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