By Brian Mullis
Senate Bill 954, sponsored by Senator Daniel Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg), proposes entangling North Carolina in an interstate compact that instructs the state’s presidential electors to vote for the candidate that wins a plurality of the national popular vote. This proposal has been introduced nationally, and to date only Maryland has joined the compact.1 Currently, our state’s presidential electors are assigned by unit rule to the candidate that garners a plurality of the vote in North Carolina. This procedure ensures the presidential candidate chosen by the most North Carolinians receives the state’s presidential electors, thus ensuring North Carolina’s choice for the presidency is represented. The interstate compact will result in the cessation of North Carolina’s right to participate in the election of the president through the Electoral College, and the majority of our state’s voters will have their influence undermined by the emergence of a metropolitan focus in presidential campaigns.
The Interstate Compact is bad for North Carolinians
The interstate compact will result in a heightened focus by presidential campaigns on the largest mass media markets of America, places where campaign messages are able to be spread most efficiently. Following the enactment of the interstate compact, the mass media markets of Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and the Triad (nationally ranked 26th, 29th, and 47th, respectively) will be the focus of presidential campaigns in our state.2 As there are a significant number of mass media markets across the country that are larger than these three, there is no guarantee that presidential campaigns will become more prevalent in our state after adoption of the interstate compact, and the exclusion of suburban and rural residents from campaign focuses is certain. Furthermore, awarding the presidency on the basis of the national popular vote does nothing to force candidates to conduct national campaigns (evidenced by the 2000 presidential election). The focus of campaigns will shift from those “battleground” states to be replaced by the largest mass media markets across the country. As such, the interstate compact surrenders the will of North Carolinians to the largest metropolitan areas of America without any benefit to the citizens of North Carolina.
The Compact’s Results: Urban vs. Rural
- 85 percent of North Carolina counties are considered rural.3
- The preferred means by which political campaigns interact with voters is through television and radio. The interstate compact removes the need for candidates to gain plurality support in a number of different states, across disparate interests and issues, by creating presidential campaigns focused on the most important media markets in America.
- In order for campaigns to minimize their costs when attracting voters, the largest media markets will become the chosen avenues for campaigns to use when spreading their messages. As a result, less money will be spent on the voters and issues that constitute rural America because it is more costly for campaigns to solicit those individuals.
- As a result, presidential candidates will simply confine their messages, appearances and expenditures to major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, while ignoring the opinions of North Carolinians.
The 2000 Presidential Election
The results of the 2000 presidential election illustrate the campaign world that will be created for presidential candidates under the interstate compact. Vice President Gore’s margin of victory in popular votes during the 2000 election is emblematic of the success a presidential candidate may have with an urban focused campaign. Garnering over 500,000 votes more than President George W. Bush, Gore lost that election because he tallied overwhelming majorities in urban centers across the country. He was able to win the popular vote by carrying only 22 percent (677) of the counties in the United States.4 Finally, as the popular red and blue maps of that election show, a candidate for president is able to win the popular vote without having even a semblance of national support, something which is ensured by the Electoral College process.
Motivations for Change and Justifications made by Supporters
This proposal was developed by Dr. John Koza, a computer scientist and former Democratic Presidential Elector, and is the politically motivated response to the results of the 2000 presidential election. 5
- Supporters of the interstate compact cite the small number of “battleground” states that are the focus of presidential campaigns and they hypothesize that the election of the president through popular vote will force candidates to engage in truly national campaigns.
- Some of the most vocal proponents of the interstate compact admit that the direct election of the president will result in an urban focus in presidential campaigns. Lamenting Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto of the interstate compact, a Los Angeles Times article notes that the direct election of the president is “the sure way to make California really relevant in presidential elections.”6 If the requisite number of states joins the compact, the only true geopolitical distinction that remains for presidential campaigns is that of urban, suburban, and rural areas.
- See <http://www.nationalpopularvote.com>.
- List of Television Stations in North American by Media Market, Wikipedia.com, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_television_stations_in_North_America_by_media_market>.
- “North Carolina Rural County Map,” North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, <http://www.ncruralcenter.org/databank/rural_county_ map.asp>.
- Pete Du Pont, “Trash the Compact,” Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2006, <http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pdupont/?id=110008855>.
- Rick Lyman, “Innovator devises way around Electoral College,” New York Times, September 22, 2006, <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/us/politics/22electoral.html?ex=1316577600&en=2568c9756492c285&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss>.
- George Skelton, “In voting to end electoral college, Maryland dares to go where Schwarzenegger wouldn’t,” Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2007,