Today Facebook is full of calls for a national popular vote and even more for something called the National Popular Vote Compact. The discussions are rich and some (like this one), make an interesting case against a national popular vote. Major Universities are weighing in with equally compelling cases in favor of such. The Compact (better explained here than by me), while well intended, requires a U.S. constitutional amendment (not easy), has its challenges (some difficult), and will need a new voting infrastructure (we're working on that).
Luther Weeks, a well known national election integrity expert, posted an interesting article today about this topic, which lays out some serious challenges fairly completely. And they need to be addressed before that rich discussion outlined above can be finished.
The primary issue is that we have a vulnerable patchwork of obsolete 90's PC-technology based equipment comprising that infrastructure that without updating and upgrading first, would result in a riskier, more vulnerable, less credible system if America were to try to implement something like the National Popular Vote Compact.
A Couple of Observations:
- It is insane that we rely on an electoral infrastructure that is called illegitimate, rigged, and subject to tampering. We should never ever let those claims be registered or alleged again. We need the enabling technology to catalyze the vital industry to deliver higher integrity, lower cost, easier to use systems to do so.
- It seems crazy (to me) that we're (nearly *) the only democracy in which we have a system where there is a difference between the "popular vote" and the vote of an Electoral College. Its beyond the scope of this posting to descend into a discussion about the purpose, structure, and utility of the Electoral College, which is rapidly slipping into obsolescence in the digital age. What I can say further about that has been better explained by others.
- If we were to ever find the political will to eliminate this obsolete mechanism that can turn a win into a loss, we would require a voting infrastructure that could A] ensure uniform implementation of design and data standards, B] a uniform and nationally enforced means of nationwide audit and recount, and above all, C] an evidence-based, voter-verifiable method of casting and counting ballots.
The point cannot be made strong enough: implementing a National Popular Vote ("NPV") would require enormous political will. Not only must the 10th Amendment be honored, respected, and upheld such that elections remain a State and local matter, there cannot be a national or "federalized" voting system.
However, through open data standards, uniform voting system design guidelines, and uniform processes, protocols, with tools for election integrity assurance such that nationwide audits and recounts could be conducted, theoretically, America could transition to a national popular vote.
The TrustTheVote Project's ElectOS is an election operating system that can be locally implemented, honoring local regulations and requirements. ElectOS could be the platform to enable a national popular vote (and it could even support more than a two-party system through capabilities like rank-choice-voting and instant runoff, but I digress).
That observed, I should also remind the reader that we speak of the "ecosystem of democracy" and in particular, election administration, as having a 5-Ps model; that is, it is comprised of People, Process, Platform, Policy, and Politics. This notion of a national popular vote touches on all five P's. Platform -- our focus, may be the easiest aspect. But NPV concerns the other Ps far more, with far greater nuances and complications -- and that is well above our pay-grade.
NPV is fraught with issues for debate in an environment where its priority is very low compared to addressing other issues of voter participation rights (we're going to say a bunch more about that in coming weeks). I'm just saying that if America could work through those issues, including those outlined by Luther Weeks, the TrustTheVote Project may have an App for that.
* The remaining other countries with electoral college systems are Burundi, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Pakistan, Trinidad, Tobago and Vanuatu -- considerably smaller and nuanced democracies compared to the U.S.