Abolishing the Electoral College Would Decrease Election Security | Opinion

Many states are striving to improve election integrity after the contentious 2020 election. Across the nation, states are taking the slack out of their election laws with popular reforms that strengthen voter identification and clean up inaccurate voter rolls.

But one reform that ought to have no place at the table is the scheme to nullify the Electoral College, a plan known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV).

Supporters of the NPV are pushing state legislatures to pledge their electoral votes to the candidate who gets a raw popular vote plurality. If enough states sign on, the compact purportedly goes into effect, and the Electoral College becomes irrelevant.

But replacing the Electoral College wouldn't work the way proponents imagine. Instead of fostering public confidence in fair elections, the NPV would risk chaos, worsen political divisions, invite lawsuits and create fresh opportunities for fraud.

That would be a tremendous setback after a year of progress. Many states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona and others, have enacted reforms designed to enhance election security through clear rules and better regulations for mail-in voting and ballot counting. These states are working to ensure that the next close election is decided by voters according to laws set ahead of Election Day, not by lawyers suing to change them for partisan advantage.

Each of these states has taken a slightly different approach, but what binds them together is a commitment to the principle that it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat. That is why Texas enacted a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots, while Florida prohibited the use of private funds to administer elections and banned ballot trafficking, which partisan activists often abuse. These measures are overwhelmingly popular—81 percent of voters favor a common-sense requirement to show photo ID when voting, for example.

Voting booths
TOPSHOT - Voters fill in their ballots at polling booths in Concord, New Hampshire, on November 3, 2020. - Americans were voting on Tuesday under the shadow of a surging coronavirus pandemic to decide whether to reelect Republican Donald Trump, one of the most polarizing presidents in US history, or send Democrat Joe Biden to the White House. Joseph Prezioso / AFP/Getty Images

The goal of these reforms is to reduce doubt in the outcome of future elections. By contrast, the NPV seems almost tailor made to amplify it. Take the fact that the Electoral College is part of the Constitution. Most of us know that the way to change the Constitution is by adopting an amendment that requires the support of three-fourths of the states. But the NPV is merely a compact, an agreement among a handful of states to essentially nullify part of the Constitution. What happens when a candidate wins under the Constitution but loses under the NPV? The risk of a political crisis is grave.

The odds of a crisis increase still further when you consider that the NPV will encourage recounts on a nationwide scale. In several presidential elections, the candidates were separated by less than 1 percent of the popular vote, and less than 2,000 votes made the difference in the 1880 election. In a close election, the NPV encourages campaigns to seek recounts anywhere in the country where they think they can gain votes, even in states where the results are not close. Yet the compact does not provide for a single national recount governed by a single set of rules. That opens the door to more lawsuits like 2000's Bush v. Gore, and accusations by both sides that their opponent's final victory wasn't delivered by voters, but savvy lawyers.

Adopting the NPV may also incentivize election fraud. Under the current system, malicious actors can, at most, impact the results of one state. The NPV raises the stakes dramatically, since fraud anywhere affects the tally everywhere. The proverbial Chicago cemetery could, for the first time, change the election outcome in states other than Illinois.

Trading out the Electoral College for the NPV would also inflame partisan and geographic tensions. Under the NPV, candidates would most likely campaign primarily in big metropolitan areas, where 184 million Americans live. Compared to the ever-changing cohort of swing states, the list of major media markets is short, static and represents a far slimmer cross section of American life. Presidential campaigns would be perpetually drawn to the same urban areas, while America's small towns and rural countryside—and the issues their residents care about—become afterthoughts.

Additionally, candidates would be incentivized to focus more on turning out their base than on persuading swing votes or rural voters. In 2020, the candidates would stump in urban and rural areas alike, trying to build a big-tent coalition. But with the NPV, candidates would gravitate to wherever their base is densest and ignore rural voices.

The Electoral College has worked for over 200 years, and now is not the time to trade it for an untested and vulnerable NPV system. After 2020, we need to promote election integrity policies that secure the vote, not wholesale changes that open the door to fraud and uncertainty.

Jason Snead is the Executive Director of Honest Elections Project and Trent England is the Executive Director of Save Our States.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.