Group Challenging America’s Undemocratic Electoral College System Gaining Support

Interview with Christopher Pearson, secretary of National Popular Vote and former Vermont legislator, conducted by Scott Harris

As the 2024 presidential election draws near, there’s renewed attention on America’s undemocratic electoral college system that elected both Donald Trump president in 2016, and George W. Bush in 2000, despite the fact that both these Republican party candidates lost the national popular vote. A mid-November survey by the Stack Data Strategy polling firm added to concern on this issue, when it found that if an election had been held in the fall of 2023, Trump would again win the electoral college and the presidency, while Biden would win the national popular vote by 2 million votes — repeating what happened in 2016 and 2000.

In a separate poll conducted by the Pew Research Center 65 percent of U.S. adults say the way the president is elected should be changed so that the winner of the popular vote nationwide wins the presidency. A third favor keeping the current Electoral College system.

To that end, the group National Popular Vote has waged a campaign that calls for all of a state’s electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide. The Interstate Compact, as it’s called, will take effect once states with a collective total of 270 electoral votes join. To date, the Compact has passed in 16 states and in Washington, D.C., totaling 205 electoral votes, needing 65 more electoral votes to go into effect. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Christopher Pearson, board secretary with the group National Popular Vote and a former longtime Vermont state legislator. Here he discusses the status of the campaign to ditch the electoral college system to elect U.S. presidents.

CHRISTOPHER PEARSON: So we are unique in the advanced world for having an Electoral College for electing the second place candidate, what’s happened now twice in our lifetime, five times in the country’s history. We’ve only had 46 presidents. So that’s a pretty bad error rate. Five out of 46 and to frankly have in a democratic election to have a system that doesn’t treat every vote equally.

There really is something to the principle one person, one vote. But our effort, National Popular Vote, is once again asking states to use the Electoral College differently and just ratify the candidate that gets the most votes in the country. And we’re well on the way to doing that. Need to pass this bill in a handful more states, at which point we’ll still have the Electoral College because states can’t eliminate it.

But it will just be a rubber stamp for whichever candidate gets the most votes in the country and along the way, we make every vote equal one person, one vote, and we make every voter matter in every state, in every election. That’s a big one. And finally, we just guarantee you get the most votes in the country, you go to the White House.

SCOTT HARRIS: As I understand it, Chris, only 65 more electoral votes are needed to implement the national the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Is there any chance that’s going to happen before the 2024 election?

CHRISTOPHER PEARSON: Probably not. But but we do think 2024 could be the last election where we do it under this current system. So we’re aiming at 2028 being the first election where the president campaigns in all 50 states and talks to voters everywhere and is guaranteed to be the candidate that gets the most votes. So not quite in time for a year from now. But hopefully this is the last one that we’re about to see.

And, you know, a lot of people are motivated for different reasons to support National Popular Vote. But one of them is that we do seem to routinely be looking at the possibility of electing the second place candidate. There’s a lot of polls coming out now looking that telling us that Donald Trump could win re-election.

In none of those polls does he get the most votes in the country. So, you know, for a lot of people, that’s just not right. No matter what you think of Biden or Trump or any of them. You know, there is something strange about about rewarding the second place candidate with the White House.

And so it’s a very relevant topic, but unfortunately, we’re not likely to get enough states on board in the next six months. But we are working hard and I think 2024 could be our last election under the system as we know it today.

SCOTT HARRIS: Well, Chris, I did want to ask you generally about the erosion of democracy with the loser of the presidential election losing the popular vote in both 2000 and 2016. It certainly brings home why the popular vote matters so much. I mean, we have presidents who’ve been elected through the Electoral College who nominate Supreme Court justices.

CHRISTOPHER PEARSON: That’s right. A majority of them right now, five out of nine came to be Supreme Court justices. From the second place presidents.

SCOTT HARRIS: Nominated by presidents who weren’t elected by the popular vote. Right. And certainly countless federal policies impacting the economy, foreign policy, the environment, immigration, minimum wage, health care and education. All these things are impacted by the president, the one who sits in the Oval Office. If you have presidents in the Oval Office who weren’t elected by a majority of the country, you have a system of minority rule which is antithetical to democracy.

So this really counts for a lot. And one question I know you deal with a lot at National Popular Vote is concern that when the requisite number of states pass the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, that this will be challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. So my final question for you tonight is, What is your level of confidence that when the states required vote in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, that it will be deemed by the Supreme Court as constitutional?

CHRISTOPHER PEARSON: I’m fairly confident that they’ll back us up because National Popular Vote relies on what the court previously has called the plenary power of the state legislatures. And the Constitution itself doesn’t say a lot about how we elect the president, but it is very clear that it hands the whole operation to the states. Article 2, Section 1 says, “Each state shall appoint in such a manner as the legislature thereof may direct a number of electors.”

So, it’s kind of just in the hands of state legislatures. And there are no parameters on that. So there’s nothing to say that the Vermont legislature, where I had the pleasure of serving, can’t say, “Our three electors will go to the candidate that gets the most votes in the country.”

For more information, visit National Popular Vote at

This interview was previously broadcast on Jan. 3 of this year.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Christopher Pearson (17:44) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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