Donald Trump lost Michigan in 2016. Even though Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 10,000 votes, he didn’t receive Michigan’s 16 electoral votes.
At least, that’s what would’ve happened if Michigan had joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. In reality, Trump received Michigan’s electoral votes because he won the popular vote in Michigan. Next year, however, Michigan will change the way it awards its electoral votes if voters approve a ballot proposal to make Michigan an NPVIC state. This would force Michigan to succumb to the mercy of the national popular vote and render the state irrelevant in future presidential elections.
The NPVIC forces states to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, no matter how their citizens vote. So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia have joined the NPVIC. Together, they possess 195 electoral votes. If their numbers grow to 270 electoral votes – enough to command a majority of the Electoral Collge – then the compact takes effect. These states will award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
The Electoral College, however, ensures Michigan voters have a voice on the national political landscape. In 2020, according to NPR, spending on presidential ads in Michigan topped $120 million. During the final four days of the race, Trump made four stops in Michigan, and Biden made two, according to CNBC.
Trump and Biden shared the same motive: They wanted a swing state’s electoral votes. To win them, they sought to appeal to Michigan’s voters.
If Michigan joins the NPVIC, candidates will lose an incentive to address Michigan issues, like the auto industry and the Great Lakes. Trump could become the last presidential candidate ever to visit Traverse City, a town with less than 16,000 people. Most importantly, Michigan loses its say in presidential elections.
By participating in the Electoral College, Michigan voters have complete control over their electoral votes, which will number 15 in the wake of the 2020 Census. The NPVIC strips Michiganders of their power. In 2020, more than 158 million people voted nationwide, compared to 5.5 million in Michigan. Overall, Michigan voters contributed only 3.5% of the national popular vote . From having 100% control over Michigan’s electoral votes, the NPVIC would reduce the say Michigan voters have in awarding their electoral votes to only 3.5%.
In two of the last five presidential elections in Michigan, NPVIC would have forced Michigan to surrender its electoral votes to a candidate its voters had not supported. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by more than two million votes but lost Michigan. In 2004, George W. Bush won the national popular vote by more than 3 million votes. Yet John Kerry, Bush’s Democratic opponent, won Michigan by more than 165,000 votes and therefore received the state’s 16 electoral votes.
While residents of larger states may benefit from more attention from presidential elections, they will risk losing their electoral votes to a candidate with only minority support in their state. If the Republican presidential nominee wins the national popular vote in 2024, NPVIC would force consistently liberal states such as California, Illinois, and New York to award their electoral votes to the Republican.
For Michigan, the NPVIC is no compact. It’s a political suicide pact.