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Michigan voters may have to sur­render their votes to the NPVIC. Courtesy | Google Commons

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.