In past discussions here at F&V on the National Popular Vote plan for US presidential elections, some opponents have suggested that it is a bad idea to have democratic elections for the nation’s highest office, on grounds that it would result in low-population states being ignored. The view is apparently not universally shared. Consider this item on Montana, where the NPV bill just cleared a key committee in the upper house:
Republican Sen. Rick Laible and other supporters said the change would make Montana and other sparsely populated states more of a factor in presidential races and could increase voter turnout. [my emphasis]
The NPV organization has a page devoted to tracking the progress of an idea whose time has come.
Greg commented that it was unclear how a less populous state like Montana would gain from NPV. This is a good point, and I had the same thought. I initially answered at the seedbed, but I might as well put it here.
The basic response would be that we–myself included, apparently–are so stuck in the state-interest paradigm that we hardly think of presidential elections, or presidential-election mechanisms, in any other way. But interests that transcend state boundaries are inherently under-represented by the electoral college, relative to a popular vote.
Under current arrangements, if an election were very close in both the Electoral College and Montana, the state could be targeted by campaigns. Otherwise, it is likely to be taken for granted, given only 3 electoral votes (and normal Republican leanings in presidential elections, though not necessarily safely so).
My priors would be that NPV is something of a wash for a state like Montana–thinking in terms of state interests, that is. I canâ€™t get inside Sen. Laibleâ€™s mind, but following is one example of what he could be thinking of in the remarks quoted above.
If issues of concern to voters in the Intermountain West become more important in future elections, candidates would pay attention to them even if such issues were unlikely to swing Montanaâ€™s own vote plurality (or those of any other single state in the region).
That is, NPV would allow various broad regional interests that transcend state boundaries to be more electorally relevant than they are now.