Massachusetts (12 electoral votes) may enact an NPV law as early as next week. Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii (with a total of 50 electoral votes) have already signed on. It's being considered in North Carolina, Rhode Island and California.While a handful of times in our nation's history, the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral College, this solution would be worse than that problem.
I can see why my state is thinking about signing on to this bad idea. North Carolina traditionally goes Republican in the presidential elections, but has a Democratic legislature and governor. So the legislature could pass this and try to win those Electoral votes for the Democratic candidate. But in pursuit of some ideal of going with the national winner, they'd be going against the majority of voters in our own state. If that doesn't bother you, think of California in 2004. Do you think California voters would have been happy to have woken up on election day to find that, despite having voted for Senator Kerry, their state's Democratic legislature had just committed them to casting their Electoral votes for Bush?
Besides just having a disinclination to tinkering with the Constitution without some very good reason, I think people miss the role that the Electoral College plays in preserving a two-party system. If we voted by national majority without the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College, it would be much easier for small splinter parties to play a much more decisive role in our elections. We would become more like countries like Israel or Germany where a small group would be able to leverage their few percent of voter support to crafting a deal with one of the major candidates to throw their support his or her way in exchange for some promise on an issue. Picture Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan playing kingmaker in 2000.
Think of the opportunities for fraud if the vote total nationally was the deciding factor. Think of Florida 2000 writ large across the country with recounts in every location where the vote was close. The Electoral College also plays a big role in determining that no mere sectional candidate can win by piling up huge majorities in one region of the country. Think of a Southern Democrat running before the Voting Rights Act. Now candidates campaign across the country. There's talk of Obama trying to win Montana or North Dakota. With simply a national vote counting, do you think those states would ever see a presidential candidate? The vote would be skewed to urban areas and rural and small-town concerns would be pushed to the back burner.
While there is a chance that the winner this year of the popular vote might not win the Electoral College, that has actually happened only a few times in our nation's history. Although wounds from 2000 still seem to be raw, let's not go for a cure worse than the disease.