Loser-takes-all: National Popular Vote would create dubious first in Michigan elections

Under House Bill 4156, a candidate could lose Michigan and win all of its electoral votes.

House Bill 4156, the National Popular Vote bill, could create a first-of-its-kind system in Michigan presidential votes: loser takes all.

The U.S. Constitution gives states the right to choose how they award electoral votes. In 48 states, including Michigan, the presidential candidate who earns the most votes in the state wins. This is “winner-take-all.”

In two states, Maine and Nebraska, electoral votes are granted by congressional district. The winner in each district wins an electoral vote, and the winner of the statewide tally gets another electoral vote. In all 50 states, it matters who wins the statewide vote tally.

That wouldn’t be true under National Popular Vote. Never has a state granted every electoral vote to the candidate who does not receive the most votes from citizens. But that’s entirely possible under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

When states that hold 270 or more electoral votes join the compact, it will go live. The compact pledges those electoral votes to the candidate who win the popular vote nationally, as determined by participating secretaries of state — and regardless of the results in each particular state.

Under National Popular Vote, a candidate could lose Michigan and win all of its electoral votes.

Read it for yourself: House Bill 4156 of 2023

I’ve used this hypothetical before: The year is 2028. President Ron DeSantis not only wins the electoral votes, but the nationwide vote tally.

His opponent, former Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, wins her home state. But it doesn’t matter. The votes of people in Florida and Texas would override the will of Michiganders.

All because Michigan Democrats back in 2023 used two-seat majorities in the House and Senate to seek radical change, thinking it would benefit the blue team. Michigan lawmakers should heed the proverbial wisdom: Beware the traps you set for others. Chances are, you’ll fall in yourself.

After Minnesota signed on in May, the National Popular Vote compact has 205 votes. If Michigan joins, it would have 220 out of 270. Democrats are seeking radical change in how America chooses its president. Has anyone asked what you, Michigan voter and taxpayer, think about this?

Disenfranchisement is ugly whenever it happens. When presidents were chosen in 2000 and 2016 who lost the popular vote, people felt wronged by the system. But they weren’t disenfranchised. The Electoral College system is constitutional and long predates us. Changing it requires going the long, hard way. An interstate compact is a shortcut that’s unlikely to survive legal scrutiny.

National Popular Vote is an end run around the Electoral College, and its authors admit this. Tucked inside the House Fiscal Agency analysis of House Bill 4156, as passed by the House Elections Committee, is the real truth:

The agreement would terminate if the Electoral College were abolished.

Someday, when National Popular Vote is litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court, a justice will ask, “Why didn’t you just amend the Constitution?”

And the answer will not be a good one. National Popular Vote overlays a faithful elector system on top of the Electoral College as a placeholder. Except the electors would be faithful to the interstate pact, not to the will of Michiganders. If and when the Electoral College is abolished, the scheme would serve no practical value, and it would dissolve.

But even a post-Electoral College system, based on the nationwide popular vote, would not carry the dangers of House Bill 4156. Nobody could lose a state but win all of its votes under that system. Loser-takes-all is unique to National Popular Vote.

If you like your vote deciding who wins Michigan, you like the current system.

If you want the Michigan vote tally downgraded to a tie-breaker, in the hope that Democrats might win an election or two, National Popular Vote is the plan for you.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.