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On April 9, the Oregon state Senate voted 17-12 to pass legislation (SB 870) to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact. On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives voted 37-22 in favor of the legislation.
The bill is now headed to the desk of Democratic Governor Kate Brown. Nikki Fisher, the governor’s deputy press secretary, told HuffPost: “The Governor has always believed that every vote matters and supported National Popular Vote since 2009 as Secretary of State.”
In a 2009 letter signaling her support for the NPV legislation, then-Secretary of State Brown wrote about the impact of the 2008 Democratic primary election, and how “when voters believe that their vote affects the outcome of an election, or moreover, when they feel their vote matters,” engagement increases.
The text of the legislation reads in part:
Prior to the time set by law for the meeting and voting by the presidential electors, the chief election official of each member state shall determine the number of votes for each presidential slate in each State of the United States and in the District of Columbia in which votes have been cast in a statewide popular election and shall add such votes together to produce a “national popular vote total” for each presidential slate.
The chief election official of each member state shall designate the presidential slate with the largest national popular vote total as the “national popular vote winner.”
The presidential elector certifying official of each member state shall certify the appointment in that official’s own state of the elector slate nominated in that state in association with the national popular vote winner.
In short, as described by the National Popular Vote official website, the NPV is a state-by-state process that “would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
Currently, a candidate needs to win 270 of 538 Electoral votes in order to become president. In 48 states and D.C., the candidate who receives the most votes is awarded all of the state’s Electoral votes. Only Nebraska and Maine eschew this winner-take-all formula for a more complex distribution of Electoral votes.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state have all passed and signed the NPV. These states account for 189 of the nation’s 538 electoral votes.
If Oregon joins the compact, the count will stand at 196.
In order for the NPV to work, it must be passed by enough states that the electoral votes bound to the compact reaches 270. However, the movement isn’t chugging along as smoothly as many of its advocates would like. For example, on May 30, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak of Nevada vetoed the state’s NPV legislation.
The NPV website claims that the compact is “a constitutionally conservative, state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.”
Others are pushing back on the idea.
In March, the Wall Street Journal editorial board published an article defending the Electoral College:
The founders designed the Electoral College to help ensure that states with diverse preferences could cohere under a single federal government. Anyone who thinks this concern is irrelevant today hasn’t been paying attention to the current polarization in American politics. The Electoral College helps check polarization by forcing presidential candidates to campaign in competitive states across the country, instead of spending all their time trying to motivate turnout in populous partisan strongholds.
The WSJ editorial board also notes that our current system provides stability in the event of recounts. A “nationwide recount” could prove a nightmare, they write.
In the video below, Tara Ross, legal scholar and author of “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College,” explains why the Electoral College is important, and why adopting the NPV would be a dangerous proposition: