by Marianne Burke and Chris Le Menestrel
Bill will be heard in Virginia’s Senate’s Privileges and Elections committee on February 19th.
Five of our 45 presidents have come into office without winning the most popular votes nationwide, including two of our most recent three presidents. This is a result of state electoral college laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in that state. Almost all states have these “winner-take-all” laws which leads to presidential campaigns coming down to five or six or seven states, and too often produces an outcome where the popular vote winner is the Electoral College loser.
The U.S. Constitution allows each state to decide how electoral votes are awarded in that state. Determining how electors are chosen is a power granted exclusively to the state legislature in Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution. States are able, through state legislation, to change how they award their electoral votes. There is an effort in many states, including Virginia, to change the way the state awards electoral college votes in presidential elections.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Compact ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The Compact is a state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will go into effect when enacted by states with enough electors to make up 270 of the 538 total electoral votes. Once the compact goes into effect, each state in the compact will give 100% of its electoral college votes to the candidate who won the popular vote nationwide. The presidential candidate supported by the most voters in all 50 states and DC will thereby win a majority of the presidential electors in the Electoral College and become the President. Until the Compact goes into effect (when at least 270 electoral votes are contained in the compact), the existing method of awarding electoral votes will be used.
Since 2006, 15 states and the District of Columbia, together possessing 196 electoral votes, have passed legislation joining the National Popular Vote compact, leaving 74 electoral votes to reach the required 270. A Virginia bill (HB 177) was passed in the House last week that could allow Virginia to join the Compact, and would award Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote when the Compact goes into effect. Now the bill will be heard in the Senate’s Privileges and Elections committee, possibly as early as the next time this committee is scheduled to meet, on February 19th. If the House bill is passed in the senate committee, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote.
Time to contact our state Senators to request their support! The electoral college system gives a HUGE structural advantage to Republicans – so this should be a no-brainer for Democrats. This is all about never again electing a US president who lost by 3 million votes.