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Video: Discussion/Debate, Including Some Weird Moments, and Vote to “Carry Over” National Popular Vote

Sen. Surovell: “I’m delighted to be called a traitor for the SECOND time this session."

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See below for some video of yesterday’s discussion/debate and vote to “carry over” (aka, kill for this session) Del. Mark Levine’s HB177 (National Popular Vote):

“Enters Virginia into an interstate compact known as the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. Article II of the Constitution of the United States gives the states exclusive and plenary authority to decide the manner of awarding their electoral votes. Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact. A state may withdraw from the compact; however, a withdrawal occurring within six months of the end of a President’s term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President has qualified to serve the next term.”

The discussion/debate was interesting and, at times, entertaining.

  • Del. Mark Levine argued that this bill is a way to encourage people to vote in presidential elections, as right now their vote effectively doesn’t count in many cases. In contrast, the National Popular Vote would count everyone’s votes and award electoral votes according to which candidate wins the most popular votes in the country as a whole.
  • Hard-right Republican Sen. Bryce Reeves asked a strange, seemingly nonsensical question that had Del. Levine baffled, about states refusing to report their vote totals. Del. Levine responded, attempting to be polite, “I would say that I’ve never heard of a state saying we’re not going to count the votes… I have never heard of a case where a state says we’re gonna refuse to allow any of our voters cast any vote for president I think that’d be a pretty extraordinary thing…I don’t think they could legally do that…they’d have to kind of shut down the election and I don’t think a lot of Texans and Georgians would be happy if they shut down the presidential election in that state.”
  • Del. Levine also explained that, if the National Popular Vote kicked in, “technically the Electoral College would still be there, but in effect it would be the same result as doing away with Electoral College.
  • NY Times columnist (and Charlottesville resident) Jamelle Bouie, speaking in support of Del. Levine’s bill, said: “Right now, under the winner-take-all electoral college system, if you are in the political minority in your state, if it’s a 50.1-49.9 election, if you’re in that 49.9, your vote does not count. I think that’s especially acute for racial minorities in Virginia. Up until 2008, Republican Party presidential candidates won this state’s electoral votes, regardless of how many African-Americans voted for the Democratic candidates. That was the case throughout the South, and the absence of any way to count those votes and have them really matter for the outcome, effectively disenfranchised a large portion, and at one point a majority, of black voters in the country.
  • One woman, from a group known as “Virginians for Liberty and Justice” (“Defending all Virginians’ inalienable rights, especially those dealing with medical, parental and religious liberties”) spoke vehemently in opposition, arguing that this bill would essentially destroy our “republican form of government”; that “you don’t have the authority to change a foundational principle”; that this would “fundamentally [change] our system” to “mob” rule, “collectivism” and “slavery.” According to this individual, “those who want this bill do not truly understand our form of government or our history; they don’t love liberty if there are  ok with liberty being in the hands of the mob…anyone who votes for this bill is committing the crime of treason, so be on notice…” Check out Del. Levine’s facial expressions during this person’s comments.
  • Another opponent of the National Popular Vote argued that “power diffused is liberty preserved, and [that] we would want no more someone telling us what car to drive, what color to paint our house…[or] someone else telling us who our leaders should be.” This person also argued that “the Electoral College was designed to protect a little guy from the big guy.” Del. Levine, sitting in the front row, yet again seemed baffled.
  • A particularly amusing moment occurred when former California State Senator Ray Haynes, a self-described conservative Republican, responded to a question from Sen. Lionel Spruill (D) about Haynes’ comments that the National Popular Vote would be “best for the…Republican Party as a whole.” Haynes said yes, that’s what he said. Sen. Spruill responded, “you just gave me my right to vote…heck no, thank you!” (laughter in the audience)
  • In the end, the committee voted to “carry over” the bill for the year, effectively killing it for 2020 (but perhaps it will pass in 2021?). But first, as VAPLAN tweeted: Sen. Scott Surovell (D) said, “I’m delighted to be called a traitor for the SECOND time this session.” Fun times in Richmond these days, eh?