States mull al­ter­na­tives to the Elec­toral Col­lege

More want to let the pop­u­lar vote de­cide who will be our pres­i­dent

The Arizona Republic - - NATION - SU­SAN HAIGH AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

HARTFORD, Conn. Frus­trated af­ter see­ing an­other can­di­date se­cure the pres­i­dency with­out win­ning the na­tional pop­u­lar vote, mostly Demo­cratic law­mak­ers in sev­eral cap­i­tals want their states to join a 10-year-old move­ment to work around the Elec­toral Col­lege.

In states in­clud­ing Con­necti­cut, Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio and New Mex­ico, leg­is­la­tors have said they plan to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire their state’s Elec­toral Col­lege vot­ers to cast bal­lots for the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who earns the most votes na­tion­wide, re­gard­less of the statewide re­sults.

“Ev­ery vote in this coun­try should have equal weight. The Elec­toral Col­lege is a relic of a by­gone era, and we need to change this sys­tem,” said Con­necti­cut state Sen. Mae Flexer, who filed a bill with sev­eral fel­low Democrats re­quir­ing Con­necti­cut to join the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote In­ter­state Com­pact.

Since 2006, 11 states have signed on to the com­pact, which re­quire their Elec­toral Col­lege vot­ers to cast bal­lots for the na­tional pop­u­lar vote win­ner. In the­ory it would take ef­fect once it in­volves states rep­re­sent­ing at least 270 elec­toral votes, the thresh­old to win the pres­i­dency.

When peo­ple vote for pres­i­dent, they are re­ally choos­ing the elec­tors from the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The col­lege is made up of 538 elec­tors, which cor­re­sponds to the num­ber of a state’s seats in the U.S. Se­nate and House, plus the three votes al­lot­ted to Washington, D.C.

The states that have al­ready passed leg­is­la­tion to join the group rep­re­sent 165 elec­toral votes. Typ­i­cally re­li­ably Demo­cratic states, the list in­cludes Cal­i­for­nia, Hawaii, Illi­nois, Mas­sachusetts, Mary­land, New Jer­sey, New York, Rhode Is­land, Ver­mont, Washington and D.C. — all where Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton de­feated Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump.

Ad­vo­cates note the mea­sures have cleared sev­eral Repub­li­can-con­trolled leg­isla­tive cham­bers, in­clud­ing the Ari­zona House this year. That bill did not come up for a vote in the GOP-con­trolled state Se­nate.

The com­pact wouldn’t ben­e­fit any one party, said Pa­trick Rosen­stiel, a con­sul­tant to Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote, the group that has been push­ing for the com­pact since 2006. Rather, the Repub­li­can said, it will en­cour­age can­di­dates to cam­paign in ev­ery state, re­gard­less of its pol­i­tics, and make ev­ery voter rel­e­vant.

“Right now we’ve got a sys­tem where the bat­tle­ground states have all the po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence,” he said.

Clin­ton is the fifth pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to win the pop­u­lar vote and lose the Elec­toral Col­lege. She re­ceived nearly 2.9 mil­lion more votes than Trump, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis Tues­day af­ter vote to­tals were cer­ti­fied, giv­ing her the largest pop­u­lar vote mar­gin of any los­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and bring­ing re­newed calls to abol­ish the Elec­toral Col­lege. She ben­e­fited from solid wins in pop­u­lous Cal­i­for­nia and New York, while Trump nar­rowly won some bat­tle­ground states.

U.S. Sen. Bar­bara Boxer, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said she will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion in Jan­uary to do away with the Elec­toral Col­lege through a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, but it’s a long­shot. An amend­ment would have to pass Congress and then be rat­i­fied by three-fourths of the states within seven years. Sup­port­ers of the com­pact are aim­ing to get enough states on board be­fore the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Some crit­ics ques­tion, among other is­sues, whether Repub­li­cans will have the po­lit­i­cal de­sire be­tween now and 2020 to push for na­tional pop­u­lar vote com­pacts in their states. The GOP now holds nu­mer­i­cal ma­jori­ties in 33 leg­is­la­tures.

Re­cent polling shows sup­port for the Elec­toral Col­lege among Repub­li­cans is high fol­low­ing Trump’s vic­tory, said Robert Alexan­der, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Ohio North­ern Univer­sity and au­thor of a book on the Elec­toral Col­lege.

“Cer­tainly among Democrats, yes,” Alexan­der said of the will to join the com­pact. “But a lot of the state leg­is­la­tures are con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, and there is way too much un­cer­tainty for them to take that is­sue on for their own po­lit­i­cal fu­tures.”

MATT ROURKE/AP FILE

Pro­test­ers demon­strate Mon­day ahead of Penn­syl­va­nia’s 58th Elec­toral Col­lege at the state Capi­tol in Har­ris­burg.

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