Ef­fort to dis­man­tle Elec­toral Col­lege catches fire in blue states

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

Af­ter seven failed at­tempts in 12 years, the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote In­ter­state Com­pact sud­denly caught fire this year in Ore­gon, fi­nally win­ning pas­sage in the Democrat­con­trolled state Se­nate.

That wor­ried Demo­cratic state Sen. Betsy John­son. She voted against Se­nate Bill 870, ar­gu­ing that the pro­posal, which would add Ore­gon to a na­tional ef­fort to up­end the Elec­toral Col­lege, should be placed on the bal­lot.

Its sud­den burst of pop­u­lar­ity, she said, can be at­trib­uted to one man: Pres­i­dent Trump.

“There are two words not men­tioned in SB 870: Don­ald Trump,” said Ms. John­son in her floor speech. “In my opin­ion, he’s the rea­son the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote has caught on so aggressive­ly of late. If we’re go­ing to end a his­toric institutio­n, let it be prompted by some­thing loftier than dis­like for one par­tic­u­lar pres­i­dent. Let reg­u­lar vot­ers make that de­ci­sion, not the leg­is­la­ture.”

Her rea­son­ing may have car­ried the day in prior ses­sions, but not this year. Still fu­ri­ous about Mr. Trump’s 2016 vic­tory de­spite his loss of the pop­u­lar vote, Democrats have sought to pre­vent it from ever hap­pen­ing again by em­brac­ing the ef­fort to up­end the Elec­toral Col­lege.

Demo­cratic gov­er­nors in three states — Colorado, Delaware and New Mex­ico — have signed bills this year to join the com­pact, mean­ing that they agree to cast their Elec­toral Col­lege votes for the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who wins the pop­u­lar vote, in­stead of the can­di­date sup­ported by state vot­ers.

The Ore­gon bill is ex­pected to sail through the state House on its way to Demo­cratic Gov. Kate Brown, who also sup­ports the con­cept. Mean­while, a Ne­vada mea­sure is pend­ing on the Assem­bly floor af­ter win­ning ap­proval last month in com­mit­tee.

Once viewed as a quixotic quest, the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote now has the sup­port of 15 states with a com­bined 189 elec­toral votes, bring­ing the cam­paign closer to the 270 elec­toral votes re­quired for the agree­ment to take ef­fect.

“2019 is in­deed a great year for pro­po­nents of the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote In­ter­state Com­pact,” said NPV spokesman Pat Rosen­tiel. “Leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries have brought us sig­nif­i­cantly closer to en­sur­ing ev­ery voter, in ev­ery state, is po­lit­i­cally rel­e­vant in ev­ery pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

Credit for this year’s suc­cess goes to the “Trump bump,” as well as the Novem­ber blue wave that saw Democrats pull off the tri­fecta — con­trol of the gover­nor’s of­fice as well as both state leg­isla­tive cham­bers — in an ad­di­tional six states, ac­cord­ing to Bal­lot­pe­dia.

Those pick­ups in­cluded Colorado, Ne­vada and New Mex­ico, where Repub­li­cans had helped block Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote bills from pas­sage in the past, warning about the con­se­quences of dis­rupt­ing a unique elec­tion sys­tem cre­ated by the Found­ing Fa­thers.

Repub­li­cans also have a po­lit­i­cal dog in the fight: In the last 20 years, two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates — Mr. Trump in 2016 and Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in 2000 — cap­tured the White House de­spite los­ing the pop­u­lar vote. Both were Repub­li­can.

Crit­ics of all po­lit­i­cal stripes worry that the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote will hand con­trol over pres­i­den­tial races to ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­ters like Los An­ge­les and New York City, di­lut­ing fur­ther the voice of ru­ral Amer­ica and smaller states.

Pro­po­nents of the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote ar­gue that the sys­tem will shift fo­cus from the half-dozen swing states that now de­cide pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, but Ore­gon Repub­li­cans ar­gued that shift­ing the fo­cus to Cal­i­for­nia and New York still doesn’t help their state.

“They won’t come to Ore­gon,” said Repub­li­can state Sen. Alan Olsen. “Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote is try­ing to say that that will make them come and talk to us, but it won’t hap­pen.”

He said that it would in­stead “make all the big cities the play­ers, and the rest of coun­try, the rest of mid­dle Amer­ica will not play­ing the game ... Ex­plain to them why their vote won’t count be­cause we de­cided to get into this ca­bal.”

Founded by com­puter sci­en­tist John Koza, co-cre­ator of the lot­tery “scratch card,” the com­pact has long billed it­self as non­par­ti­san, not­ing that it has re­ceived some Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive sup­port.

That said, the is­sue has in­creas­ingly divided along party lines. No red state has voted in fa­vor of the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote, and the re­peal cam­paign in Colorado is be­ing led by lo­cal GOP of­fi­cials.

No GOP leg­is­la­tors in Colorado or New Mex­ico backed the bill, while the Ore­gon mea­sure saw two Repub­li­cans and two Democrats cross party lines. The bill was ap­proved 17-12.

One of the Democrats who voted against it was Ms. John­son. “I’ve lis­tened very care­fully to the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote peo­ple. They talk about one man one vote,” she said. “Yet they don’t want a vote by Ore­go­ni­ans taken on this sig­nif­i­cant is­sue.”

Ore­gon state Sen. Michael Dem­brow, who sponsored the mea­sure, said the elec­toral col­lege is in­creas­ingly viewed as “a relic of an ear­lier time,” while the Na­tional Pop­u­lar Vote would make ev­ery vote count.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if I’m a Democrat or Repub­li­can, in a blue state or a red state, I have as much of a chance of in­flu­enc­ing the elec­tion as some­one in any state in the coun­try,” Mr. Dem­brow said. “This is what one per­son one vote is all about, col­leagues. It’s the fruition of what it means to be an Amer­i­can.”

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