Oregon Senate Passes Bill Favoring Popular Vote

In a 17-12 vote, Oregon’s state Senate on Tuesday passed the National Popular Vote bill, which would allow the state to join a coalition of states that seek to give their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who clinches the popular vote. The bill will now move to the House of Representatives, where similar proposals have passed four times since 2007, a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) said. If approved, Oregon will join 14 states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

So far, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia, Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico have joined the initiative which encourages a change in the presidential election process. Although the initiative intends to bypass the electoral vote, it does not eliminate it or undermine the state control of elections, according to the National Popular Vote website.

For the initiative to be implemented, however, it must gather enough states to complete the 270 electoral votes that grant the presidency. Until today, the 15 states are totaling 189 votes; Oregon would add seven votes to that number, OPB reported. The legislation has met support and opposition along party lines. “What it means is that it doesn’t matter where I live,” said state Senator Michael Dembrow, a Democrat and the bill’s chief sponsor. “I have as much of a chance of influencing the election as someone in any state in the country. This is what ‘one person, one vote’ is all about, colleagues. It’s the fruition of what it means to be an American.”

Some Republicans reject that notion. GOP state Senator Alan Olsen said that liberal states and large cities would wield more clout in choosing the next White House occupant, while conservative candidates could have a better shot at the presidency thanks to the Electoral College. “If we get to the national popular vote, I don’t ever see a Republican president … in the future,” he told OPB.

Some presidential candidates have championed the idea of scrapping the Electoral College. In a CNN town hall meeting in March, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that deep-blue or red states seldom get visits from presidential candidates who focus solely on battleground states.

“We need to make sure that every vote counts. And you know, I want to push that right here in Mississippi. Because I think this is an important point,” she said at the time. “My view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”

Calls to eliminate the Electoral College have gained momentum following Donald Trump’s 2016 victory when then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, but lost the Electoral Vote — and therefore the presidency — to the Republican contender.

In January, Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee introduced two bills to get rid of the Electoral College, but the proposal was deemed unsuccessful from the beginning because it would have required a two-thirds vote from both chambers, The Hill reported at the time.

About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.