Should Oregon join the National Popular Vote Compact?
We believe that all votes should count the same when electing the president. Every voter, regardless of their party affiliation, deserves to have their vote count. Unfortunately, under the current electoral system, this is not the case.
The clear solution is to pass the National Popular Vote bill (SB 823) this session, because it's only fair that votes cast in Oregon should matter just as much as votes cast in any other state.
Our current system of electing the president is badly flawed for a simple reason — state winner-take-all laws award all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each state. These laws have allowed five of our nation's 45 presidents to be elected without receiving the most popular votes nationwide.
In 2016, out of 136 million votes cast, the presidency was decided by 81,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These votes enabled Donald Trump to win the Electoral College vote, despite a national popular vote shortfall of 2,800,000 votes. How is this possible? It's because the votes were cast by voters who lived in states with large numbers of electoral votes, and under the winner-take-all system their votes had much more value than votes from states like Oregon.
State winner-take-all laws also mean that only 12 states, representing just 30 percent of the nation's voters, really matter in presidential campaigns. These "battleground" states not only get the lion's share of candidates' campaign money and attention, they receive significantly more federal benefits, such as grants, disaster declarations, waivers, and exemptions.
States that join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact agree to award all their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and D.C. The Compact becomes effective when the total electoral votes of the states signing onto the compact reaches 270 out of 538 electoral votes, which is enough to win the presidency. Because it preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections, it does not require a Constitutional Amendment. It also does not favor populous states or urban areas, because every vote is equal, no matter where a voter happens to live.
The National Popular Vote bill has already been enacted into law in 10 states and D.C., representing 165 electoral votes, which means 105 more electoral votes are needed. It has passed a total of 35 chambers in 23 states, with the New Mexico Senate being the most recent on Feb. 20, 2017. It passed the Oregon House in 2009, 2011, and 2013 but failed to gain a Senate hearing each time. We are determined that this year will be different. Please contact your state legislators and ask them to support SB 823, so that we'll be one step closer to making "one person, one vote" the law of the land.
Marge Easley is past president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon. The following people contributed to this piece: Norman Turrill, president of the League of Women Voters of Oregon; Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon; Nikki Fisher, executive director of the Bus Project; and Elizabeth Donley and Eileen Reavey, co-directors of NPV Oregon.