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Oregon is on its way to joining a movement to ignore the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote in presidential elections

PMG FILE PHOTO - Senate Bill 870, passed by the Legislature in early June, joins Oregon in a group of 15 tates supporting the effort to have the popular vote reflected in ballots cast in the Electoral College.

By Aubrey Weiber

Oregon Capital Bureau reporter

Oregon is on its way to joining a movement to ignore the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote in presidential elections.

Senate Bill 870 passed 37-22 in the House on June 5, after passing the Senate nearly two months ago. The bill joins Oregon in a group of 15 states supporting the effort to have the popular vote reflected in ballots cast in the Electoral College. The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown, who has supported the popular vote since her time as secretary of state. She will sign it, a spokeswoman said.

With Oregon, the states would control 196 electoral votes. The compact would only go into effect if enough states joined to reach the 270 Electoral College votes needed to decide an election.

Another eight states have passed national popular vote bills through at least one legislative chamber. If all eight states passed it, that would add another 75 votes, according to the movement's website. That would be one more electoral vote than needed.

Opponents of the popular vote movement say the current system has worked well for more than 200 years and ensures rural parts of the country aren't ignored in deciding the president. But the Electoral College has become a target recently when Donald Trump and George W. Bush were elected without winning the popular vote. Bush lost the popular vote by more than a half-million votes while winning enough electoral votes to take the election. That hadn't happened since the late 1800s.

The Oregon bill was carried on the floor by state Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell (D-North Coast). She said she first voted in a presidential election in 2004 as a Utah Democrat, knowing her vote wouldn't matter.

"It is truly disenfranchising to know that your vote won't mean anything on a national stage," she said.

Moving to the popular vote, Mitchell said, would give presidential candidates a reason to visit more than just battleground states. It would ensure everyone's vote counted equally and it would help fight voter fraud because those looking to influence elections could no longer focus their attention on purple states.

Debate in the House grew spirited.

Democrats used the individual liberty argument – something usually brought up by Republicans – while Republicans said the plan was a knee-jerk reaction. They said it also violates the will of Oregon voters: If Oregon voters support a candidate that doesn't get the majority of the nation's vote, the state's electoral votes would still back the popular vote winner rather than the candidate who won the state.

Ideology aside, the deal is dependent on enough states joining the compact, which state Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer) said was laughable.

"It's a neato thing right now to talk about, but soon it will wither away and be forgotten about," Post, who represents Newberg and St. Paul, said.

In the end, it passed on party line.

"Today, we make Oregon a battleground state," Mitchell said.

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