State Legislatures are Dismantling the Electoral College

Peyton Gouzien | @PGouzien

Thirty-six state legislatures across 23 states have passed bills that would award the states electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. 15 states have passed these “National Popular Vote” bills. These states include Washington, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont, New York, Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico.  All together the states total to 189 electoral votes. This makes it so over half of the needed 270 electoral votes to win goes to the popular vote winner. Legislation like this would effectively dismantle the electoral college and drastically alter election outcomes.

Additionally, similar bills have passed in many states, the movement has seen success in the legislatures of eight other states. Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Maine, Arkansas, and Arizona have seen a similar bills dismantling the electoral college pass in one legislature.

Dissatisfaction with the Electoral College

The movement by state legislatures to pass a national popular vote bill began in late 2006. It began to pick up after the 2016 election with Donald Trump’s loss of the popular vote.  Before 2016, all the states that had passed a national popular vote bill had been deep blue states. Supporters believed they had hit a barrier to passing national popular vote bills. However, since 2016 several less partisan “purple” states with have made moves on the process of passing their own bills. Colorado represented the first of the less partisan leaning states to join the movement. However, supporters still have concerns that red states will not pass similar legislation. This is because the only recent times the popular vote did not coincide with the electoral vote were Republicans in Bush and Trump. Both Bush and Trump lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote.

What Does This Mean for 2020?

President Trump is already facing a tough field for election with 22 Democratic candidates and one Republican challenger in Bill Weld. As he lost the national popular vote by nearly three million votes, these legislation efforts could sabotage his chances. If passed in swing states and states he won by large margins in 2016, chances of success could be low. However, Nathaniel Rakich, FiveThirtyEight’s Election analyst, explains that this is unlikely as swing states have less of an incentive to pass such legislation. This is because they disproportionately gain attention in efforts to gain swing votes.

In addition, third party and independent candidates would likely lose any potential to drag votes from the two major parties. This is because in these states, the national popular vote winner would be awarded the electoral votes. Situations like the 1992 election between Bush and Clinton. The 1992 election where an independent like Ross Perot garnered electoral votes that would have normally gone to the Republican candidate.

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