Connecticut Joins Effort to Elect Presidents by Popular Vote
Last week, the General Assembly in Connecticut approved a bill making it the first state to adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact since the 2016 election.
The compact—which had previously been signed into law in 10 other states—is intended to ensure that each signing state’s Electoral College votes (seven in Connecticut) go to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in an election, nationwide.
“For me, what is at the heart of the legislation is it provides people confidence that their vote counts,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Democrat of Norwalk, to the Connecticut Post.
Adding Connecticut to the compact brings the number of Electoral College votes pledged to the winner of the national popular vote up to 172. When enough states have joined to bump the total up to 270—the number needed for an electoral college win out of the total of 538—then the winner of future presidential elections will be chosen by the popular vote.
The Electoral College system has proved its toxicity in recent decades, with two Republicans winning the presidency without winning the nationwide popular vote. By committing all of a state’s electors to the candidate who wins in that state, regardless of what percentage of that state’s voters chose him or her, the votes of Republicans in reliably blue states and Democrats in reliably red states are effectively negated. Real campaigning only happens in battleground states, and the rest of us are left to haplessly donate money or make calls to people in the Midwest we’ve never met, trying to convince them to have a heart.
A constitutional amendment would achieve the same goal as the compact, but would require approval by two-thirds of the Senate and House and then ratification by 38 states. The compact, on the other hand, takes advantage of the ability of state legislatures to award electoral votes however they see fit. Maine and Nebraska, for example, already award electoral votes by congressional district rather than committing the full number to the state winner.
The clever premise behind the compact is that the state laws include a trigger clause, keeping them from being enacted until enough states have joined to total up to 270 electors. That means Connecticut can stay reliably blue as long as other states are handing all their electors to their overall winners.
Ten states and the District of Columbia joined the compact before Connecticut, starting with Maryland in 2007, which was followed the next year by New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii. In 2009, Washington joined, and in 2010 Massachusetts and D.C. came onboard. Between 2011 and 2014, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, and New York have joined.
Red states haven’t shown interest yet, but President Trump has recently expressed support for adopting a national popular vote: “I would rather have a popular election, but it’s a totally different campaign,” he told “Fox & Friends” in April.
Let’s hope a few more states consider the compact and give Trump what he wants.