Oregon must join the National Popular Vote Compact
Oregonians expect our votes to count fairly in elections…and rightly so. Fair and equitable elections are at the very foundation of democratic governance, which requires that the votes of every citizen count equally. In most of the elections we Southern Oregon voters participate in, from selecting a senator, a town mayor or even picking the local dogcatcher, we expect our voting system to give equal weight to the vote of every citizen…and usually our voting system works pretty well.
But there has been a significant obstacle to fair elections for voters here in Oregon. We are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to making our votes count in national elections. This is because the way Electoral College votes have been allocated has given greater weight to the electoral votes from a tiny handful of swing states…giving undue influence to just a few states and disenfranchising Oregon.
Historically, the Electoral College has chosen the winner of the Presidential elections of: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016, superseding the national popular vote and over- turning the will of the majority of voters nationwide in each of those elections. That is how the winner of the national popular vote can lose the election.
A multi-state effort called: The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is designed to remedy this inequality. It is a compact among a group of states and the District of Columbia to award all electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC requires enough states to join the compact to have a majority of the 538 total votes, with a combined total of 270 electoral votes for the compact to take effect. As of January 2017, the NPVIC has been adopted by ten states and the District of Columbia, with a combined total of 165 electors, or over 61% of the total needed to give the compact legal force. The states that have joined the compact thus far are: Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, Illinois, New York and California.
Oregon is not yet a signatory of the NPVIC, but there are many good reasons why Oregon should join the compact now. The system we have now compels presidential candidates to limit their campaigning to only a tiny handful of battleground states…and that means candidates from every party typically don’t bother to come to Oregon or to trouble themselves with those issues that concern us.
Just an example of how limiting this can be for our voters is reflected in the fact that two-thirds of the 2012 general-election campaign events were held in just four states, while 38 other states were all but ignored. Voters in battleground states have the ear of candidates during elections, and those swing states tend to advance the issues that benefit those states (such as changing the federal regulations for coal mining).
Swing states also receive more federal grants than the spectator states after elections.
Historically, Oregonians simply don’t have much influence in national elections, and that alone can suppress our voter turnout. The NPVIC compact does not attempt to overturn constitutional law and instead reforms the way that existing Electoral College votes are allocated. The NPVIC works with Article II of the United States Constitution that prescribes how many electors every state may have and lets each state choose how they pick their electors.
Article II says:
“Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in Congress.”
Changes to the way electors are allocated have occurred many times in our history.
In 1789 only three states adopted a winner-take-all method of allocating electors, and in recent decades the states of Maine and Nebraska have awarded their electoral votes though a different mechanism from the rest of the nation.
The NPVIC has popular support from members of all political parties. Written by Donna Breedlove.
Contact Linda Fuller for information on how to make this happen in Oregon’s State Senate – [email protected]