As the 2020 general election approaches, Virginia state legislators have taken a dramatic new approach to helping ensure the integrity of the proceedings. The state House has passed a bill that would award the state’s electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote, which would help erase the system that propelled Donald Trump into the White House even though more than three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton nationally. Trump won enough separate, densely populated states to nab the electoral votes to put him over the edge.
The bill joins the state to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which is slated to go into effect when enough states join to bring the total electoral votes shared by members to a total of more than a national majority.
Its summary reads, in part:
‘Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact. A state may withdraw from the compact; however, a withdrawal occurring within six months of the end of a President’s term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President has qualified to serve the next term.’
In other words — the point is fairness, rather than some kind of political maneuvering.
The bill is now headed to the state Senate, which — like the House — is controlled by Democrats. Considering current Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s own Democratic affiliation, the measure seems likely to get signed into law sooner than later, taking the U.S. one step closer to a more appropriately democratized presidential election system.
Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C., are members of the compact, which would need some 74 more electoral votes to secure a national majority. Most of those behind the bills that have added member states so far have been Democrats. Similarly, a number of current Democratic presidential primary candidates have themselves derided the idea of the electoral college, which dilutes the national popular vote by giving an added weight to individual, smaller jurisdictions, who get extra electoral votes when the procedural body gathers.
For example, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has commented, referring to the 2016 race:
‘I believe that it is hard to defend the current system in which one candidate receives 3 million votes less than his opponent, but still becomes president. We need to reexamine the concept of the electoral college.’
Fellow leading candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren have also dissed the electoral college concept.
Buttigieg commented of the electoral college:
‘It’s gotta go. We need a national popular vote. It would be reassuring from the perspective of believing that we’re a democracy.’
For his part, Trump made a dramatic shift in the tone of his public comments about the electoral college after it delivered him a 2016 victory. At present, in terms of the national popular vote at least, he is running behind most leading Democratic presidential candidates in most national polls measuring potential general election match-ups.