June 6, 2019 / 10:31 AM / 19 days ago

Let the most popular win: Oregon backs change in presidential voting

(Reuters) - Lawmakers in Oregon passed legislation on Wednesday to award its seven Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide, rather than the candidate who gets the most votes in the state.

However, the legislation will not take effect until similar bills are passed by enough states to provide a majority of the Electoral College’s 538 votes.

The Oregon House of Representatives voted 37-22 to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia that have voted for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which wants to scrap the complicated way presidents are chosen in the United States.

Currently, presidents win by taking a majority of votes in the Electoral College, rather than by getting the most votes nationally. The college allots votes to each state equal to the number of representatives and senators in the state’s Congressional delegation.

The 15 jurisdictions that have passed the interstate compact so far account for 189 electoral votes. That leaves them 81 votes shy of the 270 votes that make up an Electoral College majority.

The electoral college has become a hot topic since the 2016 Presidential election, when Donald Trump won the presidency with 304 electoral votes even though Hillary Clinton won 2.87 million more popular votes.

The Electoral College system was the result of a compromise by the writers of the U.S. Constitution in the 18th century between those who wanted direct popular election and those who wanted state legislatures to decide.

Eliminating or reforming it is supported by a majority of the 2020 Democratic candidates for president, according to the Washington Post. Four Democratic senators have introduced a constitutional amendment that would abolish the college.

Those who want to keep the current system say that a straight popular vote would drown out the voices of people who live in states with smaller populations. That was the position taken by Nevada’s Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, who vetoed a similar bill it in May.

The Oregon bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown, who has indicated she will sign it.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta

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