Representative Dennis Richardson

Rep. Richardson's Newsletter

March 28, 2013

National Popular Vote vs. Electoral College:

Should Oregon Change How It Elects the President?

Rep Richardson floor kids

As a small town lawyer for 30 years and a State Legislator for ten, I approach my legislative duties as if I were the citizens’ attorney. Years ago I had a business practice and there were times when I would need to explain alternative solutions to my clients, obtain their input, and act accordingly. Such an issue has arisen here in the legislature. I would like to discuss it with you and receive your opinion. If you will spend a few minutes and read this newsletter, I would appreciate receiving your informed opinion on this important issue.

Background. Currently, the United States President and Vice President are not elected by the general vote of the people. The President and Vice President are elected under the Electoral College system. This unique system is part of the “checks and balances” contained in the U. S. Constitution. The Electoral College is composed of 538 “presidential electors” determined by adding the number of each state’s Congressional Representatives (435) with its two U.S. Senators (100), plus three votes allocated to the District of Columbia. Since every state has two Senators and at least one Congressional Representative, the eight least-populated states have three electors, while the most populated states have many more—California has 55, Texas 38, Florida 29 and New York 29. Oregon has two Senators and five Congressional Districts, for a total of seven presidential electors. Since there are 538 total electoral votes, the first Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates to obtain a majority of them (270 votes) wins the presidential election.

The U. S. Constitution allows each state to determine how its electoral votes are allocated. Two states (Maine and Nebraska) cast their electoral votes based on how their state’s Congressional Districts vote. The remaining states, including Oregon, have a winner-takes-all system. Thus, the presidential candidate who receives the largest number of Oregon votes receives all seven of Oregon’s Electoral College votes.

Issue. Oregon, along with 40 other states, is struggling with the question of whether to change the way Presidents and Vice Presidents are elected. The alternatives are either to retain the current Electoral College system or enable such elections to be determined by national popular vote. Before deciding please consider the background information and the arguments—both pro and con. In short, the question is whether National Popular Vote is a bipartisan move toward a purely democratic Presidential Election or is it a plan to stack the campaign deck in favor of one national party over the other?  At the end of this newsletter, please cast your vote in a one-question survey.

Oregon’s House Bill. The Oregon House of Representatives recently held a hearing on House Bill 3077. It would require Oregon’s seven electoral votes be given to the candidates who win the national popular vote for President and Vice President. If HB 3077 becomes law, Oregon will join an agreement with other states that could break 224 years of national election tradition and change the way we elect our President and Vice President. Before the national popular vote act would take effect, a sufficient number of states to equal a combined total of 270 electoral votes would need to pass this legislation—270 electoral votes is the threshold number to determine who is elected to the most powerful position in the world, the President of the United States of America.

To See Arguments Favoring the National Popular Vote, click here.

Summary of arguments favoring the change to a national popular vote:

  1. The largest states control Presidential election outcomes, disenfranchising smaller states.
  2. The winner-takes-all Electoral College system disenfranchises voters in states where oneparty dominates.
  3. Presidential candidates ignore states where Electoral College votes are predetermined bypolling data.
  4. National popular vote is pure democracy enabled by technology and would avoid the situationwhere one candidate wins the vote and the other wins the election because of the Electoral College, as occurred in Bush/Gore in the 2000 election.

Proponents’ summary: American voters want to elect their President and Vice President directly with a national popular vote, and not risk having the electoral college disallow the vote of the people, as occurred in the 2000 Presidential election. States have the ability to enact the national popular vote by merely passing a law awarding their electoral votes to the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who win the national election.

For additional information supporting the national popular vote, click here.

To See Arguments Opposing the National Popular Vote, click here

Summary of arguments opposing the change to a national popular vote:

  1. Liberal Presidential candidates will focus their time and money on large urban areas, highly concentrated with liberal voters. Conservative candidates will be forced to dilute their resources across the vast heartland of American “Red” states.
  2. The U.S. Constitution precludes compacts between states and the National Popular Vote is an unconstitutional “Agreement Among the States….”
  3. The Legislatures of every state adopting National Popular Vote legislation retain the ability to repeal such legislation during the month following a November Presidential Election and the December Electoral College vote.
  4. Changing the system for electing the President and V.P. should be enacted by Amendment, not by a strategy to avoid facing the amendment process.

Opponents’ summary: The National Popular Vote is a thinly veiled attempt by the Democratic Party to stack the Presidential campaign deck in its favor. It would allow Democratic Presidential candidates to focus their time and money on densely populated “blue” urban areas, while forcing Republican candidates to spread their resources across America’s vast “red” rural heartland.  In addition, since the U.S. Constitution forbids agreements among states, the attempt to create a national popular vote without amending the U. S. Constitution is unconstitutional.

For additional information opposing the national popular vote, click here.

Conclusion. There you have it. Some of the arguments by proponents directly contradict those of its opponents. The only thing certain is HB 3077 is being considered by the Oregon House and a similar bill has been filed in the Oregon Senate (SB 624). So far, the National Popular Vote Act has been enacted in nine jurisdictions (Vermont, Maryland, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Hawaii and Wash. D.C.). Should Oregon be number ten?

What is your opinion?  Please answer this one-question survey and leave any comments you might have:

Should Oregon’s seven Electoral College votes always go to the U. S. Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who win the national popular vote? (Click here to record your opinion.)


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Dennis Richardson

State Representative

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