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National Issues

California First To Pass Legislation To Establish National Popular Vote For President PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
September 01, 2006
California has become the first state to pass legislation in a innovative initiative to render the Electoral College meaningless and establish a national popular vote for president. The bill (AB 2948) – passed by the State Assembly in May and in by the Senate in August - would enact the proposed interstate compact called the "Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote" in California.

The bill was sponsored by Assembly members Tom Umberg (chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, pictured at right), Mervyn M. Dymally, John Laird, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, and Ted W. Lieu and Senator Jack Scott. The bill now goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has until September 30 to act on it. Under AB 2948, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim), California would grant its electoral votes to the nominee who gets the most votes nationwide — not the most votes in California. The California legislation would not take effect until enough states passed such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes — a minimum of 11 states, depending on population.

Similar legislation is pending in five other states: New York, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado and Louisiana. It is expected to be introduced in Vermont and Arizona soon.

Legislation to eliminate the Electoral College is introduced into every session of Congress – there is currently one Senate bill and no less than five bills in the House – but the is no chance that such legislation would ever even be addressed in committee much less reach a vote. The state-by-state approach to eliminating the Electoral College was proposed by a group of prominent currewnt and former elected officials and articulated in their book “Every Vote Equal”.

Under the current system of allocating electoral votes in presidential elections (used by 48 states and the District of Columbia), all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate receiving the most popular votes within each state. But this system was not established by the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, or federal law. Instead, the allocation of electoral votes is exclusively a matter of state law. In fact, Maine and Nebraska currently award some of their electoral votes by congressional district as an example of this flexibility.

They argue that the current system forces presidential candidates to focus their campaigns on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states, thereby making the voters in two-thirds of the states irrelevant. They have proposed a nationwide popular election of the President. Recognizing that a federal constitutional amendment is both unlikely and unnecessary they have developed a plan whereby states would join together to pass identical state laws awarding all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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