Lawmakers consider changing how Oregon's electoral votes are cast

State lawmakers consider voting changes

SALEM, Ore. -- Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in November but lost the Electoral College.

It's a fact that still stings for many Clinton supporters who say the system doesn't make sense.

Now a bill in Salem could change how presidential elections are handled in Oregon, and would make Oregon part of nationwide compact with other states.

The plan has bipartisan support. It would help make the popular vote more powerful across the country.

It’s an idea that has come up a number of times in Salem, but the lawmakers who are pushing for it say raw emotions after this most recent election is giving it more energy this time.

“No one who loses the popular vote should be president of this country. I don’t think this is a partisan issue. I think it's common sense and fairness,” said one woman who testified at a public hearing for the bill.

On Tuesday, a room at the state capitol was packed. A number of people arrived to give testimony on HB 2927.

“Oregon’s votes don’t count as much in a presidential election as in swing states. In fact they usually don't count at all,” said Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland).

Keny-Guyer is one of the chief sponsors of the bill. She said the piece of legislation would make every vote matter.

“The idea [is] that smaller states that may have more Electoral College votes can't band together to subvert the will of the majority of an entire nation,” said another one of the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis).

Currently, the candidate who wins in Oregon gets the state's Electoral College votes. If passed, Oregon and other states that have also passed the law would give their Electoral College votes to whoever wins the national popular vote.

“We've got hundreds and hundreds of e-mails in our office alone from people who are frustrated that their voice doesn't matter, their vote doesn't matter as much as people voting in other states,” said Rayfield.

Rayfield said since swing states get so much attention, the national agenda is skewed to reflect issues that are more pertinent in those states.

“Somebody who's running a national presidential campaign, says we know how California is going to turn out, that's a blue state. We know how Texas is going to turn out that's a red one. Let's not campaign in those places. Let's only campaign in the states that are battleground states that are unsure. So that pushes the whole campaign focus into Florida, Ohio,” said Len Bergstein, KGW’s political analyst. He formerly lobbied for the National Popular Vote, but no longer is affiliated with the organization.

Proponents say the Electoral College is outdated and flawed.

“In 1789 our forefathers couldn't comprehend, that voters could make an informed decision about candidates outside of their region due to limited communication. This is not the case now,” Keny-Guyer said.

Keny-Guyer said the issue is votes in battleground swing states matter more and thus they get more resources.

“You look at the swing states and you see that they get so many more federal grants so there's a lot of attention on them,” said Keny-Guyer.

But not everyone is so supportive of the change.

“Measuring equity by measuring battleground states is just weird because it ignores the actions of political parties. It ignores primaries,” said one man who testified. He also pointed out that it’s not often that a candidate who wins the election, loses the popular vote. It’s happened less than a handful of times in American history.

Opponents also say if the people of Oregon choose a different candidate than who wins the popular vote, then Oregon should not be forced to give its electoral votes to the popular vote candidate.

Ten states plus Washington D.C. have opted into the plan.

It takes 270 electoral votes to elect a president. If passed, the law wouldn't kick in until enough states sign on, to hit the 270 mark.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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