Democrats are planning to make a final push this year to have Oregon join almost a dozen states that want to sidestep the Electoral College and elect the U.S. president by popular vote.
Previous efforts to join the so-called National Popular Vote interstate compact have failed three times since 2009, with Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney blocking it in each instance.
This year, however, Courtney says he'll concede if Oregon voters have the final say.
"Personally, I believe Oregon's electoral votes should be cast for the candidate chosen by Oregon voters. Under the national popular vote proposal, that would not be guaranteed," Courtney said in a statement this week. "Giving away Oregonians' electoral proxy to voters in other states is a decision that should be made by Oregon voters."
The National Popular Vote movement gained momentum after Republican President Donald Trump's Electoral College victory in November, although other efforts to sign on this year have recently stalled in states like New Mexico and Colorado.
The compact, which would circumvent the Electoral College without changing the U.S. Constitution, is triggered when enacted by states that, collectively, have at least 270 electoral votes, the number needed to clinch the presidency. So far it has 165 electoral votes from 10 states and Washington D.C.
House Bill 2927 would bring Oregon's seven electors into the compact if it passes both chambers by majority vote, then to the governor for signing into law. Courtney says he'd like to see voters, not the governor, have the final say, so the bill would have to be amended accordingly. It could appear on Oregon voter ballots in November 2018.
The bill moved out of committee Thursday afternoon and now heads to the House floor.
Democrats have the majority in both chambers, so the proposal could pass without Republican support. But GOP leaders say the timing is frustrating, noting the end of the legislative session is less than two months away and the parties still haven't come together on a plan for the upcoming $1.4 billion budget deficit.
"Setting aside our differences over the (National Popular Vote) policy itself, it is very disappointing that Democrats have decided to bring forward such a divisive issue this late in the legislative session," said Preston Mann, spokesman for the Senate Republican caucus.
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