Editor's note: Video is from April 2019
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon voted Wednesday to become the 15th state to grant its electoral college votes to whoever wins the popular vote across the country.
The Oregon House sent the governor a measure to join National Vote Interstate Compact, a pledge between states to side-step the Electoral College and overhaul the way the nation elects presidents. Gov. Kate Brown, who has made expanding voter access a priority, has already indicated she will sign the measure.
"It is truly disenfranchising to believe that your vote for president will mean nothing on a national stage simply because of where you live," said Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, the Democrat who carried the bill on the floor. "Today, we make Oregon a battleground state."
The move taps into growing anger over the nation’s complicated elections process that some argue doesn’t always align with the will of the voters. President Donald Trump became the second Republican in five elections to win the presidency through the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote.
Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have already signed onto the pact, which only takes effect when enough states join to reach 270 electoral votes, the threshold needed to win the White House. With Oregon’s 7 electoral votes, the movement is now 74 electoral votes short of that goal.
Supporters say a popular vote would shift focus from swing states, allowing states like Oregon to receive more political attention from presidential candidates. Mitchell, from the coastal city of Astoria, said that candidates concentrate their time on only a few battleground states and ignore states like Oregon who have reliably voted for one party.
"This is about giving all voters in the United States, regardless of where they live, the ability to be heard in the most important of our elections," she said.
Governors in New Mexico, Delaware and Colorado signed legislation this year, while Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed a proposal saying the agreement could leave sparsely populated states with less of a voice.
Opponents say that the move goes against the intention of the founding fathers and that scrapping the Electoral College wouldn’t get rid of the concept of swing states. They argue that presidential candidates would instead pay more attention to densely populated areas to secure the maximum amount of votes.
"The Electoral College ensures that we are the United States of America, and doesn’t become the united municipalities of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago," said Rep. Werner Reschke, a Republican from Klamath Falls.
The compact itself is meant to bypass the Electoral College without pursuing a constitutional amendment on the federal level, which would require a two-thirds vote and ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures.
The idea’s been around since 2006, and this was the Oregon House’s fifth time considering joining the compact. If enacted, experts agree that the proposed workaround would face lengthy legal challenges.
Republican Rep. Bill Post said he wasn’t too concerned about how Oregon lawmakers voted in this case, saying he was confident the agreement would "wither and die" once it began hitting Republican controlled statehouses.
Eileen Reavey is the Oregon consultant to National Popular Vote, the organization behind the movement. She believes that the idea is gaining traction among Republicans across the nation, noting it was able to pass at least one chamber in conservative states like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Arizona.
"This isn’t going away," Reavey said. "Oregon’s vote today proves that momentum is building. More than ever, people agree that a handful of voters in battleground states shouldn’t drown out the voice of the rest of the country."