What if top vote-getter became president? Plan would bypass Electoral College

By John Wildermuth,
San Francisco Chronicle,
March 14, 2019


A national effort to bypass the Electoral College and pick the president by popular vote — which may or may not be constitutional — is picking up new support and moving closer to success.

Governors in Colorado, New Mexico and Delaware are poised to sign the National Popular Vote compact, under which states would pledge to give all their electoral votes to the candidate who collects the most votes nationwide. California, 10 other states and the District of Columbia already have joined the compact, which would take effect if states holding 270 electoral votes, the number needed to elect a president, sign on.

Colorado’s nine electoral votes and New Mexico’s five will bring the total to 186, more than two-thirds of the way there. However, backers have their toughest work in front of them — the states that haven’t signed on are mostly Republican-controlled ones unwilling to give more clout to large, heavily Democratic states, and there are serious questions about whether such a compact would be constitutional.

Under the current system, the candidate who wins a state wins that state’s electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska bestow electors to the winners of congressional districts.) A change couldn’t happen soon enough for Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo, who as an assemblyman carried the bill that put California into the compact in 2011.

“Once you make the decision that in a democracy the majority rules, there should be no question” about electing a president by popular vote, he said.

The compact plan has been circulating since 2006. It received a burst of support after the 2016 election, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots but lost the Electoral College — and the presidency — to Republican Donald Trump, 304 to 227.

“The discussion is heating up,” said Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan group working to improve the election process. “I’m interested from the perspective of California’s voting power being diluted by the Electoral College.”

California has 39.5 million residents and 55 electoral votes, or one for every 718,000 people. Wyoming’s 579,000 residents have three electoral votes, or one for every 193,000 people. The system gives Wyoming and other small states far more clout in the Electoral College than they would have if the election was decided by popular vote. (full story)