2013-06-20 / News

RI House, Senate back elimination of Electoral College

The House of Representatives and Senate last week approved companion bills that would add Rhode Island to a compact of states agreeing to commit their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most popular votes in presidential balloting across the country.

The bills now go to the opposite chambers for further action.

Enactment of the legislation would commit Rhode Island to join a national compact of nine states that would assign their electoral votes in presidential elections to whichever candidate is the winner of the popular vote nationwide.

The compact would not take effect until the total number of electoral votes of the states that have joined the compact is enough to constitute a majority of the Electoral College. Currently, nine states with a total of 132 electoral votes – or just slightly less than half the necessary 270 total – have enacted law to participate in the national popular vote.

“There have been several times in our nation’s history – most notably George W. Bush in 2000 – when we have inaugurated presidents who did not win the support of the majority of Americans,” said Rep. Ray Gallison (D-Bristol, Portsmouth). “That’s not how a democracy should work. Each person’s vote should be counted equally and the majority of voters should determine the election.”

According to several polls, the sentiment is shared by a majority of Americans. A 2007 poll found that 72 percent of U.S. citizens favored replacing the Electoral College with a direct election, including 78 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of independent voters. Polls dating back to the 1940s have shown a consistent majority of the public supporting a direct vote. A 2008 poll in Rhode Island found that about 75 percent of state voters support the move.

The Electoral College awards votes to states based on the total number of their members of Congress – in Rhode Island, that is four electoral votes. Most states designate their electoral votes in a winner-take-all fashion, meaning all the votes go to the candidate that wins the majority of the popular vote in that state. However, that system allows a candidate to win the presidency simply by winning the majority vote in states with large numbers of electoral college votes, not necessarily winning the majority of votes nationwide.

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