Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Wednesday that would grant the state’s electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote, her office confirmed.
Oregon is the 15th state to join the National Popular State compact, an agreement established by each participating states’ laws to put its electoral votes toward the winner of the national popular vote, instead of the state’s own popular vote. The compact will only go into effect if the cumulative total of the states’ electoral votes surpasses the 270 necessary for a majority, which would require states that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 to sign on.
Still, Brown thanked the bill’s grassroots supporters for helping bring the “critical and necessary reform to Oregon,” citing “how important it is about increasing voter turnout” and helping “every single voter to realize that their vote really made a difference.”
Brown argued that the measure would help shift the 2020 presidential election conversation to Oregon, which is not one of the early battleground states attracting Democratic hopefuls eager to pin down crucial primary votes.
“I think it will encourage candidates to spend more time in states like ours, candidates who are running for president speaking directly to our voters,” she added. “I think it will help encourage them to talk about issues that. …Orgeonians care more about. And I think it’s really important for Oregon to be part of the national conversation regarding the presidential election”
Oregon’s seven electoral votes push the running total to 196. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and the District of Columbia have all joined the pact.
The state House passed the measure last week, after the state Senate passed it in April. Brown has consistently backed the bill, with her support of a national popular vote dating back to her time as secretary of state.
John Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote, Inc. – the group that is backing the effort – maintained that the measure would benefit Oregon voters.
“National Popular Vote significantly amplifies and empowers Oregon, and the voice of every Oregon voter in electing a president,” Koza said in a statement. “Everyone’s vote will count directly towards their choice for president. This is the constitutionally conservative answer to the question of how we make every voter politically relevant in every presidential election while preserving the Electoral College.”
The proposal has experienced varying results in different states. After a similar bill was passed in the Maine Senate in May, the state’s House voted against it – and then passed an amended version Wednesday that would have to be reconsidered by the Senate in order to advance. Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak opted last month to veto his state’s bill granting electoral votes to the national popular vote winner that had passed both the state Senate and Assembly.
The Electoral College effectively results in voters casting ballots not for their desired presidential candidates, but for 538 electors who in turn select candidates. The mechanism clinched Trump the 2016 presidential victory despite Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
And the issue has already reached the 2020 race. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said during a CNN town hall in March that she supported doing away with the electoral college.
“My view is that every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College – and every vote counts,” the Massachusetts senator said. Other candidates have since taken up the same position.