The Senate Elections, Government and Community Affairs Committee has scheduled a March 6 hearing.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced legislation Feb. 27 in the General Assembly aimed at restoring fairness to presidential elections by empowering the voice of Delawareans and other forgotten voters.
Senate Bill 22 would add Delaware to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
The compact keeps the Electoral College system intact, but changes state laws that determine how electoral votes are awarded — rules entrusted to the state by the founders of the nation.
Most states use a “winner-take-all” system that gives all electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in that specific state. That didn’t become widespread until the 1820s.
“One person, one vote is a hallmark of our democracy,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the prime sponsor.
“But for too long, our votes for the highest office in the land have only mattered if we live in one of a few battleground states. This bill helps ensure that every vote in every state will matter.”
The Senate Elections, Government and Community Affairs Committee has scheduled a March 6 hearing on the bill.
More information: https://www.nationalpopularvote.com
A growing alliance of states have committed to guaranteeing that the presidency is held by the candidate who receives the most votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
SB 22 and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact does not eliminate the Electoral College, set out in the Constitution for presidential elections.
It assigns a state’s electoral votes in proportion to the candidate’s statewide popular vote.
“Significantly, this proposal does not require an amendment to the federal Constitution, which would permit the Delaware legislature to leave the compact if there are unforeseen flaws in this proposal,” said Sen. Anthony Delcollo, R-Elsmere, a co-sponsor.
The bill’s sponsors say that system’s flaws are obvious. If states are considered safely blue or red, the winner of those electoral votes is often a foregone conclusion. As a result, candidates can begin to count wins and losses long before they hit the campaign trail, focusing instead on “battleground” swing states while ignoring “safe” states.
Ignoring the margin of victory in a state — the key to winning the national popular vote — also ignores large numbers of voters.
Donald Trump, for example, captured 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania in 2016 by winning the Keystone State by 44,300 votes, a margin of 0.7 percent more than Hillary Clinton.
States do not have to use a "winner-take-all" scheme. If Pennsylvania assigned its electoral votes in proportion to statewide totals, it would have divided its electoral votes approximately 50-50. In Maine, electoral votes are distributed to the winner in each of its Congressional districts. This is possible since the number of electoral votes is equal to the number of members of Congress from a state.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, received just three electoral votes by winning Delaware by a margin of 50,500 votes. (Third-party candidates accounted for about 5 percent of Delaware’s votes and slightly more than 4 percent of Pennsylvania’s.)
Increasingly, the system is producing what are called “wrong winner elections,” including two presidents in the last 16 years who won office despite losing the popular vote.
Another near-miss was in 2004 when Democrat John Kerry was a mere 60,000 votes in Ohio away from winning the presidency, despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would ensure a winning number of electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the national popular vote.
The compact does not take effect until its member states account for a majority of electoral votes. Eleven states and D.C. have signed on, including Delaware’s neighbors Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Colorado is expected to become the 12th state. So far the coalition accounts for 172 electors, 98 short of the 270 needed for the compact to go into effect. If Colorado and Delaware join, the total would rise to 184 electors.
“In every other election across the spectrum, from school board to state legislator to U.S. Senate, we elect candidates through a popular vote,” said Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, the prime sponsor in the House. “By passing the National Popular Vote, every Delaware voter’s vote will matter just as much as those of voters in the swing states that get all the attention from presidential campaigns.”
Co-sponsor Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, said the current winner-take-all system is “a cumbersome and often confusing process, especially when voters feel like their vote, red or blue, doesn’t matter.”
“I believe this compact fits the spirit of the original intent of our Founding Fathers who believed that all the people of all the states, not the select people of a select number of select states, should determine the outcome of our most sacred national elections,” said Spiegelman.