The Delaware Senate passed legislation March 7 that adds Delaware to a growing alliance of states committed to guaranteeing the winner of the U.S. presidency is the candidate who receives a majority of votes from across all states and the District of Columbia.
Thursday’s 14-7 bipartisan vote marked the first time the Senate approved a bill to include the First State in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Senate Bill 22 will head to the Delaware House of Representatives, which passed similar measures in 2009 and 2011.
“I am thrilled my colleagues see the value in ensuring all voices — whether Democrat or Republican, from small states or large — deserve to be heard when it comes to electing the President of the United States of America,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate.
Under the current “winner-take-all” system used by most states to allocate their electoral votes, the state-by-state winner of the presidential contest is often a foregone conclusion because most states are either safely blue or red.
As a result, candidates typically focus exclusively on five or six “battleground” swing states while ignoring the “safe” states that make up the vast majority of the country and the electorate.
A state that awards all of its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in that one state also ignores the margin of victory — a key factor in the national popular vote — leaving significant swaths of voters essentially voiceless.
President Donald Trump, for instance, captured 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania in 2016 by winning the Keystone State by 44,300 votes. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, took three electoral votes by winning Delaware by a margin of 50,500 votes. Neither the size of those margins nor the thousands of voters who cast their ballots for other candidates in each state ended up counting under the current system.
The status quo also is increasingly producing “wrong winner elections,” including two presidents in the last 16 years who won office despite losing the popular vote. That includes a near-miss 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 change the current “winner-take-all” system used by most states system to instead ensure a winning number of electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the national popular vote.
Contrary to a common misperception, Senate Bill 22 does not seek to eliminate the Electoral College, the process set out in the U.S. Constitution for electing the president. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would keep the Electoral College system intact but alter individual state laws that determine how electoral votes are awarded — rules entrusted to the state by the founders of the nation.
Eleven states have signed on, including Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Colorado — where the bill is a signature away from passage — is expected to soon become the 12th state.
The compact would not take effect, however, until its member states account for a majority of the nation’s 538 electoral votes. With Colorado’s nine electoral votes included, the coalition currently accounts for 181 electors, 89 short of the 270 needed for the compact to go into effect.