The Virginia House of Delegates has passed legislation that would enter the state into a national compact that seeks to have the president elected by the national popular vote, effectively ending the current electoral college process, which grants a state's delegates to whichever candidate wins the majority of the votes in the state.
The bill would pledge all of Virginia’s delegates to the winner of the national popular vote if enough states join the compact to decide the election. This compact would not go into effect until enough states joined the compact to total 270 electoral votes, which is the number needed to win a presidential election. Such a scenario likely would generate a lawsuit.
Compact legislation has been enacted in 15 states and the District of Columbia, amounting to 196 electoral votes. If the Virginia legislation, House Bill 177, were to become law, Virginia would pledge its 13 electoral votes to bring the number up to 209.
In 2016, President Donald Trump won the general election by securing 304 electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton’s 227, despite losing the popular vote 46.1 percent to 48.2 percent. In the 2000 presidential election, former President George W. Bush won the office by securing 271 electoral college votes to Al Gore’s 266, despite losing the popular vote 47.9 percent to 48.4 percent.
“We have a government that is illegitimate because it is not of the people, by the people and for the people,” bill sponsor Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, told The Center Square in a phone interview.
Levine said that not only did the American people reject Trump, but they also rejected the current U.S. Supreme Court, which has two Trump appointees. He said the current means of electing the president gives the states too much power and the people too little. Levine said he loves Virginia, but he is an American first and most Americans are more loyal to their country than to their state.
The U.S. Senate used to be elected by the state Legislatures, but the country moved in the direction of democratically elected senators, Levine said. He said the country should continue to move in the direction of democracy.
If the roles were reversed and a Democrat won the election, despite losing the popular vote, Levine said Republicans likely would support the legislation.
House Republicans criticized the legislation because it potentially could pledge Virginia’s delegates to a candidate Virginia voters did not vote for and it could significantly reduce the impact of smaller states.
“Virginia currently assigns its electors to reflect the opinions of voters in the Commonwealth, and this bill might as well have an amendment stating that our electors will be chosen by the State of California,” Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, said in a statement. “Virginians should choose who gets Virginia’s 13 electoral votes – not a handful of large states. The Electoral College was designed to preserve the voice of smaller states. Virginians should speak for Virginians.”
The legislation passed the House 51-46, which was mostly a party-line vote. It has been sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections.