Representatives Move Closer to One Person, One Vote

Passed May 24, Oregon House Bill 2927 renders the state’s Electoral College votes for presidential candidacy to popular vote. If made law, Oregon and its seven electoral votes would join the 165 electoral votes of 10 other states and Washington, D. C. who have passed similar laws. The compact would take effect once the total electoral votes of the agreeing states reaches the majority of 270.

In two of the last five presidential elections (2000 and 2016), the winner of the popular vote lost the Electoral College and thus the election. And, according to the non-profit National Popular Vote, during the 2016 general election 94% of the campaign events (375 out of 399) were in 12 states. West of the Mississippi there were only 80 such events. Of those, 67 were in just four swing states. None of those were in Oregon.

After HB 2927 passed the House, the Oregon House Democrats’ press release highlighted this overemphasis on swing states and how the Electoral College distorts voter representation. They explained, “Oregon has one electoral vote per 571,000 residents while Wyoming receives one electoral vote per 195,000 residents.”

Corvallis’ Representative Dan Rayfield, who co-sponsored the bill, added, “The electoral college has proven itself to be outdated and fundamentally unfair. It makes no sense that a vote for president in Wyoming is worth nearly three times as much as a vote in Oregon.” When contacted about the bill, Rayfield’s office responded, “This bill is about standing up for the basic principle of one person, one vote. Every Oregonian should know that their vote counts—especially for the highest office in the country. HB 2927 will move us closer to realizing that shared value.”

There is still the question of whether any of this is constitutional. It’s not a question with a clear answer. According to OSU political science instructor Dan Andersen, “Several states have laws that ‘bind’ electors to the popular vote outcome.” To support their case, National Popular Vote points to Article 2 of the Constitution as saying that state legislatures can decide how their electoral votes will be used. Andersen, however, noted that not all agree that states have this power as “a few times in history individual electors have ignored their state’s vote totals and ‘gone rogue’” as happened with several electoral voters this past election. So, according to Andersen, “this law, just like those that bind electors to a state’s popular vote, might well be unconstitutional. Might not.” It depends on the interpretation.

The bill still needs to move through the Senate. State Senator Sara Gelser, who represents the greater Linn-Benton area, has sponsored the Senate version of SB 825, which was introduced back in February but seems to have stalled. This year’s legislative sessions ends on July 9.

By Andy Hahn