A stark divide in electoral political partisanship was on display Tuesday at an Assembly committee hearing on a bill to guarantee the state’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.
Assembly Bill 186, titled “National Popular Vote,” proposes Nevada join an interstate compact with other states that have passed the measure. The legislation would only take effect after states with a majority of the Electoral College have passed similar legislation.
The bill would not abolish the Electoral College but would bypass the Twelfth Amendment which requires the election of the president and vice president be made via the Electoral College. The Constitution allows states to award their Electoral College votes in a manner of their choosing.
So far, 11 states and the District of Columbia have joined the compact, putting the total at 172 electoral votes. Last week, the Colorado Legislature passed the compact in both houses and it is expected to be signed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, which would bring the electoral vote total of compact states to 181. Nevada, with its six electoral votes, would bring the tally to 187.
It takes 270 to win the presidential office.
“I want to be clear that this bill is not about partisanship, but a need for our voters current and future to feel and know that their vote matters in arguably the most important vote they will cast every four years,” said Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, D-North Las Vegas, who is sponsoring the bill.
All 11 lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill are Democrats. Supporters of the bill were prominently progressive groups like the League of Women Voters, Battle Born Progress, ACLU of Nevada. The measure was opposed by the Nevada Republican Party and affiliated groups.
Nevada Republican Party Vice-Chair Jim DeGraffenreid argued the compact favors heavily-populated states to the detriment of smaller states like Nevada, calling the compact a “constitutional trick to neuter the Electoral College” that would “reduce Nevada’s importance” possibly making the state “irrelevant.”
“To suggest that a state should disregard its own voters and instead follow the will of voters in some other state is the exact opposite of what the Framers intended,” DeGraffenreid said.
During public comments, which lasted nearly two hours, much of the opposition similarly centered around whether it was constitutional for states to fundamentally alter the purpose of the electoral college, with many arguing that the bill is not constitutional for a number of reasons, including the belief that Nevada voters would be disenfranchised by the compact.
Many supporters of the bill called the electoral college “antiquated” and focused on “one-person-one-vote” arguments that objected to the current system because it undemocratically gives some votes more power than others due to the way electoral votes are assigned to the states.
Analysis shortly after the 2016 presidential election found that a vote from Wyoming weighs 3.6 times more than an individual Californian’s vote, and the relative power of voters in small states is expected to become even more pronounced as the county’s population continues to concentrate in cities and away from rural states.
The movement for a national popular vote began after George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000, and has gained traction since Donald Trump won the presidency after losing the popular vote to Hilary Clinton by nearly three million votes in 2016.
A similar bill was introduced in Nevada in 2017; it only had one meeting and never made it past committee.