Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has vetoed a bill that would have added Nevada to an agreement between a growing number of states to award their Electoral College votes to whoever wins the national popular vote for president.
“Over the past several weeks, my office has heard from thousands of Nevadans across the state urging me to weigh the state’s role in our national elections. After thoughtful deliberation, I have decided to veto Assembly Bill 186,” wrote Sisolak in a statement.
The bill, Assembly Bill 186, titled “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” would not abolish the Electoral College but would have effectively 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.
The legislation was the fourth most commented on bill on the Nevada Legislature website’s comment page, with 2985 total opinions, 481 in favor and 2504 against.
Sisolak wrote in a statement about his decision to veto the bill, “Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”
The bill exposed a stark divide in electoral political partisanship throughout its time in the Legislature. In the Assembly, the bill passed largely along party lines by a vote of 23-17 with no Republicans voting in favor. In the Senate, the bill passed on a 12-8 vote, similarly with every Republican voting against the bill. Those margins all but rule out any chance that the Legislature would override Sisolak’s veto.
During the bill’s initial hearing in the Assembly, Republicans took a strong stance against the National Popular Vote Compact.
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 the hearing.
Opposition to the bill largely 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.
Supporters, including the League of Women Voters, Battle Born Progress, and ACLU of Nevada, called the electoral college “antiquated” and argued that the current system 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 by The Washington Post 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.
“I recognize that many of my fellow Nevadans may disagree on this point and I appreciate the legislature’s thoughtful consideration of this important issue. As Nevada’s governor, I am obligated to make such decisions according to my own conscience. In cases like this, where Nevada’s interests could diverge from the interests of large states, I will always stand up for Nevada.”
One of those Nevadans who disagreed is Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress.
“We are disappointed that Governor Sisolak chose this bill, of all bills this session, to be his first veto,” Magnus said. “AB186 was a chance for Nevada to move towards the principle of every individual person’s vote for President mattering in national elections. This compact agreement would have eliminated the perception that one’s vote doesn’t really count because one lives in a ‘red’ state or ‘blue’ state, which serves as a source of disenfranchisement for many voters.”