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VA Popular Vote Election Bills Fail, Leaving Electoral College Unchanged - Why It Matters

The obverse of the state seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Two bills seeking to guarantee the Commonwealth of Virginia's electoral votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in a national election have failed to advance in the state's General Assembly.

The Washington Times reports Senate Bill 399 introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would've joined Virginia into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and awarded its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Ebbin withdrew the bill from consideration Tuesday without identifying the reason.

Another measure in the Virginia House of Delegates, House Bill 177, introduced by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria was defeated last Friday in committee by a 10-12 vote. Three Democrats joined Republicans to vote no.

Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, told WRIC-TV his reason for opposing the bill. "One of the things that was in place was to try to ensure that certain large states like California and New York, now, don't have all the control in making a decision for president." 

Levine has tried to pass similar legislation the past three consecutive sessions, The Times reported. 

"The Electoral College is an outdated institution that creates an undemocratic system for deciding who holds the most important office in the land," Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Fairfax, a co-patron of HB 177 told the newspaper. 

But supporters of the Electoral College say America's Founding Fathers had a really good reason for creating it.

How the Electoral College Works

Under the Electoral College established by the US Constitution, there are a total of 538 electors. Each state has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators. 

A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President.

There's been an effort nationwide, led mainly by members of the Democrat Party, to bypass or abolish the original intent of the Electoral College. The effort has escalated since the 2016 election in which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote while Donald Trump won in enough states to win the Electoral College and the presidency.

The current system requires a presidential candidate to win the states, not just individual voters. That ensures less-populated states still have a voice.

So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed NPVIC legislation.

Colorado was one of those states that passed the measure. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Colorado Republican state senator, told The Times he opposed the bill because he believed the change would weaken the electoral power of sparsely populated rural states like Wyoming and Utah while strengthening states like California and New York.

In his view, the Electoral College was created so that "people in rural areas did not get overrun by the masses."

In 2019, a Gallup poll found more Americans prefer naming winners of national elections based on a popular vote. "They favor an amendment to the Constitution to make that happen, but are more reluctant to have states make changes to how they award their electoral votes," Gallup said in a summary of its finding.

A constitutional amendment, however, is required to switch from the Electoral College to a popular vote with two-thirds of the states being needed to vote to approve such a change. 

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