A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Don’t shortcut the Constitution

Written February 6th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Tough to think of legislative issues when you can stare at the ocean instead.

The legislature is considering a bill that should make Oregon voters mad, or at least uneasy. Why? Because some day the bill might cause Oregon’s electoral votes for president to be cast for someone other than whoever got the most votes in this state.

Senate Bill 1512 would enact an “Agreement to Elect the President by Popular Vote.” Senate President Peter Courtney has said he’ll allow this to be considered only if the voters agree, so this measure would be sent to the voters if it clears the Oregon Senate and then the House.

If it eventually gets enacted, and if legislatures also enact it in states whose electoral votes total at least 270, the result would be this: Whoever gets the most votes for president in the popular count would also get the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

As it is now, Oregon’s seven electors are obligated to cast their votes for the candidate who gets the most votes in Oregon. Under the proposed system, if that candidate also comes out ahead nationwide, no problem.

But the first time a majority in Oregon votes for the nationwide loser, there would be an uproar. And rightly so. The candidate they preferred not only lost the election, but to add insult to injury, Oregon’s seven votes would be counted for the candidate the majority in this state did NOT want.

This interstate compact was originally dreamed up by people who didn’t like the fact that sometimes, most recently in 2016, the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide fails to reach the requisite electoral count of 270. But the way to fix that — if it needs fixing, and I don’t think it does – is to try to amend the Constitution in the prescribed way, not to sidestep it with a shortcut of this kind. (hh)

12 responses to “Don’t shortcut the Constitution”

  1. Tony White says:

    This proposal, which has been kicking around for a couple of years, began in the eastern progressive states. It is a dodge to bypass the electoral college and the Oregon voters should, indeed, be outraged that it is even being considered. As one of the less-populated states, it would remove the corrective influence of lesser population that the US Constitution provides. I certainly applaud Senator Courtney for requiring popular approval prior to consideration, even though I don’t believe it merits any kind of consideration at all. The eastern progressive elite are trying to foist this off on what they consider to be ignorant western rubes.

  2. ean says:

    I think it should be changed to the popular vote, but I agree that the fix should be done at the constitutional level. The Senate already allows for smaller states to get extra say in national politics and the way the House of Representatives is currently gerrymandered rural voters get extra say there also. Seems like the president should be one vote per person, there is no reason for the electoral college anymore.

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    While I personally gag at the net-result of the recent election, I absolutely/totally agree with the electoral college system and would not change it. The long term ramifications of a pure popular-vote outcome scares the hell out of me!

  4. Katherine says:

    Who are the members of the electoral college anyway?
    Do we even know their names?
    How long do they serve and how were they appointed?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The electors are named by their respective parties. In 2016, the electors who cast Oregon’s seven votes for Clinton were the chair and vice chair of the Oregon Democratic Party and the five congressional district chairs. The Republican electors had been named by state and district conventions, but of course they had no role in the electoral college process.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The National Popular Vote website says the Agreement has 165 electoral votes (61% of the 270 votes needed).

    Looking at their color-coded state map, however, I’d say the chances of reaching 270 by 2020 are minuscule.

    But let’s assume 270 is reached with Oregon included. I wonder how Oregonians would react if on Nov 3, 2020 Trump wins the popular vote over Bernie and gets Oregon’s 7 electoral votes.

    Wouldn’t that be an interesting story on multiple levels?

  6. tom cordier says:

    Gag at the 2016 election result ! One could only hope.So much for apolitical council persons

    • hj.anony1 says:

      tc, gag is a bit light! The putrid, vomit stench of 45 & the complicit “gop” is more appropriate. You know the stench of a skunk? Smell that and then magnify it by 1000 percent. It lingers.

    • centrist says:

      A challenge to any officeholder is separation between personal opinion and policy. They need not be the same. Some folks can have a deepseated personal opinion while supporting the greater good

  7. centrist says:

    Let’s take a breath and identify the problem that solution is aimed at fixing. Seems that folks are upset that the popular-vote winner didn’t win at the electoral level. Getting recently-registered voters to the polls helped move the popular outcome in large states, but didn’t outdo the cumulative small-state effect in the college. So, one strategy to game the system worked better than the other.
    The big-state/small-state balance is part of the design. I don’t see any reason to throw out the proverbial baby because of a bad strategy choice.


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