Connecticut may only have seven electoral votes in presidential elections, but state lawmakers are looking to ensure that all of them go to the winner of the popular vote.
Last week, a coalition of Democrats in the General Assembly began a push for legislation that would commit Connecticut to a multistate agreement that aims to ensure that electoral votes are awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote. The announcement comes more than a year after President Donald Trump secured the nation’s highest office despite losing the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 by more than a million votes.
“People are beginning to lose faith in the electoral process,” said State House Deputy Majority Leader James Albis, D-East Haven. “One person, one vote allows for everyone to know that their vote matters equally.”
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among states and the District of Columbia to award all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote count. In this legislative session, Democrats in Connecticut are hoping to introduce a bill that would enter the state into this pledge, which has not attracted a new signatory since New York joined in 2014.
At a Feb. 27 press conference, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said that under the current voting system, roughly ten swing states decide the outcome of the election and receive the “lion’s share” of attention from candidates. As a result, nonswing states like Connecticut, which typically votes for a Democratic candidate in presidential elections, receive less attention and fewer federal grant dollars, especially in election years.
“I think our residents, the people in this room, deserve to hear from the candidates and deserve for their vote to count at the ballot box,” Aresimowicz said.
A poll commissioned by Making Every Vote Count, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, found that out of 1,202 voters, 92 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of unaffiliated voters supported the compact, according to the Hartford Courant.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said that the state-by-state, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes was not specified in the Constitution, debated at the Constitutional Convention or discussed in the Federalist Papers. He also pointed to the discrepancy in voting power among highly and sparsely populated states.
“I reject the notion that citizens of America in the year 2018 cannot be trusted to directly elect their president,” Looney said at the press conference. “The direct election of the president by popular vote … is now critical to the essence of our democracy.”
Albis said that he has been advocating for the legislation since he was elected in 2011 and that the bill will have to pass both chambers of the General Assembly. To his knowledge, he said, the legislation has previously passed the House but never the Senate.
The compact will only come into effect if the combined number of electoral votes held by its signatories meets or exceeds 270, a majority in the Electoral College. Currently, 10 states — including New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — and the District of Columbia are signed onto the pact, meaning 61 percent of the necessary 270 electoral votes have already been secured.
Currently, all states besides Nebraska and Maine award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who won the plurality of votes statewide.
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