The Oregon House has voted to join a national movement to elect the president via the popular vote, not the Electoral College.
The National Popular Vote compact is an agreement between states to award their Electoral College votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote.
That means in some cases Oregon’s seven electors could go to someone who didn’t win the most votes in Oregon. But if the agreement had been in place in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have been elected president. President Trump’s victory in November has breathed new life into the movement in some states.
The compact doesn’t take effect until enough states agree to join that it would equal a majority of the Electoral College votes.
According to the organization behind the effort, so far 11 states, representing 165 electoral votes, have joined the compact. That list includes Washington and California. Oregon’s seven electoral votes wouldn’t add much to the overall total, which would need to reach 270 electoral votes in order to take effect.
The Oregon House approved the measure on a party-line vote.
Supporters, including Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, think it would make the state more relevant in presidential elections.
“Republican presidential candidates write Oregon off, and Democratic candidates take Oregon for granted. So we are relegated to being a spectator state,” she said.
Oregon has voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1984.
Republicans, including Rep. Bill Post of Keizer, countered that the interstate agreement would take an important decision out of the hands of Oregon voters.
“If we really want to be relevant in the presidential races here in Oregon, move up the Oregon primary. That’s what we need to do first,” said Post.
Oregon’s May primary comes late in the nominating cycle, but close delegate races in 2008 and 2016 led to multiple visits from leading candidates those years, including from Trump. Major party candidate visits during the general election cycle are rare, however.
This is the fourth time the Oregon House has voted to join the National Popular Vote Compact in less than a decade. Each time, Senate President Peter Courtney has stopped the measure from advancing in his chamber.
This year, Courtney said he’s willing to consider the measure, but only if it’s ultimately approved by Oregon voters.
“Giving away Oregonians’ electoral proxy to voters in other states is a decision that should be made by Oregon voters,” he said. “If you believe in the popular vote, then let the popular vote decide the issue.”
The version of the bill approved by the Oregon House on Wednesday would not send the question of whether to join the National Popular Vote compact to voters, but the measure could be amended on the Senate side and sent back to the House for approval.