On Wednesday, the Oregon House of Representatives passed SB 870, a bill that would have the state join the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact, with a vote of 37 to 22 in favor. The Oregon Senate voted on the measure in April, also passing the legislation after securing a vote of 17 to 12 in favor.
SB 870 only needs the signature of Governor Kate Brown to officially become law, and that signature is likely. According to a report by the Daily Wire, the governor’s deputy press secretary Nikki Fisher stated, “The Governor has always believed that every vote matters and supported National Popular Vote since 2009 as Secretary of State.”
The NPV compact is a collection of states that are aiming to functionally shift from the electoral college election model to one based on national popular vote counts. NPV aims to “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” according to the NPV’s official website.
Today, a presidential candidate needs to secure 270 of the available 538 electoral votes to win the presidency. Each state has a set number of electoral votes; the amount varies depending on the size of the state’s membership in the US Senate and House of Representatives, which is partially determined by the state’s population.
In 48 states as well as the District of Columbia, the candidate who receives the most votes during the election receives all of that state’s electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, they forgo the winner-take-all approach and distribute electoral votes among candidates, factoring in their state’s popular vote numbers.
Fourteen other states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – and the District of Columbia have all already passed NPV legislation to join. Cumulatively, these states represent 189 of the 538 available electoral votes.
If SB 870 is signed, Oregon officially becomes part of the compact, increasing the cumulative NPV electoral vote count to 196.
For NPV to effectively make what determines the presidency to be the popular vote instead of the electoral college, the electoral voting power of the member states combined must reach 270.
Not all states that have considered joining actually ended up passing the legislation. For instance, in Nevada, the NPV legislation was vetoed by Governor Steve Sisolak.
Additionally, some argue that the electoral college approach is both valid and necessary, citing points like the potential challenges surrounding a national-level recount and that the existing system ensures “states with diverse preferences could cohere under a single federal government,” according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.