Virginia House approves bill to join National Popular Vote, bypass Electoral College

The Virginia House of Delegates passed Tuesday a bill to award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote as the newly elected Democratic majority sought to join the pact to leapfrog the Electoral College.

The state House voted 51-46 to enter into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, sending H.B. 177 to the state Senate despite opposition from Republicans who argued that the measure would upend the intent of the Framers.

The Electoral College is “part of a quaint thing that we used to call in civics class checks and balances,” said Del. R. Lee Ware, a Republican, on the House floor. “I hope you’ll stick with the checks and balances and not go along with H.B. 177.”

Democratic Del. Mark Levine, one of the bill’s two sponsors along with Del. Marcia “Cia” Price, argued that the Electoral College was a throwback that “began at a time when the founders actually didn’t think that there would be political parties.”

“They thought that a bunch of white men with property would get in a room in the back and they would decide who the president was,” Mr. Levine said during Monday’s floor debate. “It even had the infamous 3/5 clause, which meant that the more people were enslaved, the more slave owners had representation.”

If the bill is signed into law by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia would join 15 states and the District of Columbia in the agreement to have their electors cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who gains the most popular votes nationwide, instead of the statewide winner.

The compact would take effect after securing states with a combined 270 electoral votes, the number needed to elect the president. Virginia’s 13 electoral votes would bring the total to 209.

“We are determined to achieve 270 or more electoral votes,” said National Popular Vote chairman John Koza. “We will be dogged in our approach to attract Republicans, Democrats and independents who believe there is a better way to elect the President of the United States.”

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