Virginia mulls giving electoral votes to national popular vote winner in presidential races

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a race for the Oval Office, there’s a chance Virginia joins a compact of states opting to award all of their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

“It’s an interesting but odd situation where the voice of Virginians would not track where their electoral votes would go,” said University of Richmond school of Law professor Hank Chambers Jr.

Committees led by Democrats in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have considered bills to add the commonwealth to the compact. A measure in the Senate was killed in committee but the bill in the House is still under consideration.

So, how do Republican lawmakers feel? Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle (Hanover) said the measure would increase the power of larger states, now leaning toward Democrats.

“Our national system of government was set up so that there are difference in how we elect and choose our leaders,” McDougle told 8News. “One of the things that was in place was to try to ensure that certain large states like California and New York, now, don’t have all the control in making a decision for president.”

The compact would become effective if the total number of electoral votes from states who’ve signed-on reaches 270, the amount needed to win the presidency. So far, states that support the compact provide 196 electoral votes, 74 votes short of 270, according to a site tracking the status of the compact called

Even if 270 electoral votes are reached, Chambers questions the follow-through from states in the compact.

“What’s going to make that state give their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote, if that candidate is not the one who wins the popular vote in that state,” the constitutional law professor said. “You have to have an enforcement mechanism, and it’s not clear to me that it’s an enforcement mechanism that the Supreme Court would necessarily abide by.”

Chambers also said he wonders how the compact may change the way candidates campaign, especially in swing states.

“Winning the popular vote has never been the way we’ve determined who the president is. So, as a consequence, it would completely change how folks are going to campaign. If you don’t know how folks are going to campaign it’s not clear that past results are going to pre-stage the future results,” Chambers told 8News. “Virginia, certainly, because it’s a swing state, candidates show up in Virginia all the time. The question now becomes: Does Virginia have enough swing voters or enough folks who wouldn’t otherwise turn out, to make this an attractive place for candidates to come?”

HB177: National popular vote compact has died in both the House and Senate.



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