California would step up efforts to bring about a system of electing U.S. presidents by popular vote instead of the electoral college under new legislation as well as a proposed November 2018 ballot measure.
The proposals follow Dec. 19 electoral college meetings that certified the Nov. 8 victory of Republican Donald Trump, who received more than 2.8 million fewer votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton. It is the second time in 16 years that the candidate who won the popular vote nevertheless lost the presidency – Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore in 2000 despite losing the popular vote by about 540,000 votes.
California, where Clinton defeated Trump by almost 4.3 million votes, is among 10 states and the District of Columbia that have signed on to an interstate compact committing them to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national vote. Participating states currently represent 165 electoral votes, 105 short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Under Senate Joint Resolution 3, the California Legislature would reach out to lawmakers and governors in states that have not signed on to the compact, including some carried by Gore, Clinton, or both. The list includes Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Minnesota , Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
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The lead author of SJR 3 is state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who carried the 2011 bill adding California to the interstate agreement.
Yet it’s unclear how many takers, if any, California would find. Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In addition, the compact has received a cool reception from Republicans, who control most governor’s offices as well as two-thirds of legislative chambers after last month’s election.
Only two Republicans voted for AB 459, the 2011 law that commits California to an interstate compact to award electoral votes to the presidential slate that wins the most votes nationwide.
Separate from the Senate resolution, a San Francisco Bay Area lawyer has put forward a proposed ballot measure that calls on California officials to “use all of their federal and constitutional and legal authority” to move the country closer to electing the president by popular vote. The measure does not specify the means, though.
Rodrigo J. Howard, who criticizes the electoral college system as “rigged,” said the issue shouldn’t be partisan.
“We can’t keep electing presidents through an electoral college that does not reflect the popular vote,” Howard said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s sustainable.”