Democratic Leaders Block National Popular Vote in Oregon

Legislation that would add Oregon to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is having a little trouble in the state Senate. Willamette Week reports that the Democratic Majority Leader and the Democratic Senate President refuse to hold an up-or-down vote on the current bill.

But it’s the reason behind it that is interesting.

ALSO READ: National Popular Vote Compact Makes Huge Inroads in Another State

First, a little background.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an agreement between states to give all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. So, if a traditionally Republican-controlled state joins the compact and the winner of the national popular vote is a Democrat, the state agrees to give all of their electoral votes to the Democratic candidate — and vice versa.

However, the compact can only go into effect once there are enough states to hit the coveted 270 electoral majority. The current electoral count for the NPVIC is 168. Oregon would bring the number up to 175.

National popular vote legislation popped up in a number of states following the 2016 election, after Donald Trump won an electoral majority, but lost the national popular vote. Many Democrats cried foul and declared that the Electoral College system had to go. Yet NPVIC has had zero success so far in 2017 — though legislation is still pending in a number of states.

So why are Senate Democrats holding up the bill in Oregon? Especially after it passed the State House in May?

Well, Majority Leader Ginny Burdick and Senate President Peter Courtney will not support the bill unless it refers the matter to state voters in a future election.

The current electoral count for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is 168. Oregon would bring the number up to 175.

Burdick said a few weeks ago that she would help find a path for the current legislation, but has now taken a hardline stance against its passage in present form. Courtney has blocked NPVIC bills 3 times in the past 10 years (2009, 2013, and 2015), even though the bills passed the State House.

Some have speculated that Burdick and Courtney want it to go to the ballot because they know it will fail.

“I believe that those wanting to refer the bill to the ballot are looking for a decoy to kill the bill,” says Kate Titus of Common Cause Oregon. “They know that democracy and public interest groups have no money to run a ballot campaign. This is simply a way to try to avoid passing the bill.”

At this point it seems likely that the national popular vote bill will end up dying without even a committee vote in the State Senate. The legislative sessions ends on July 10.