Eye on the Pioneer: Should the President be Elected by the Popular Vote?

The Oregon House passed the National Popular Vote Bill, Senate Bill 870, on June 4 and passed it the Senate in early April. The bill has been sent to Governor Kate Brown’s desk and she has said that she intends to sign it into law. The bill will sign Oregon to a compact which would ensure that all seven of Oregon’s electoral votes would go to the winner of the national popular vote. Although opinions on this bill are mixed, this bill would be extremely beneficial for Oregonians in creating an equal democracy.

Oregon is sorely neglected in the current presidential election system, due to its small number of electoral votes and tendency to lean Democratic when it comes to deciding the nation’s president. Because the national election is often decided by voters in swing states, the presidential candidates focus their campaigning efforts there. In the 2016 election, roughly 94 percent of campaigning happened in just 12 states and half of the states, including Oregon, were not visited at all during the General Election.

Despite some bipartisan support, SB 870 is still extremely controversial. The bill has been introduced in Oregon three prior times and has passed the House, however, it has never passed the Senate before. Senate President Peter Courtney is opposed to the bill and killed it before it could go to the floor for a vote. He believes that it needs to be passed by voters.

Opponents to SB 870 are worried that if America stops using the electoral college system, then people in less populous states will lose their say. However, in the current system not all votes are weighed equally. This gives disproportionate voting power to people in less populous states. For example, Wyoming has one electoral vote for every 195,000 people, while California has roughly 712,000 people for every elector.

“The Electoral College gives a disproportionate voice to voters in some states over others and it’s time for that to stop. In our modern society, we need to give the voters a direct say in who their leaders are. This bill moves us in that direction,” Senator Lew Frederick (D- North Portland) said in a press conference.

Senate Bill 870 will make it so that every vote counts equally. This would encourage more people to get out to vote. The current system discourages people of conservative values from voting in traditionally liberal states and vice versa. By counting all votes equally, people, no matter where they live, will be more likely to vote.

“One of things I’m most proud of is how over the history of this country we’ve expanded the franchise and given voters more of a direct say in the election of our leaders,” Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) said.

Opponents also argue that the bill itself is unconstitutional. However, the constitution gives the states the power to decide what method to use when selecting delegates for the electoral college. The only electoral college limitation in the constitution is that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.” Therefore, giving all of a state’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote is allowed by the constitution.

In recent years the electoral college has had drastic impacts on the American executive branch. Two of the past three presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, lost the popular vote, but have been elected by the electoral vote. This means that the majority of voters did not support the person who took office.

The electoral college system is old-fashioned and gives a disproportionate amount of power to less populous and swing states. By passing SB 870, Oregon will be taking great strides to improving the method of electing the nation’s president and making sure that all votes are counted equally.  

Teacher/Adviser South Salem High School

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