- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed dozens of bills yesterday, including one that makes Maryland the first state to approve giving its electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote, instead of the candidate chosen by state voters.

The bill signing is the first for Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, and follows the close Monday night of the 2007 General Assembly session.

Mr. O’Malley also signed a bill to create StateStat — a government accountability and review initiative. Another measure he signed establishes a sub-Cabinet to address development plans associated with tens of thousands of jobs coming to Maryland because of military base realignment.

The governor was joined at the bill-signing ceremony by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, a law professor who sponsored the electoral votes idea, said Maryland is largely ignored by presidential candidates during campaigns because they assume the Democrat-leaning state will vote for the Democratic candidate.

The measure would award Maryland’s 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The plan would take effect only if states representing a majority of the country’s 538 electoral votes make the same change.

Mr. Raskin, Montgomery County Democrat, hoped Maryland’s support for the idea will start a national discussion and “kick off an insurrection among spectator states — those that are completely bypassed and sidelined” during presidential campaigns.

“Going by the national popular vote will reawaken politics in every part of the country,” he said.

Other states are considering the change to avoid an election in which a candidate wins the national popular vote but loses in the Electoral College, as in 2000 when Al Gore, a Democrat, lost to George W. Bush, a Republican.

Hawaii’s Legislature has passed a similar measure and sent it to Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican. California lawmakers adopted the measure last year, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed it.

National Popular Vote, a group that supports the change, said there are legislative sponsors for the idea in 47 states. Ryan O’Donnell, a spokesman for the group, described Mr. O’Malley’s signature on the legislation as “an open invitation” for other states to join Maryland.

North Dakota and Montana rejected the idea earlier this year. Opponents say the change would hurt small rural states, where the percentage of the national vote would be even smaller than the three electoral votes they each have in the overall Electoral College.

Under the Electoral College system, voters decide slates of “electors,” who meet to choose the president. A candidate needs a majority of 270 out of 538 to be elected.

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