- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The state Senate likely will approve a bill that would sidestep the Electoral College and promote the national popular vote in presidential contests.

After two days of debate that at times resembled a grade-school civics course, senators decided yesterday to call a final vote on a plan to award Maryland’s 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, not the state’s popular vote.

Senators could vote as early as today.

The idea is being considered across the country as a way to pull the teeth out of the Electoral College and avoid a scenario in which a candidate wins the most votes nationwide but loses the election, as Democrat Al Gore did in 2000.

“Why shouldn’t we have a direct popular vote where every vote counts equally?” asked Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and law professor who sponsored the bill.

Supporters also say the Electoral College should be scrapped because it leads to presidential candidates spending much of their campaigning in a few battleground states. Candidates often ignore states where presidential contests aren’t considered close, no matter how many electoral votes they wield.

California lawmakers adopted such a measure last year, though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed it.

The idea is still alive in other states. The Arkansas legislature voted last week to award that state’s six electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

“It’s been festering all over the place,” said Delegate Sheila E. Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored a House version of the bill. She said her version will move toward adoption in coming days in the House, too.

Like the Arkansas plan, Maryland’s would take effect only after enough states representing a majority of the country’s 538 electoral votes adopt it. That provision makes it unlikely the popular-vote plan would be in effect for next year’s presidential election.

The plan has critics, even in the Democratic Party.

Sen. Michael G. Lenett, Montgomery County Democrat, said sidestepping the Electoral College would hurt rural, less populous states because candidates would spend most of their time in big cities, where the most people live.

“The effort to eliminate the Electoral College has been tried hundreds of times,” he said, “and it’s failed every time.”

Colorado’s House rejected a similar plan earlier this month. Some Republicans in the Maryland Senate raised concerns similar to those raised in Colorado: that a close election could lead to an expansive and pricey recount.

“You could have 20-plus states do a recount,” said Sen. Allen H. Kittleman, Howard County Republican.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has not taken a position on the idea, spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

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