A Virginia House committee passed Friday a National Popular Vote bill, bringing the measure back from the dead as the state legislature’s newly elected Democratic majority sought to join the compact that would render the Electoral College moot.
The Virginia House Committee on Privileges and Elections approved H.B. 177 on a 12-9 party-line vote, sending the bill to the full House on a measure that would require the state’s electors to support the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, no matter the outcome of the state vote.
Last week, the panel defeated the measure on a 10-11 vote, but two Democratic delegates switched their votes Friday after the committee brought the bill back on a motion to reconsider, said Eileen Reavey, National Popular Vote grassroots director.
Under House of Delegates rules, a floor vote on HB 177 must be taken by midnight Tuesday.
“We are grateful to our sponsors in the Virginia General Assembly, and to citizens across the state who are making it clear that they prefer a national popular vote for president,” said National Popular Vote chairman John Koza. “Regardless of party, the people of Virginia prefer a system where every voter, in every state, is politically relevant in every presidential election. National Popular Vote delivers on that promise.”
If passed by the Senate and signed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the measure would add Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to the compact, bringing the total to 209, just 64 votes shy of the 270 needed for the multistate agreement to take effect.
Democrats seized control of both chambers of the state legislature in November for the first time in 25 years, allowing the party to move forward aggressively during this year’s session on issues ranging from tightening firearms access to lifting abortion restrictions.
The National Popular Vote is billed as a non-partisan effort, but so far only blue states and the District of Columbia have joined the compact, which has gained momentum as frustrated Democrats seek to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Republican Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Last year, four Democrat-controlled states — Colorado, Delaware, New Mexico and Oregon — entered into the agreement.
“We are determined to achieve 270 or more electoral votes,” Mr. Koza said. “We will be dogged in our approach to attract Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who believe there is a better way to elect the President of the United States.”
Republicans argue that the proposal would weaken constitutional protections and effectively place large urban areas in charge of electing the president, reducing the influence of less populous states and rural communities.
In May, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, vetoed a National Popular Vote bill, saying it could “diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”