Gov. Dannel P. Malloy threw his support Monday behind a proposal to join other states in casting Connecticut’s Electoral College votes in favor of the presidential candidate who receives the most votes nationally.
The National Popular Vote Compact has become a perennial issue in the Connecticut legislature but has yet to be passed into law. Under the bill, the state would join nine others and the District of Columbia in an agreement that would become effective only if enough states joined so that 270 electoral votes, or enough votes to win the election, went to the winner of the popular vote.
Malloy announced his support for the concept in a press release Monday as the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee was hearing public testimony on this year’s National Popular Vote bill.
“I fully support a national popular vote for president. All Americans deserve to have their votes counted equally for the highest office in the country,” Malloy said. “… The candidate who wins the most votes should be President. An equal vote for every American citizen, regardless of in which state they happen to live, is the fairest and most democratic way to go.”
In addition to Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Senate President Donald Williams released a statement Monday supporting the bill.
“We should choose our president in the way we chose every other elected officeholder – by the popular vote,” he said. “The person that receives the most votes should be elected. Determining our national elections with the popular vote can ensure that the candidates for president are talking to all Americans rather than just the people in a small number of battleground states.”
The legislation has passed out of the Government Administration and Election Committee and in 2009 passed the House of Representatives, but was never raised by the Senate that year. At the time, Rep. Brendan Sharkey, who is now the House Speaker, voted for the proposal. More recently, Sharkey has been undecided on the bill but said last year he would allow it to be raised in the House if his caucus supports it.
Proponents contend the compact will motivate presidential candidates to pay political attention to a greater number of states. Rep. Ed Jutila, the Government Administration and Election Committee’s co-chairman, said both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican opponent during the 2012 presidential election, visited between eight and 10 states and ignored the rest.
However, opponents say small states like Connecticut benefit under the current Electoral College system. Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford, said the idea of electing the person who gets the most votes has a “kindergarten appeal,” but it ignores that the country has a republic style of government rather than a straight democracy.
“We’re a republic. We’re a nation of states, and particularly for a small state like Connecticut, shouldn’t we be that much more opposed to this idea?” he said.
Tara Ross, a Texas lawyer and the author of a book supporting the existing Electoral College system, agreed. She said without the current system, candidates would spend all their time appealing to big cities and population centers.
“I think the Electoral College… it sets up a certain set of incentives that force presidential candidates or political parties to reach out to a variety of people,” she said. “Versus just go to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and hang out there and gather up as many votes as you can.”
The issue has received attention in recent years after the 2000 presidential election, which saw the Bush-Cheney campaign win the White House with a 271-266 electoral vote advantage despite polling 540,520 fewer popular votes than Gore-Lieberman.
In written testimony, Alison Rivard, a vice president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, said results like the 2000 election cause voters to question the legitimacy of our elections system.
“With a shift to the NPV Compact, voters across the country, including Connecticut, would have a greater sense that their votes do indeed count in a meaningful way and would have an incentive to pay attention, vote and participate in the electoral process,” she wrote. “The league believes that it is more important than ever that we preserve the democratic ideal of making each vote count.”
In past years the bill has been raised and has passed out of the General Administration and Elections Committee. The last time it was raised by the House was in 2009.