President-elect Donald Trump’s upset win over Hillary Clinton has renewed talk across the country, including Connecticut, of going to a winner-take-all national popular vote election.
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide (i.e. all 50 states and the District of Columbia).
It would do so by mandating that each state Electoral College vote go to the candidate who polled the most votes nationwide, not who won the most in any individual state.
The National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes. It needs a total of 270 electoral votes, or 105 more to be enacted into law.
Latest counts have Trump winning 306 electoral votes, 36 more than the 270 needed to be elected president, as opposed to 232 for Clinton.
According to the latest tabulations which were still ongoing this weekend, Clinton is ahead of Trump in the popular vote by more than 1.5 million votes — garnering about 63.4 million to Trump’s 61.8 million.
Lawmakers in the Connecticut House of Representatives approved legislation to have Connecticut become a National Popular Vote bill state in 2009, but the Senate did not act on it that year.
Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said he’s planning to attempt to resurrect the legislation in the 2017 General Assembly session.
“The election certainly gives this issue additional momentum,” said Lesser, who added he sees the initiative as one that should draw bipartisanship support “and,” he added, “it doesn’t cost anything.”
Lesser said going to a national election system may even give Connecticut a little extra attention as a small state that doesn’t draw a lot of interest in the current electoral college system.
“Look at all the attention we got during the primary season,” Lesser said. “We had visits from Hillary, from Trump, from Bernie. We had TV advertising. We mattered.”
A fellow Democrat who plans to sponsor legislation on the initiative himself is Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven.
Albis has been an advocate for National Popular Vote bill legislation in previous years. He said there’s a financial reason that it makes sense for the state of Connecticut to get behind the move.
“I’ve always thought this was the right way to go,” Albis said. “My own research on this shows that bigger, swing states get more federal grant dollars than smaller states like Connecticut. This would give us an equal voice.”
In 2014, proponents were encouraged by the public support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who got on board with the initiative.
“All Americans deserve to have their votes counted equally for the highest office in the country,” Malloy said in 2014. “. . . The candidate who wins the most votes should be president.”
But the bill died, despite Malloy’s support, in 2014.
When asked about attempts to renew initiative, Kelly Donnelly, Malloy’s spokesperson, responded: “Governor Malloy has been personally supportive of this issue in the past and his position has not changed.
“With that said, it is a legislative matter and any decision to revisit the topic in a future session would be at the discretion of the legislature,” Donnelly said.
If there is an attempt to resurrect legislation in the House of Representatives this year, it will have a staunch opponent in incoming Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, who said simply: “I will not let that bill come to the floor this year.’’
Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said the presidential election results “certainly did raise this issue to the top of the priority list again.”
“We need to fix this broken system,” Quickmire said. “It should be winner take all. That is what a true, strong democracy is all about.”
Common Cause describes itself as a “nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.”
Those who haven’t supported the National Popular Vote initiative have expressed concern over scenarios such as the possibility of a huge disparity between Connecticut’s results and the national vote, putting tremendous pressure on state electors to break the compact.
The current system started before the Civil War. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but received less than half of the electoral votes. He lost that year to John Quincy Adams.
A few decades later, in 1876, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election by one electoral vote to Rutherford B. Hayes. It happened two more times, in 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes.
In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.
Clinton winning the popular vote, but losing the presidency, is the fifth time it has happened in the history of the country.
Christine Stuart contributed to this story.