HARTFORD, CT—A bill allowing Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote Compact passed the House Thursday by a vote of 77-73.
The House vote came after four hours of debate on the issue.
The bill now goes to the Senate where it’s fate is uncertain since that chamber has never debated the issue.
Under the bill, the compact would take effect only when enough states sign on to guarantee that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency. This means that states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes — a majority of the Electoral College — must join the compact for it to take effect. Currently, a total of 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes have agreed to join the compact. At least 270 electoral votes are necessary to activate it.
Rep. Dan Fox, D-Stamford, co-chair of the Government, Administration and Elections Committee, said the compact “would bring excitement back” to the presidential election in Connecticut.
“Every vote in every state would matter regardless of size of the state,” Fox said, stating Connecticut is forgotten about by presidential candidates now because it is so small.
Connecticut has only 7 electoral votes.
Fox noted that four times in the 45 presidential elections the winner of the popular vote didn’t win the election, including the last presidential election.
In the last presidential election, Republican President Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 2.9 million votes to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. But he won the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the White House.
Clinton won Connecticut’s 7 electoral votes, as she won 54.57 percent of Connecticut’s vote to Trump’s 40.93 percent. Minor party candidates picked up the remaining votes.
Meanwhile, Trump was on “Fox & Friends” Thursday and said he supports a popular vote.
“The Electoral College is different. I would rather have the popular vote because it’s, to me, it’s much easier to win the popular vote,” Trump said.
Democrats and one Republican in the Connecticut House agreed.
Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, said one reason he supported the bill is he felt it was the best safeguard against foreign influence in future presidential elections.
Slap said considering the allegations concerning Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, he believes, a national vote “would be the fairest way” to prevent foreign influence that could be targeted “in a very small area” under the current presidential election system.
Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, argued vehemently – and voted no – against the compact.
“This is an end run around the Constitution,” Perillo said. He said those who support electing the president by national popular vote should propose amending the Constitution.
“We are not supposed to take the Constitution of the United States lightly,” Perrillo said.
Proponents have stated that Connecticut, because it is a small state, gets slighted when it comes to federal grant monies because politically the state doesn’t carry much weight.
Also, proponents point to a recent statewide poll that shows Connecticut voters support joining the compact.
The poll, commissioned by Making Every Vote Count (MEVC), showed that three-quarters of Connecticut voters believe the president should be the person who wins the most votes – nationally.
The poll of 1,202 Connecticut voters, showed that 92 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of independents want Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote compact.
“For far too long, a handful of ‘purple’ states have decided who wins the Presidency,” MEVC Foundation Board Member James Glassman said Thursday. “The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact puts an end to that inequitable system and returns the power of the Presidential election to the hands of the American people, where it truly belongs.”
The National Popular Vote bill has now passed a total of 35 state legislative chambers in 23 states, according to the National Popular Vote website.
The National Popular Vote bill will take effect when enacted into law by states possessing 270 electoral votes (a majority of the 538 electoral votes).
The compact has been enacted by a total of 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes.
Well over 100 people submitted comments during the public hearing, including Barry Fadem, president of the National Popular Vote, Inc., who stated that two-thirds (273 of 399) of the general-election campaign events in the 2016 presidential race were in just six states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan).
On the other side, Francisco Rodriquez, of Protect Your Vote USA, submitted testimony, stating: “If the electoral votes of Connecticut are determined by what voters nationwide and in particular large urban centers desire, then candidates will no longer bother to address the needs of Connecticut’s voters.”
Previous efforts to get Connecticut to join the compact have failed, including last year where the Connecticut House debated the controversial bill but pulled it from consideration before taking a vote.
Before the House voted on Thursday, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he’s had a change of heart about the national popular vote compact over the years.
“I’ve come a long way (on the issue),” Aresimowicz said. “I refused to run this last year. We should do it – it’s a basic premise of our democracy.”
Last year, Aresimowicz agreed to allow the issue to be debated for about 90 minutes, but then tabled the bill. He said he wanted to avoid the appearance of being motivated by politics.
Republican lawmakers have argued in the past joining the compact would give Connecticut less of a voice over the electoral process, stating because Connecticut is a small state it would be ignored during presidential campaigns.
The Connecticut House approved legislation to join the National Popular Vote compact in 2009, but that year the Senate failed to take up the bill.
In 2014, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his support for the legislation, but it wasn’t raised for a vote in either chamber that year.