Lawmakers Debate Electing U.S. President by Popular Vote

Feb 11, 2016

Some Arizona lawmakers want the state to change how their electoral delegates vote for the president. If they’re successful, Arizona would be the first Republican-leaning state to back electing presidents through a country-wide popular vote. Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports.

An Electoral College map from the 2012 election.
Credit Slate

The National Popular Vote Compact is a coalition of 10 states and the District of Columbia. They include California, New York and Illinois – states that traditionally back Democrats and went blue in the last election.

The goal of the pact is to accumulate 270 votes – enough to elect a president – among the members during an election. Officials in those states would then order their electoral delegates to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

Northern Arizona University political science professor Fred Solop says the potential of Arizona joining the pact could represent a big achievement for the popular vote movement.

“Arizona is unique as a red state to consider this. It’s one of the first red states to give serious thought to this. And it represents a change, it’s a broadening of this movement. So it gives it a little more momentum for the future,” said Solop.

Solop says the popular vote could increase voter turnout nationwide. Advocates for the Electoral College say it guarantees all states have a say in the election instead of candidates focusing on only high population areas.

A bill to join the National Popular Vote Coalition passed the Arizona house, and it’s now being reviewed by the Senate. If the legislature approves the measure, the Compact would have 176 electoral votes among its members.