Rouson files bill to eliminate Electoral College
In the wake of Donald Trump’s winning the presidency while losing the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million, State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is filing legislation to include Florida in a national movement to elect the president by popular vote.
The goal of the movement, known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact, is to eliminate the Electoral College’s decisive role in presidential elections, but without requiring a constitutional amendment to abolish it.
“It’s about the voters and their votes being counted and respected,” Rouson said of his bill.
He said he believes the national mood could give the bill a chance of passage in the Florida Legislature, where it has failed three times before.
The bill would require the state’s presidential electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, but it would take effect only if and when enough states sign on to total a majority of 270 Electoral College votes.
At that point, the law would kick in for those states that have passed it, and the popular vote winner would be guaranteed an Electoral College majority. So far, according to the movement’s web site, www.nationalpopularvote.com, 11 states totaling 165 votes have passed the bill: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
All are considered blue states, although the web site says it has also passed one GOP-controlled house of the legislatures in Arizona and Oklahoma. Battleground states such as Florida, which have a greater chance of deciding the outcome of an Electoral College race, have less motive to join the compact.
Former state Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville introduced similar bills in 2007, 2008 and 2011. All died in committee.
“It’s going to be a tough road, but I think the climate is good for it, said Rouson. In states that lean strongly toward one party, he said, voters in the other party become less likely to vote, cutting turnout in down-ballot races.
“We should be incentivizing people to participate,” he said.
Some legal scholars have raised questions about whether the compact could legally take effect, even if passed by enough states.
The U.S. Constitution establishes the Electoral College as the mechanism for choosing the president, and it prohibits compacts, or agreements, among states that would infringe on federal authority, unless Congress consents.
But it also gives state legislatures the authority to decide how their electors are chosen.
Several constitutional law experts told Politifact recently that a court challenge would be likely before the compact could take effect.