House votes down a bill to elect the president by popular vote

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Most people don’t think it’s right that the second-place finisher of the nation’s popular vote could be elected president, said Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins).

With the way the Electoral College is currently set up, that happened in 2000 when Al Gore received about 543,000 more votes than George W. Bush, but Bush won the Electoral College 271-266. The college is currently made up of delegates who award their state’s votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state.

HF799, which was defeated 71-62 by the House Wednesday, would have awarded Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. However, as part of a compact, enough states with electoral votes that add up to 270, or a national majority of electoral votes, would need to agree to do the same. Nine states have already joined the compact, said Simon, who sponsors the bill.

“The issue that most attracts me, is fundamental fairness,” he said.

After the bill’s defeat, the House reconsidered the vote and referred the bill to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. The companion, SF585, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate Subcommittee on Elections.

Simon said the bill would allow all votes to matter equally. Under the current process, he said incumbent presidential candidates may make decisions in order to win over one of about eight swing states, or states that don’t historically vote for one particular party.

“The current system is an Ohio-first system,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington).

Along with bipartisan support, the bill also saw bipartisan opposition.

Rep. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) said the bill was unacceptable because it would not appoint the state’s electoral votes based on how its residents vote.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) also opposed the bill, saying the current system aligns with how a constitutional republic operates. “When I read the constitution I don’t see the word democracy in there,” he said.