The Delaware Senate on Thursday voted to add Delaware to a growing coalition of states seeking to bypass Electoral College by pledging electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote for president.
On a 14-7 vote, the upper house gave its approval to SB 22, which now moves on for consideration in the state House of Representatives. The yes vote did, however, come after a wave of defections from some Republicans who had previously signed on as co-sponsors.
The bill, introduced last month in the General Assembly, would contribute Delaware’s three electoral votes to the agreement, known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and bring the First State in line with other states that have already passed the same measure.
The compact would only go into effect once enough states have signed on to clear the threshold of 270 electoral votes—enough to deliver an automatic victory to the popular vote winner.
So far, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar bills to change their election laws, representing 172 electoral votes needed for the compact to succeed. Colorado, with its nine electoral votes, passed its own legislation last month, and Gov. Jared Polis has said he intends to sign it.
Supporters in Delaware said the measure was needed to restore fairness to national elections at a time when only a handful of battleground states can determine the outcome of a presidential election.
“One person, one vote is a hallmark of our democracy,” said state Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, said in a statement last month.
“This bill helps ensure that every vote—in every state—will matter,” he said.
Gov. John Carney, asked by reporters Tuesday, said he would sign the bill if it reached his desk, a spokesman said.
The legislation would not altogether abolish the Electoral College, the Constitutional mechanism for electing presidents and vice presidents based on the top vote-getter in each state. Rather, it would provide a workaround to a Constitutional amendment by requiring presidential electors to cast their votes for the candidate who received the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Though the bill was initially introduced with bipartisan support, Republican cosponsors this week removed their names from the bill, citing blowback from their constituents.
Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, who said in a press release last month that the “compact fits the spirit of the original intent of our Founding Fathers, was the first to publicly rescind his endorsement, saying in a Facebook post Wednesday that he “did not anticipate the overwhelming opposition” to the bill among his constituents.
“I apologize for the angst that I may have caused by originally agreeing to sponsor the legislation,” he wrote.
“It was certainly never my intent to go against the will of the people I have been so proud to serve since 2012,” Spiegelman said.
On Thursday, Reps. Michael Ramone, R-Pike Creek, and Michael F. Smith, R-Pike Creek, removed their names, as well.
In the Senate, however, Republican cosponsors Sens. Catherine Cloutier, R-Arden, and Anthony Delcollo, R-Elsmere, joined the chamber’s 12 Democrats in passing the measure. Delcollo said he believed the interstate compact was constitutional and would help reverse a troubling trend of federal resources being disproportionately assigned to swing states that currently have the power to sway the outcomes of presidential elections.
Though he had received calls from Republican voters mostly outside his district, Delcollo said his views on the measure hadn’t changed.
“As far as I’m concerned, my motivations are far from partisan,” he said.
Started in 2006, the compact aims to eliminate so-called “wrong-winner elections,” in which a candidate wins the presidency despite losing the popular vote.
Former President George W. Bush garnered about 540,000 fewer votes than Democratic challenger Al Gore on his way to winning the 2000 presidential election, which was eventually decided in the U.S. Supreme Court. And President Donald Trump in 2016 skated to victory with 304 electoral votes, despite receiving nearly three million fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton.
In total, four presidents in American history have won the White House and lost the popular vote.
As it stands, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is currently 98 electoral votes short of going into effect, and will likely need buy-in from solidly red or swing states. However, if it were to go into effect, it would likely face legal challenges that could delay its implementation.