The House of Delegates passed a bill this week that would allocate the commonwealth’s electoral college votes to the candidate that wins the national popular vote. The bill was introduced by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria.
The bill would enter Virginia into the National Popular Vote Compact, which ensures the presidential candidate with the most votes nationally is elected; it would go into effect once states comprising 270 out of 538 electoral votes sign onto the pact.
Passage of House Bill 177, by a vote 51 to 47, comes less than two weeks after the bill was originally defeated in the Privileges and Elections committee by a vote of 10-12. After being reconsidered in the same committee last week, the bill reported out on a 12-9 vote.
“The people of the United States should choose the president of the United States, no matter where they live in each individual state,” Levine said when questioned during the committee hearing. “It gives every American equal weight under the law.”
Levine tried to pass similar legislation the past three consecutive sessions.
Since the campaign to pass the National Popular Vote Compact began in 2006, 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed the National Popular Vote bill – representing a total of 196 electoral votes. If the bill passes the Virginia Senate, the state’s 13 electoral votes would bring that total to 209. That would leave 61 electoral votes needed for the compact to take effect. At least one chamber in eight additional states, with a combined 75 more electoral votes, have passed the bill.
“We are grateful to our sponsors in the Virginia General Assembly, and to citizens across the state who are making it clear that they prefer a national popular vote for president,” said John Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote, in a released statement.
A candidate winning the presidency despite losing the national popular vote has occurred five times in American history: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harris in 1888, George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.
The bill stipulates that a state can exit the compact, but a withdrawal occurring six months or less before the end of a president's term shall not become effective until a president or vice president have been chosen to serve the next term.