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Popular vote bill defeated

Published (4/10/2009)
By Nick Busse
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With the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Simon, by his side, Chris Pearson, secretary of National Popular Vote Inc., testifies April 2 before the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee in support of a bill that would enact an agreement among the states to elect the U.S. president by national popular vote. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Minnesota will not be joining an interstate compact to elect the president by popular vote anytime soon, after a House committee defeated the proposal April 2.

On an 8-8 vote, members of the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee failed to approve HF512. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park), the bill would provide that all of Minnesota’s eight electoral votes go to whichever U.S. presidential candidate wins the national popular vote.

The bill’s provisions would only take effect if enough states signed on to the compact to provide the 270 electoral votes needed for a candidate to win. Four states have already signed the compact.

Simon said the change would ensure that no candidate could lose the popular vote and still be elected president — as was the case in 2000. Simon noted that it almost happened again in 2004, when U.S. Sen. John Kerry nearly won a majority of electoral votes despite being 3.5 million popular votes behind President George W. Bush.

“Most people, if you were to ask them, don’t think it’s right that in the world’s greatest democracy, the second-place vote-getter can be president of the United States,” Simon said, adding that public opinion polls show overwhelming support for electing presidents by popular vote.

Opponents criticized the bill for potentially taking away the right of Minnesota voters to determine how the state’s electoral votes are allocated.

“It seems to me this is a creative way around the Constitution,” said Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead).

Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) said the proposal might cause Minnesota to lose some of the benefits it reaps from being a “battleground state” where presidential candidates are forced to campaign to court voters.

Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) sponsors the companion, SF446, which awaits action by the full Senate.

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