Legislator Wants to Change Va.'s Allocation of Electoral Votes


(Saturday, January 20, 2007 9:06 AM EST)

A local legislator is leading a charge - one he admits is a longshot this year - to change the way Virginia allocates its electoral votes for president.

Del. David Englin, D-45th, has recently proposed that Virginia enter into the “National Popular Vote Compact,” an interstate agreement that could mark a radical shift in presidential politics.

“Radical shift” is not a phrase senior members of the General Assembly usually warm to, and, in fact, on Jan. 19 a House committee “passed by indefinitely” on the bill. Though the legislation could possibly be reconsidered later, its chances for reconsideration this year are slim.

The compact would mandate that participating states agree to give all their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote for president, not the winner in individual states.

“The president of the United States should be the individual who the most voters chose to be president,” Englin said in a recent interview. “It's basic democracy.”

According to state-by-state tallies, Democrat Al Gore won the national popular vote by 500,000 or so votes in 2000. But he fell just shy of a majority in the electoral college, losing to Republican George Bush.

Englin, now in his second year in the legislature, was approached by advocates from FairVote, a national group trying to pass the compact legislation in all 50 states. He agreed to introduce the bill to Virginia's General Assembly.

“I think the electoral college is a throwback to an era when we didn't trust the citizens to make the kinds of decisions that would be in the best interest for the country,” Englin said. “This is an entirely constitutional end run around the electoral college, so that we don't ever again end up in the same situation where we have a president who won the electoral college but lost the popular vote.”

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was first proposed in 2001. It has received a little traction: the California legislature signed on, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. Colorado's state senate has approved the concept, while legislators in other states are considering it.

Englin recognizes that passing it in Virginia this year is unlikely, particularly with a General Assembly dominated by Republicans: Virginia has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1964. But he hopes it will plant the seed for more support in the future.

“I would be surprised if it gets very far this year, because it is a new idea, but this is the year to get people talking and thinking about it,” Englin said. “I will do the work to move this as far along the process as possible.”

Englin's district includes three precincts in South Arlington, along with parts of Alexandria and Fairfax County.


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