By Brandon B. QuinnAn old bill with national implications, proposed in New York seven years ago for the first time by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, showed signs of life in the State Legislature last week, before ultimately failing to be brought to a vote in the Senate before session ended on Friday.
The National Popular Vote Act attempts to circumvent the Electoral College and overhaul the way the president is elected without amending the Constitution. The bill aims to create an interstate compact, forcing the Electoral College delegates of each state who sign on to honor the wishes of the national popular vote.
The thinking goes that if enough states ratify the compact in their own state legislatures—270 Electoral College votes are needed to make the bill effective—the current system of blitzkrieg campaigning in swing states alone would become obsolete.
“The ‘winner-take-all’ system is no longer adequate,” the bill says, “and the voice of millions of Americans should not be concentrated into the outcome of one state’s election. … An office that is representing all 50 states should be filled by a candidate who campaigned in all 50 states.”
“It circumvents the Electoral College, but it does so through the Constitution,” said Mr. Thiele. “Constitutionally, states are allowed to enter into an interstate compact, and states are allowed to decide how to use their Electoral College votes.”
He added, “The non-radical part of this is, simply, the guy who gets the most votes, wins.”
Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have ratified the bill in their state legislatures, accounting for 132 total Electoral College votes. The bill has been proposed in New York, Minnesota, Oregon and Rhode Island, which together could add 50 more Electoral College votes. None of these states is required to abide by the law until the 270-vote threshold is reached.
The bill passed the New York State Assembly, 100-40, but time ran out on this legislative session for the Senate to do the same.
Ironically, the Senate has approved the bill the past two years with bipartisan support—without getting Assembly approval.
“Senator [Joseph] Griffo [the bill’s sponsor in the Senate] is disappointed that it died in the Rules Committee and didn’t get put to a vote,” said Rayan Aguam, communications director for Mr. Griffo. Mr. Aguam indicated the bill seemed to have enough support, but with a rash of bills being pushed on the last few days of the session, including a sweeping 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda, it just got lost in the shuffle.
“I suspect that perhaps politics had a little bit to do with it not being voted on,” said Mr. Thiele.” “I mean, this is a political bill having to do with elections. But that is just pure speculation on my part. They may have simply ran out of time.
“I’ve been at this for seven years, so I intend to stick with it. We just need to make the two houses line up now. I’m optimistic for the future of the bill, and we’ll take another crack at it next session,” he added.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office has expressed neither support nor disapproval of the bill, saying only, “We will review the bill.”