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Senate committee votes to dump electoral college
A bill that pledges Iowa’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, no matter who wins the state, was approved by the Senate State Government Committee on an 8-7 vote Monday.
The effort is part of a national movement to break from the Electoral College system. Support for such a move has been building nationally since 2000, when Republican George W. Bush became president despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore.
The change wouldn’t take effect, however, until it passes in enough states to equal 270 electoral votes, the number needed to be elected president. At least two states — New Jersey and Maryland — have already entered the compact.
The bill has the support of Democratic leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has said he believes there is broad support for the measure.
Senate Republicans have been highly critical of the plan, calling it the “Iowa Voter Irrelevancy Act.” They argue that Iowa is a battleground state under the current rules. But if the president is elected by national popular vote candidates would only focus on large urban areas like New York, Los Angeles or California and skip over Midwestern states like Iowa.
“If this bill were enacted, presidential candidates would have very limited motivation to come to Iowa to campaign for votes because Iowa is only about 1/100 of the country’s population,” Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley said in a statement. “They would instead stick to campaigning in other states where the population is more dense and Iowans would be ignored and our issues would be swept aside. This is just another example of how our founding fathers were once again right on target in their desires to protect smaller states.”
Proponents of the bill, including a group called National Popular Vote, argue that because Democrats currently hold a sizable voter registration edge in Iowa, the state likely to be ignored in future presidential campaigns. Under the winner-take-all rule, candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, or pay attention to the concerns of states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind, instead focusing on so-called “battleground” states, the group said.
The five Republicans on the committee opposed the bill, joined by Democrats Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids and Dennis Black of Grinnell.