CARSON CITY -- On a party line vote, the Assembly backed a bill Tuesday that would lead to the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide always winning the presidential election.
All 27 Democrats backed Assembly Bill 413, while all 14 Republicans opposed it. Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, was absent.
Under the bill, the five presidential electors from Nevada would be required to cast votes for the presidential candidate with the most votes nationally, even if that candidate does not receive the most votes in Nevada.
The National Popular Vote organization has been plugging the plan in states around the country.
The bill provides a way for states to circumvent the constitutionally required Electoral College where 538 electors actually choose the president.
The electors base their choices on the candidate who wins the most votes in their states, although occasionally they have voted for other candidates.
The National Popular Vote plan would not go into effect until states with more than half of the electoral votes nationally approve its provisions.
So far, four states with 23 percent of the 270 electors needed to select the president have approved the National Popular Vote plan.
If the plan had been in effect in 2000, then Democrat Al Gore would have defeated Republican George W. Bush in the presidential election. Gore drew 545,000 more votes nationwide than Bush.
But Bush received 271 electoral votes, compared to Gore's 268, and won the election after the U.S. Supreme Court ended a recount in Florida.
In three previous presidential elections, the candidate with fewer direct votes also won the presidency.
Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, said a Galllup poll earlier this year found 72 percent of Nevadans favor the election of the president by the direct vote of the people.
Republicans expressed opposition on the grounds that if there is a direct election of the president, then less populated states like Nevada won't be visited by presidential candidates.
"If this measure passes, then there is no use for states like Nevada," said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko. "New York, California, Texas and Florida will elect the president."
Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, echoed his comments, noting that in the last election Nevada received many visits from presidential candidates because they wanted the state's electoral votes.
Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, a retired high school teacher, said he is troubled by the Electoral College and thinks the National Popular Vote move could put pressure on Congress to seek an amendment to abolish it.
"The Electoral College is not working and has not worked for some time," said Anderson, D-Sparks. "We are no longer riding around on horses. All the people of the United States should vote for the president."
The bill now goes to the Senate where the Democrats hold a 12-9 edge. With Senate approval, it would be forwarded to Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Daniel Burns, Gibbons' communications director, said the governor will decide to veto or sign the bill once he sees the final language of an approved bill.
Burns, however, predicted that within a few years citizens will be able to elect the president over the Internet.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.