Updated May 30, 2019 - 8:53 pm
CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday issued his first veto, blocking a bill that would have added Nevada to a roster of states seeking to effectively negate the Electoral College and elect the president of the United States by a national popular vote.
Under Assembly Bill 186, Nevada’s six presidential electors would have been required to cast their votes for whichever candidate won the national popular vote, regardless of how residents in the state voted. That would negate the Electoral College system, which has been in place since the nation’s founding.
In a statement, Sisolak said that joining other states in approving the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact “could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”
AB186 is the first bill approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to be vetoed by the Democratic governor.
The bill was sponsored by late Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, who died earlier this month. It passed the Assembly on a 23-17 vote, with five Democrats joining the 12 Assembly Republicans in opposition. In the Senate, it passed on a 12-8 party line vote.
The effort gained momentum after President Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, with Trump becoming the fifth president in the nation’s history — including two of the past three — to win the Electoral College vote while losing the popular vote.
“I recognize that many of my fellow Nevadans may disagree on this point, and I appreciate the Legislature’s thoughtful consideration of this important issue. As Nevada’s governor, I am obligated to make such decisions according to my own conscience. In cases like this, where Nevada’s interests could diverge from the interests of large states, I will always stand up for Nevada,” Sisolak’s statement said.
National Popular Vote, the group pushing the popular vote legislation in multiple states, noted in a statement that three states have joined the compact this year, and Oregon is still considering it. Altogether, 14 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws adopting the blueprint, according to the group.
“We will continue our bipartisan work in every state until the national popular vote proposal takes effect and every American voter is politically relevant in every presidential election,” said Patrick Rosenstiel, senior consultant to National Popular Vote.
Progressive policy group Battle Born Progress said it was disappointed in Sisolak’s decision.
“AB186 was a chance for Nevada to move toward the principle of every individual person’s vote for president mattering in national elections. This compact agreement would have eliminated the perception that one’s vote doesn’t really count because one lives in a “red” state or “blue” state, which serves as a source of disenfranchisement for many voters,” Annette Magnus, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.