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Nevada may join states’ effort to elect popular vote winner

LAS VEGAS — Nevada could soon become the latest to pledge to give its Electoral College votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote, even if another candidate gets the most votes in the state.

The measure, which has passed the Legislature and will soon be on the desk of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, would join Nevada with 14 other states in an agreement to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote. The governor’s spokeswoman did not respond to messages on what he might do.

The shift from giving a winning candidate in each state its electoral votes has percolated through statehouses for more than a decade, but gained momentum after the 2016 election, when President Donald Trump lost the popular vote but had more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton.

A handful of Democrats running for president in 2020, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have advocated eliminating the constitutionally-enshrined Electoral College, but backers of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact say their plan is more realistic than passing a constitutional amendment.

Critics say the compact will diminish the influence of less populous states, but supporters argue it will ensure that every vote counts. To succeed the compact needs enough electoral votes to total 270 votes—the number it takes to win the presidency.

If Sisolak signs the Nevada legislation, the compact will have 195.

Governors in New Mexico, Delaware, and Colorado signed legislation this year; Maine and Oregon are considering legislation.

National Popular Vote President Barry Fadem said Wednesday it’s extremely unlikely the compact would reach 270 by 2020 but the effort appears to be gaining momentum.

“I think people are just really tired of the system that means every vote does not count and that six to eight states decide who is elected president,” Fadem said.

The popular vote compact has attracted bipartisan support and opposition, but backers tend to be Democrats.

Democrats who control Nevada’s Senate passed the bill Tuesday on a party line vote.

Republican Sen. Keith Pickard of Henderson, who voted no, said the idea sounds “well-meaning” but would threaten the outsized voice smaller states like Nevada have with the Electoral College.

“I think it’s totally irresponsible for us to consider giving away what little influence we have on the national stage to the more populous states which will ultimately control the election,” he said.

Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall, who voted yes, argued Nevada’s role as an early nominating state will ensure it continues to play a prominent role in choosing a president.

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