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Elections bill stalls in committee

CARSON CITY — No vote was taken Thursday following a 20-minute hearing on a bill to get around the Electoral College and guarantee the candidate with the most popular votes nationally becomes president.

Chairwoman Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, said her Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will review Assembly Bill 413 at a future workshop session.

The bill, approved 27-14 in the Assembly, must pass out of Woodhouse’s committee by May 15 or it automatically dies under legislative rules.

While all Democrats in the Assembly backed the bill and Democrats hold a 4-3 lead in the state Senate committee, the bill’s future is very much in doubt.

Following brief testimony on Thursday, state Sen. John Lee, a Democrat who has not said how he will vote, asked Woodhouse to allow an American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist to express her views.

Rebecca Gasca, who initially had not been allowed to testify, said the ACLU does not back Assembly Bill 413 because someone with “30 percent of the vote could be automatically elected president,” taking into account third party candidates.

Under the bill, the five presidential electors in Nevada would be required to cast their votes for the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally, even if that person loses in the Silver State.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the 538 electors from the 50 states and District of Columbia actually pick the president.

In Nevada, electors are named by the political parties and by law must vote for the candidate in the state who receives the most popular votes.

The candidate who receives at least 270 electoral votes nationally becomes president, even if that candidate receives fewer popular votes.

Barry Fadem, president of the National Popular Vote organization, urged the committee to adopt the bill, which contains the same language as bills his organization has circulated across the country.

Fadem pointed out that in four presidential elections, the candidate with fewer popular votes nationwide has been elected president.

The most notable of these occurred in 2000 when Republican George W. Bush won the presidency over Al Gore, despite having 545,000 fewer popular votes. Bush drew 271 electoral votes, compared with Gore’s 267.

So far just five states have backed the legislation. Once states with more than 270 electoral votes do the same, the National Popular Vote proposal will go into effect.

But state Eagle Forum President Janine Hansen said the plan would turn Nevada into a “presidential zero.”

Nevada now has meaning to presidential candidates because they want the state’s electoral votes, Hansen said.

But if the election was determined by popular votes, presidential candidates would concentrate on states with large populations, Hansen said.

She contended the proposal is designed to circumvent the U.S. Constitution; Fadem contended the Constitution allows states to determine how to award their electoral votes.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal .com or 775-687-3901.

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