The National Popular Vote Bill — a product of the national movement aiming to reform the presidential election process by modifying the Electoral College — has returned to the forefront of state politics. The legislation was introduced in the state House of Representatives in February, marking the fifth time the bill will be heard in the Rhode Island General Assembly. Representatives will vote May 1 on the measure, which currently has 45 sponsors in the House. Under the bill’s provisions, the candidate who receives the most votes nationally will be elected president. This system stands in contrast to the current method of the Electoral College, in which 48 of 50 states follow a “winner-take-all” method, meaning that the candidate who receives the highest percentage of votes in the state could be awarded all of the state’s electors. Nebraska and Maine are the current outliers in this system — they appropriate their electoral votes in proportion to voter opinion. Currently, the candidate who receives the majority of electoral votes across the nation is named president.
If Rhode Island passes the legislation, it will enter into an agreement with nine other states that have already approved the measure. In order for the changes outlined in the agreement to go into effect, 270 electoral votes are needed nationwide. The nine states that have already ratified the agreement constitute 132 votes. Under the current presidential election system, four candidates in the nation’s history have won a presidential election without winning the popular vote, said Ryan O’Donnell, a lobbyist with National Popular Vote. The “winner-take-all” rule is also a major problem with the current system, O’Donnell said.