Note: This article was originally published in 2017. We updated it to reflect the 2019 legislative session, where three bills were introduced to enact the popular vote concept in Oregon. Among its 40 sponsors, Senate Bill 870 has 13 state senators on board. It needs 16 votes to pass out of the Senate. Read more from Oregon Public Radio.
Oregonians, like other northwesterners, want their votes to matter in the US presidential election. But today, Oregon is a “safe” blue state that presidential candidates never visit. Instead, it could be a battleground state where candidates vie for votes. It could, that is, if enough states sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, agreeing to award their electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.
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Back in 2017, the Oregon House had already heeded the will of the people, voting in favor of a National Popular Vote Bill four times in the past eight years. But the bill faded in the Senate.
In past years, Senate President Peter Courtney has refused to bring the bill to a vote, even though a majority of senators were ready to approve it. In 2017, Courtney said he was willing to send the question directly to the voters. He could let Oregonians weigh in with a vote in November. Or he could let the people’s elected representatives in the Senate do their job—vote on legislation. In 2019, Courtney’s office told Oregon Public Radio that he’ll allow a vote on the concept on the floor of the Senate.
If Courtney lets the Oregon Senate vote on the bill and a majority of senators vote yes, Oregon will become the fifteenth jurisdiction to sign on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, bringing Beaver State voters one step closer to having a voice in presidential elections. With Oregon, the Compact will have 188 of the 270 electoral votes needed to go into effect.