Missoula legislator looks to give electoral votes to winner of national popular vote

Rep. Ellie Hill Smith, D-Missoula

By Martin Kidston

A Missoula lawmaker on Friday said she will introduce a bill to the state Legislature that would see Montana join Maryland in giving the state’s electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote.

The bill, by Rep. Ellie Hill Smith, D-Missoula, came in response to Tuesday’s presidential election, in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College yet lost the popular vote.

“The Electoral College is a thing of the past,” said Smith. “We now have our second president who the majority of the people of the U.S. didn’t elect. It’s not equal representation. It gives more power to the rural areas.”

In 2007, Maryland became the first state in the nation to approve a plan to give that state’s electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote. However, the plan would only take effect if states representing a majority of the country’s 538 electoral votes opted to make the same change.

Smith is traveling next month to the State Innovation Exchange, where the issue is expected to be considered by 1,500 progressive elected officials representing all 50 states. The exchange is the left’s version of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

“It’s a 50-state platform of state legislators to take back to the White House,” said Smith. “This is going to be one of our agenda pieces, to have a national popular vote. It’s something we all want. Our vote should be the same, regardless of whether it’s urban or rural.”

A handful of other states are also considering the move to avoid an election where a candidate wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College. Montana rejected the idea in 2007, according to an Associated Press report from the time.

Back in 2000, Al Gore won 540,000 more votes than George Bush, though he lost the race. This year, Clinton earned roughly 300,000 more votes than Trump, who now stands to serve as the 45th U.S. president.

Smith believes the states are already equally represented by their appointments to the U.S. Senate. Each state has two senators, regardless of its population. With equal representation already established, the presidential race should depend on the popular national vote.

“Rural areas are weighted more than urban areas in the Electoral College, and that’s outrageous,” said Smith. “I put this out there just today, and it already has close to 300 likes and has been shared 93 times on Facebook.”

When asked if she would make the same push had Trump won the popular vote but lost the election, Smith said she would. She believes the time has come to balance the presidential race and not give rural areas of the county more say than the nation’s population centers.

“The reason that it happened is because the white rural areas that elected Trump in the Rust Belt and elsewhere, their electoral vote is more heavily weighted,” Smith said. “People worry about equal representation, but we already have it in the U.S. Senate. I don’t buy it that there’s not already checks and balances for rural representation.”


Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com