For Immediate Release
/ June 20th 2008

RI General Assembly Passes National Vote Compact

The compact, which would create a national popular vote for president once enough states join, now moves to the governor's desk


The compact, which would create a national popular vote for president once enough states join, now moves to the governor's desk

Contact: Ari Savitzky, FairVote RI Director
[email protected]/ 529-3982

June 20 -- The National Popular Vote Compact, a state-based plan to elect the President of the United States by national popular vote, was passed by both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly in a flurry of votes Thursday night. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Connors, had passed that chamber in May on a 27-10 vote.  The House version, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Donald Lally, came to a floor vote Thursday, passing 36-34 after a vigorous debate.

"This was an extremely important and heartfelt debate, and it's a big victory for democracy, and for the 74% of Rhode Islanders who support a national popular vote," FairVote RI Director Ari Savitzky said.

States who join the compact agree to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The compact would only go into effect when states comprising an electoral college majority have joined. Once the compact goes into effect, the winner of the election would be determined by national popular vote. So far, 4 states have signed the compact into law. Last night, the Rhode Island House became the 19th legislative chamber in the United States to pass it.

"Rhode Island is totally ignored in the general election, because Rhode Island voters do not effect the outcome," Savitzky said. "Under the current system, only the swing states matter; under a one person, one vote system, every vote would be equal."

After passage, the House bill was passed by the Senate. The Senate bill also passed the House later in the evening on a slightly stronger 34-28 margin. The measure now goes to the governor's desk.

While opponents suggested during debate that the compact might effect the 2008 election, supporters were quick to note that the compact would not come into effect by then. And while some suggested that RI would have less impact under a national popular vote, supporters noted that RI voters currently have no impact on the outcome.

"A few key swing states have huge influence," Chairman Lally said on the house floor, "safe states, including Rhode Island, and 12 of the 13 small states, are ignored."

"What if we had an electoral college for Rhode Island elections?" asked Representative Victor Moffitt. "No one would stand for it."

Savitzky noted that every other election in American Democracy is based on a few key principles: "Each person gets one equal vote, and whoever gets more votes wins - the presidential election is the only election where those principles are not followed, with damaging results to our democracy, and to Rhode Island."

"If our votes mattered toward the outcome, then candidates of all parties would seek them," Savitzky said. "Currently, they don't."


Former US Senator Lincoln Chafee, who cosponsored a bill in Congress to abolish the Electoral College, had written a
letter of support to members of the assembly earlier in the session.

recent RI poll showed 74% support for a national poular vote for president, across party and ideological lines.  A national popular vote was support by 85% of moderate Democrats, 63% of moderate Republicans, and 78% of independants.