Jerry Hill introduces bid to give state more presidential say-so 

A local legislator is working to draw California into a growing interstate compact that, if successful, would rework the elctoral college and elect the president based solely on the popular vote.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced AB 459 with the backing of Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert. The legislation, if signed into state law, would alter how California administers its 55 Electoral College votes.

The assembly bill officially thrusts California into the debate over the growing National Popular Vote movement, which began in early 2006.

The national legislation will take effect if enough states join the interstate compact and total 270 or more Electoral College votes. If enacted, the candidate with the popular national vote wins the block of 270 electoral votes, thus sealing the presidency.

Hill said the bill would give California more prominence in presidential campaigns.

“I’m tired of seeing the largest state in the union with its diversity and economy being ignored in presidential elections,” he said.

When the state is ignored during presidential campaigns, issues regarding California are ignored, Hill said.

Though the bill’s supporters view it as a “long shot” for the interstate compact to be in effect by next year’s election, they see it as realistic possibility for 2016.

California’s possible inclusion in the compact will only enhance those odds for 2016.

Seven states along with the District of Columbia have already joined the National Popular Vote interstate compact. Vermont became the latest when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed SB 31 into State law last week.

Identical legislation has twice been previously introduced in California, but ultimately failed. Despite making it through both houses, AB 2948 and SB 37 were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

“Such a significant change should be voted on by the people,” Schwarzenegger wrote in 2008.

Hill was cautiously optimistic that AB 459 will succeed where its predecessors failed due to it’s bipartisan support.

“My sense is that Gov. [Jerry] Brown will look at this in the same sense that we do,” Hill said. “For California to be relevant, we need to make some changes.”

Adding it up

Interstate compact members and the number of electoral votes each has. AB 459 could be on the governor’s desk in late August or early September.

Hawaii: 4
Illinois: 20
Maryland: 10
Massachusetts: 11
New Jersey: 14
Washington: 12
District of Columbia: 3
Vermont: 3
Total: 77

If bill passes:
California: 55

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