COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans could vote this fall on a measure to award the presidency to the candidate who wins the national popular vote — regardless of which candidate wins the Buckeye State.
The proposed constitutional amendment would bypass the electoral college by authorizing Ohio’s membership in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
But, several more states still must approve the measure for it to potentially impact the 2020 presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and a Democrat challenger.
Since 2006, the District of Columbia and 13 states with 184 electoral votes have enacted a popular vote measure into law. States representing 86 more electoral votes needed to reach the majority of 270 Electoral College votes to guarantee the most-popular candidate becomes president. Ohio has 18 winner-take-all electoral votes.
In member states, election officials would be legally bound to certify the ticket that wins the most votes nationally as the winner in those states.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost certified the ballot language summary submitted to his office as a “fair and truthful statement” of the proposal and sent it to Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The Ohio Ballot Board now must determine whether the proposal is one issue. Once it acts, supporters can begin to collect signatures to place it on the ballot.
Supporters of the proposed amendment must gather 442,958 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters — 10 percent of the vote cast in the governor’s race last year — by July 3 to place the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.
It is unclear who is behind the Ohio initiative. The petition forms with more than 2,000 signatures were filed by a professional canvasser out of Washington D.C.
With narrow margins of victory in a few key states, Trump won 304 electoral votes in 2016 to claim the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who captured 227 electoral votes. Clinton, however, won the national popular vote by nearly 2.9 million ballots. Trump easily won Ohio by nearly 447,000 votes or 8.1 percentage points over Clinton to earn the state’s 18 electoral votes.
Rep. David Leland of Columbus and other Democrats first introduced legislation, which was resubmitted again this year as House Bill 70, to have Ohio join the popular-vote states. But the bills have failed to advance in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Leland said he had heard of the effort, but did not know who was behind it.
Supporters of the measure argue the Electoral College is archaic and can regularly discount the will of the people as expressed through the popular vote.
The current elections system boils down to a relatively few swing states, with most states ignored when it comes to campaigning and advertising by the candidates, advocates say.
Opponents say the system would reverse the will of voters in some states and would elevate large states, such as California, even more in importance over smaller states.
The states that have joined the national popular vote move are largely Democratic — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Legislation to join the compact has cleared the legislature in New Mexico (five electoral vote) and is awaiting the governor’s signature.