Lawmakers shelve national popular vote proposal

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah won’t be joining a movement to elect the president of the United States by popular vote this year.

The House Government Operations Committee put HB509 on hold Wednesday, but did recommend lawmakers study the idea over the summer.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said Utah has gone “far, far” from the original constitutional procedure to elect the president. “We have departed to something our founders would not recognize at all in the system we have set up,” he said.

Powell’s proposal would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

National Popular Vote spokesman Pat Rosenstiel said changing the electoral process would make Utah relevant in presidential elections.

To date, nine states holding 132 electoral votes have passed popular-vote bills, which enters them into an interstate compact, he said. States in the compact agree to elect the president by popular vote. The compact would not be triggered until states holding a total of 270 or more electoral votes (the number needed to win the presidency) pass it.

Powell proposed that voters, not political parties, choose presidential electors in a statewide, nonpartisan election. He would also eliminate the current winner-take-all system, leaving electors to decide who receives the votes.

“I understand these are dramatic changes,” he said, adding he figured the bill wouldn’t pass.

The Utah Eagle Forum is among those opposed to the idea.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.