CARSON CITY – A bill that would change the way Nevada elects the president and vice president packed the room when it was heard Tuesday by the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
Currently, the victor in Nevada is awarded the state’s six presidential electors. If Assembly Bill 274 passes, the votes will be given to the individual who wins the national popular vote — becoming active once an equivalent of 270 electoral votes in the agreement is reached.
The bill was introduced by Democratic leadership in the Assembly on March 10. Since then, more than 200 comments against the bill have been posted on the Nevada Legislature’s online forum. Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, presented the bill in conjunction with advisers from the National Popular Vote Project.
One of the advisers present was Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. Anuzis spoke to the similarities between his home state of Michigan and Nevada. He recalled the 2008 election when his state, initially labeled a battleground state, was abandoned by the McCain campaign because they felt it had been lost. He argued that by instituting a national popular vote, every vote becomes valuable, as opposed to candidates focusing on battleground states.
Anuzis concluded his statement to the committee by saying, “What we do ensures every vote in every state is valuable during a presidential election.”
Araujo listed 11 other states that have passed similar resolutions
The bill was passed once by the Assembly in 2009, but failed to be enacted into law at the time.
Dr. Sondra Cosgrove of the Nevada League of Women Voters was the first to testify in favor of the measure, stating that the Electoral College was created to concentrate power in the hands of a few wealthy men, and that it is time to change the outdated system.
Danny Thompson of NPV said “this measure would prevent Nevada from becoming a flyover state in presidential elections.”
Molly Lewis of Reno called the Electoral College “arcane.”
“It was founded when colored people could not vote, and it was founded when women could not vote,” she said. “We have the opportunity to make sure that all Nevadans and all Americans’ votes count equally.”
Opponents argued that the bill in unconstitutional and takes Nevada’s power away, allowing the larger states — or even the 15 most populous cities — to dictate where Nevada’s electoral votes go.
At the request of Chairwoman Olivia Diaz, the Committee Counsel from the Legislative Counsel Bureau gave an opinion. LCB determined that each state has the power to choose their electors, and that in the absence of direct judicial precedent, the bill is more than likely constitutional.
The Libertarian Party of Nevada, Nevada Republican Party, Independent American Party, Nevada Families for Freedom, and Eagle Forum all came out in opposition of AB274.
Dr. Jim Hindel of the Nevada Republican Party told the committee that the Nevada Republican Central Committee had met over the weekend in Carson City and passed a resolution opposing the legislation.
Hindel testified that the bill would make Nevada irrelevant except as a fundraising location. He implored the committee to oppose the measure, saying “We ask you to keep Nevada relevant, keep the votes of Nevada relevant, and oppose AB274.”
Janine Hansen of Eagle Forum gave impassioned testimony, dissecting the bill and the locations within the text that she said will rob Nevada of its voice.
Shawn Meehan of the Nevada Republican Party cited the belief that under the 12th Amendment, the process for electors voting is very specific. He stated that there are cases in which pledges are signed by the electors of a state, and that it is possible for this to cause them to violate their signed pledges.
Former Nevada Assemblyman Erv Nelson was the last to speak against the bill.
“Diluting votes may not be in the best interest of the people of Nevada. This is because the interests of Nevadans are often not the same as the issues of other states,” he said.
If Assembly Bill 274 is passed, Nevada will become the 12th state to sign onto the agreement. The total electoral votes collected by the agreement will be 171, meaning only 99 more states’ electoral votes will be necessary for the agreement to become active within those states.