Popular-vote bill goes to Lingle
The legislation would allot electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote
A year after it was vetoed by the governor, a proposal to have Hawaii join other states in electing the president via the national popular vote has once again been approved by the Legislature.
The Senate was able to override the governor's veto last year, but Democratic leaders in the House did not take up an override, fearing the move did not have the required two-thirds majority support.
The House gave final approval yesterday to Senate Bill 2898 with only eight "no" votes among the 51 members. Opponents would need 17 votes to block an override.
"I think we probably have the votes to override a veto at this point," said House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa).
Because the House made no changes to the Senate's version of the bill, it now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle, who has 10 working days to approve the bill, veto it or let it become law without her signature.
Lingle is in California attending to family business following the death Tuesday of her 78-year-old mother. She is expected to return tomorrow night, her office said.
States that pass the "National Popular Vote Bill" agree to have their electoral votes awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, rather than to the candidate chosen by state voters.
Supporters see it as a way to avoid scenarios such as in 2000, when Al Gore won the national popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. Opponents call the legislation an unnecessary, knee-jerk reaction that is constitutionally questionable.
The proposal would take effect only if states representing a majority of the nation's 538 electoral votes approved such legislation.
Only Maryland and New Jersey have adopted the measure, while Hawaii and Illinois are the only other states where it has passed both chambers of the legislature, according to nationalpopularvote.com.
Gaining support for the proposal among his fellow Democrats "was just a matter of educating members of the House what exactly this popular-vote bill does," Caldwell said. "I think some members thought that somehow small states were giving up power."
Among the Democrats opposing the measure was Rep. Angus McKelvey, who said the measure would still give more weight to larger states.
Opponents raise the hypothetical scenario that if the presidential contest came down to Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, and McCain won the popular vote, Hawaii's electoral votes would go to him, even if the Hawaii-born Obama carried the state.
"I think people need to realize this isn't a panacea, this isn't a cure-all for the ills of history and that we're not going to be any more empowered," said McKelvey (D, Olowalu-Kapalua). "Does the Electoral College system need to be looked at? Yes. Should we look at reapportionment of Electoral College votes? Definitely. But is this a way to solve it? No."