Among all the changes to Oklahoma elections proposed this year, there are four bills introduced that would change the way we deal with Presidential Electors in the state. As many of you know, the US does not directly elect its President. What we do is elect certain electors who then vote for who they want as President. Most states have passed laws that control who and how those Electors are chosen and who they can vote for.
In Oklahoma, recognized political parties choose their candidates in state primaries and then submit those candidates names as well as the Electors who will appear on the ballot. After the election, the electors for the winner of the statewide popular vote for President meet to cast their votes. In Oklahoma, the Electors must pledge to vote for a certain candidate and they are fined of up to $1000 if they do not.
This process could change if any of the following bills were to pass.
SB 309, introduced by Senator Holt Republican District 30, will change how we deal with “Faithless Electors” or those electors who fail to vote for the candidate they pledged to support. On top of the $1000 fine, those electors are removed and a replacement elector is chosen by those remaining. This would end the possibility that the electors would go against the will of the people of Oklahoma.
Next is HB 1533, introduced by Representative Banz Republican District 101, which would change how these electors are distributed. Under current statute, The winner of the popular statewide election would get all of Oklahoma’s seven electors. Under HB 1533, each US Congressional District would elect one elector and the winner of the Statewide popular vote would earn the two at-large electors. This could allow a more fair representation of electors based on regional preference.
The final two bills address the same purpose with the same language. Both these bills introduce a proposal to have Oklahoma join a National Popular Vote agreement. Under SB 523, introduced by Senator Sparks Democrat District 16, and SB 906, introduced by Senator Rob Johnson Republican District 22, all of Oklahoma’s presidential electors would go to the winner of the National Popular Vote rather than the Statewide Popular Vote.
These two bills are in response to national calls for an end to the Electoral College. While ending the Electoral College outright would require an amendment to the US Constitution, the Constitution grants the states the right to choose how and when those electors are chosen. Most states choose their electors based on the votes of its citizens, and others have chosen to elect their electors based on the National Popular vote.
While there are many people who are calling for an end to the Electoral College, there are also many people who feel that ending it undermines state sovereignty. For example, in the last two presidential elections, President Obama did not win a single county in the state, and he polled significantly lower in the November election than his Republican rivals. However, Obama went on to win the National Popular Vote in both elections. This means that while the Republican challenger won the state, our Electors would have gone to Obama under a National Popular Vote agreement.
We will certainly keep tabs on all these bills and monitor their progress through the Legislative Session.