National Popular Vote Bill Passes OK Senate On Bi-Partisan Lines; Concerns Over Lobbyist Activity Raised

Last week, the Oklahoma Senate passed SB906, the National Popular Vote Bill, on a bi-partisan vote of 28-18. All 12 of Oklahoma’s Democratic Senators voted for the bill and 18 Republican Senators voted against it.

This bill would change the way Oklahoma assigns its seven electoral votes from the current popular Oklahoma vote getting all votes, to a system in which the winner of the national popular vote gets all of Oklahoma’s electoral votes. This proposal has its supporters and its detractors with many concerns raised. We highlighted a few of those concerns last year when this bill was introduced. In that article we wrote:

The truth is that yes, Oklahoma would be further marginalized by Presidential candidates in the event of a national popular vote. However, that wouldn’t be changing much from the current situation. As NewsOK states, Oklahoma has been pretty much a Presidential flyover state since the 60s.

We further wrote of a better alternative, that of proportional allocating of electoral votes based on the percentage of voted earned by each candidate.

However, there is a different concern raised by some members of the House, that of the amount of lobbying taking place to get this bill passed. Representative Jason Murphey recently wrote about the tremendous lobbying effort from out of state interests who want this bill passed. He wrote about how those lobbyists are taking Oklahoma Legislators on all expense paid trips to resorts in order to get them to vote for the bill.

To this end, the national popular vote group invaded Oklahoma with a high powered team of very sophisticated lobbyists. They wisely kept the issue under the radar and away from the eyes of the public while aggressively trying to convince legislators by using a series of convoluted logic for why this proposal would benefit conservatives.

They financed a series of out-of-state junkets to various vacation sites where they explained this logic against an exotic backdrop of recreational events.

Having succeeded in the Senate, they are preparing to go on the offensive in the House. On March 20, they will finance an all-expenses-paid junket to St. Croix. In this exotic venue, far away from the eyes of the public, they will attempt to convince Oklahoma House members to vote for the bill. Just a few days after they return to the mainland, House members will vote on the proposal.

These all expense paid trips were further confirmed with a letter published by Batesline. In this article it was confirmed that Fair Vote, a 501(c)(3) organization is behind these trips.

This lobbying effort calls into serious question the ability of the Oklahoma Legislature to make decisions based on the will of the people. If those Senators who voted for this proposal did so because of the free vacation they were given rather than because the people of Oklahoma want to see it passed, then they are not doing their jobs.

If the way Oklahoma allocates its electoral votes is to change, it should be done by the will of the people not by the will of out of state lobbyists buying legislators all expense paid vacations. We will continue to watch these developments and the further progress of this bill.


Presidential Electors Facing Potential Changes

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.