Before Donald Trump, Georgia dallied with idea of a popular-vote president

A week before Christmas, a group of Republican men and women of proven loyalty will gather in the state Capitol to cast the only Georgia votes in the 2016 presidential contest that constitutionally matter.

Back in August, one prospective member of the state’s Electoral College had balked at the prospect of voting for a President Donald Trump. But he was quickly replaced.

So the New York businessman will get all 16 of Georgia’s electoral ballots, thanks to his 51 percent to 46 percent victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton here.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Only a few months ago, the state Legislature had before it two bills that, on paper, were among the most popular of the 2016 session. Each measure, Republican-driven in both the House and Senate, would have pledged Georgia’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes.

Had that pledge been in effect six weeks ago, Georgia electors on Monday, Dec. 19, would be voting for Clinton, who leads Trump by 2.5 million in the popular vote. It’s the biggest winning margin by a losing presidential candidate in U.S. history.

But both House Bill 929 and Senate Bill 376 hit mysterious, invisible walls as last winter edged toward spring. The former received approval from a House committee and then disappeared. According to its primary sponsor, S.B. 376 had the signatures of 50 senators – in a chamber with only 56 members. The bill never even got a hearing.

“I suspended my support of the bill in an effort to better understand the issue,” said David Shafer, R-Duluth, who as Senate president pro tem is the chamber’s ranking member. “We have received new data and I no longer support the bill.”

Shafer didn’t specify what the new data was. Presumably, it includes Trump’s Nov. 8 victory – and perhaps polling data as well.

In 2011, 54 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents favored a constitutional amendment to subject presidential contests to a popular vote. By last week, that support had dropped to 19 percent, according to the Gallup organization.

But growing GOP antipathy to a popular-vote presidency preceded Trump’s win. At its national convention in Cleveland in July, Republicans included in their platform a condemnation of the national vote movement that Georgia had considered joining only months earlier. Not only is it “unconstitutional,” according to RNC delegates, but it poses “a grave threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption.”

More than a few Republican strategists may have also calculated that, as long as it sticks to a trajectory dependent upon an older, white voting base, the Electoral College gives the national GOP a significant edge – specifically among small or low-population states.

The Electoral College is mostly, but not entirely, built around the nation’s population, as measured every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each population-based congressional district earns a state one electoral vote. But two votes are also awarded to each state for each U.S. senator.

That’s the small-state edge. According to a data base built by Slate.com, Wyoming’s three electoral votes amount to one vote for every 143,000 residents over 18. In California, each electoral vote corresponds to perhaps 503,000 residents. (Georgia ranks 38th in voting power, with each electoral vote representing about 450,000 residents.)


Of the 20 least populous states, Republicans now control 12, compared to five for Democrats, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz has reported. In close contests, that edge matters.

The RNC platform aside, the National Popular Vote movement that Georgia dallied with early this year was a constitutional work-around, a separate compact in which states pledged to respect the outcome of the national electorate.

Backers insist Trump’s victory hasn’t harmed their cause. They point to a post-election interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in which the new president-elect refused to back off his earlier criticism of the Electoral College system. “I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes,” Trump said. “You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win… Because it brings all the states into play.”

In the week following the Nov. 8 vote, the National Popular Vote website went from 1,000 page views to 2 million, said senior consultant Patrick Rosenstiel. “We have not detected any falling off on the issue on an intellectual basis, because this was never based on the outcome of one election,” Rosenstiel said.

He notes that, under the current system, 94 percent of all 2016 presidential campaign events occurred in 12 states. Fifty-seven percent occurred in just four – Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. (Georgia accounted for three – all Trump appearances.)

Our status as a spectator state in presidential campaigns is what inspired those two popular-vote bills in Georgia. “This kind of brings together so much about what people see as fair and just in elections,” state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said last February, as he unveiled H.B. 929 at its one and only committee hearing.

Ehrhart still thinks he’s right. “My thoughts haven’t changed about the efficacy of the Electoral College. I just don’t like the fact that Georgia voters don’t count,” he said Friday.

Every governor, member of Congress, mayor and county commissioner understands that he or she with the most votes wins, Ehrhart said.

Since Trump’s election, Ehrhart said he has spoken with Georgia Democrats interested in another bipartisan attempt. But the Republican will probably stay away from the issue in 2017.

“I’ve got four years until the next presidential election,” Ehrhart said. “I’ll let it rest for a year, then pick it up when it’s not so raw.”

Reader Comments 1

243 comments
Dale Meeks
Dale Meeks

Either way Trump would have taken Ga

Angel Fortenberry
Angel Fortenberry

I think everyone needs to revisit the history of the creation of the Electoral College. It was passed when southern states like Georgia were allowed to count slaves (actually 3/5 of their slaves, ring any bells?) as citizens to increase their populations and numbers of representatives. It was designed to do two things: Give rural states a say and as a safeguard against demagogues like Trump. Right now, it's the tail wagging the dog.

Randall Dellemar
Randall Dellemar

I would have never been in favor of it from the outset. But now there has been two presidents that does not go by the people's decision.

Vera McInnis
Vera McInnis

All the states should have voter ID law and proof of citizenship . California would be cut in half that way because the majority are not even legally allowed to vote

Vera McInnis
Vera McInnis

Angel Fortenberry president Obama told illegals they can vote. That was on TV out of his own mouth

George Heard
George Heard

Trump won the state so he deserves the Georgia electoral college votes all "16"..

Mary Brand
Mary Brand

Electoral College is fair and considers all states.

Martha Cavender
Martha Cavender

They better vote like we the people when we voted, don't go against the Constitution. Our founders knew what was right.

Monte Poitevint
Monte Poitevint

We don't need the freaks and weirdos of CA and NY dictating to the rest of the country. Besides, we're not talking popular votes. We're talking massive Democrat voter fraud. Illegals, dead people and cartoon characters are not a part of popular. According to the Associated Press, Clinton won 487 counties nationwide, compared with 2,626 for President-elect Donald Trump.

Wesley Robinson
Wesley Robinson

Unless we vote to change the constitution the electorial college stays. And it should dtay.

Patrick Morrell
Patrick Morrell

Well guess what? That's not how it works. Soooo...suck it up buttercup. Bunch of whining liberals.

Linda Randles Bills
Linda Randles Bills

What morons!!! Lets just give Georgia vote away!!! The people that designed this bill have NO understanding of the electoral college. They clearly need to be removed from office for trying to betray the voters in this state. Too bad being stupid is not against the law##!

Diane Gill Beres
Diane Gill Beres

Educate yourselves. The electoral college has a real purpose. So many politicians are relying on the media and not education!

Al Hendrix
Al Hendrix

Don't, because only the liberals would run the country.

Brian Mills
Brian Mills

Garbage. About to unlike this biased page

Harry Abrams
Harry Abrams

LOL, and people don't recall 150 years of gerrymandering by the Georgia Democratic Party? Likewise, all of a sudden we have come up with a new idea (every 4 years it appears, check your history books) about how "this isn't right/correct". 240 years my friends, sometimes it's worked in my/our favor, sometimes not, but ONE THING IT DOES, it MAINTAINS our REPUBLIC. I don't care how many people keep talking about DEMOCRACY, we live in a REPUBLIC.

Habrams01
Habrams01

National Popular Vote vs Electoral College

Georgia Congressional District 11 tabled the original Resolution against the NPV on May 10, to allow a presentation by both sides on this issue.  While the presentation was held in August, due to meeting schedules, it was not formally approved until December 5th.  The sense of the meeting was that this could have been settled formally in August.  Following proper procedure delayed the actual vote which REJECTED the National Popular Vote.  Read into it what you will, but Republicans in Georgia's CD 11 rejected the NPV by more than a wide margin as there were only two votes in support of the NPV.

Dean Walton
Dean Walton

I keep hearing about how the electoral college keeps the country from being run by a few big states, but shouldn't smaller states face some kind of consequence for being so shitty that most people don't want to live there?

Patrick Morrell
Patrick Morrell

You're an idiot. I suggest you look at the fiscal health of New York and California.

Tiffany Nicole
Tiffany Nicole

This would be a mess! That's now how the system works. I Guarantee if Hillary won, no one would want just the popular vote to give us our next President.

Gavin LeRoy
Gavin LeRoy

Abstain..........? Really? So because of "irregularities" in some districts and it was only some districts, you would choose to nullify ALL electors? What was originally planned? The states determined how their electors were chosen. Some held popular vote, some appointed via legislature, some voted by district. By 1824, most states had gone to statewide popular vote.

Gavin LeRoy
Gavin LeRoy

Wrong again! That shows a complete lack of understanding and appreciation of how and why the Electoral College was set up.

Randall Dellemar
Randall Dellemar

There is no need for electors. Popular vote is all that matters. One man, one vote, simple.

John Carver
John Carver

That means all running for Prez would cater to NY,TX,CA and Georgia and other states would have no say.

Vijay Reddy
Vijay Reddy

Georgia is the 8th most populous state. They would have a say. We don't have one now, we aren't a swing state so candidates don't care. This system doesn't benefit small states, it benefits swing states.

John Carver
John Carver

Vijay Reddy but as long as we have our electoral every state has some say,even those that only have 3 votes.

Brent Hilburn
Brent Hilburn

I have a better idea for these 2 GOP "brainiacs"... Why don't they introduce a bill to allow GA's electoral votes to be apportioned by popular vote or via Congressional districts... I'll bet that tune changes right quick... MORONS

David G Wilcox
David G Wilcox

As a MORON, I wish to protest the use of that term to describe... Ah, forget it!

Gary Rowlls
Gary Rowlls

State electors should be required to cast their vote for the candidate that win their state period.

Gary Rowlls
Gary Rowlls

Hey if you don't like how our Constitution works then feel free to leave the country, thanks

Derrell Earl
Derrell Earl

I believe we should not get rid of the Electoral College but rather get rid of the electors... The Electoral votes would just automatically go the winner of the popular vote in that state... This would assure the diversification of the votes across the nation but remove the unnecessary step of voting...

Derrell Earl
Derrell Earl

Daniel Eason You're right ! Brent did not read my comment correctly.. Read it again Brent.....

Brent Hilburn
Brent Hilburn

LOL... WTF... Under your "system", CA would have decided this election... The margin of the Clinton victory is eliminated if you remove CA... Trump won more individual states AND more individual counties... Read a book

Daniel Eason
Daniel Eason

Brent, I don't think that's what Derrell is saying. He's saying that the candidate who wins the popular vote in a state automatically gets that state's electoral votes, without electors having the chance to cast their votes against the popular vote majority of their state.

Gerald Murray
Gerald Murray

Stupidity knows no bounds in some segments of the Georgia legislature.

Regina Gina Ice
Regina Gina Ice

It should be repealed back to what was originally created. No winner_take_all!!! Grant electors according to who won their district. That was the original plan, just like Maine and Nebraska still do. So, for this election, the electoral college should abstain from voting due to tje election irregularities and send it to congress. Follow the Constitution, as written, in Article II.

Brent Hilburn
Brent Hilburn

Uh no... STATES decide how their electoral votes are apportioned... And the Electoral College can decide NOT to certify and accept states with "irregularities" (My guess is that would be states Hillary lost for the purpose of this discussion) and then the vote is taken. IF AND ONLY IF no one gets 270 EV's, THEN it goes to the house...

Robert J. Simon
Robert J. Simon

Liberals are pissed off, that they can not destroy more !

Becky Fly
Becky Fly

We need to go with the FairVote system. It's ranked choice voting.

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