State senator’s bill would give Utah’s electoral votes to the winner of US popular vote

Feb 2, 2021, 5:08 PM
Utah state senator Derek Kitchen...
Salt Lake Police are investigating whether Utah Senator Derek Kitchen helped pay for paint that was used to vandalize a government building. (PHOTO: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(PHOTO: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A state senator wants Utah to elect the next president by popular vote, meaning the candidate that pulls in the most votes across the nation wins Utah’s and every state’s electoral votes.

State Sen. Derek Kitchen has proposed a bill that would modify the Election Code to enact an interstate compact to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote.

“No senator, no congressperson, no governor is elected to represent every American,” said Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, according to Deseret News. “The only office in our country that has the duty of representing all of America is the president of the United States. So in that vein, it holds that if the president is going to represent all of us, we all should have a voice and not have this minority mob rule.”

Under the Electoral College rules, each state gets one electoral vote for every congressional representative. Utah has four representatives and two US senators, which equals six Electoral College votes. 

In all but two states — Maine and Nebraska — electoral votes are winner-take-all. The candidate who wins the popular vote normally receives all of that state’s votes. Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes to the state popular vote winner, and one electoral vote to the popular-vote winner in each congressional district. Maine has two and Nebraska has three congressional districts.

The candidate who gets 270 electoral votes wins the White House.

Popular vote vs. Electoral College

Kitchen joined Dave and Debbie to discuss his bill.

“Why do you feel the electoral college system is broken?” Debbie asked.

“Well, I don’t know that I’d say it’s broken; it’s working as it was designed,” he said.

Kitchen pushed back against the notion that eliminating the Electoral College only appeals to liberals.

“I think there’s a lot of people on the left that do like the idea of getting rid of the Electoral College,” he said, “but I will note that this bill is a bill that has been ran in the past here in Utah, five times by Republicans. I’m the first Democrat to take on this bill.”

Kitchen said his bill doesn’t  actually eliminate the Electoral College; it just modifies the rules behind it.

“So the national popular-vote compact, which I proposed to my bill, doesn’t necessarily abolish the Electoral College. Our votes are preserved, but the winner-take-all system of vote allocation is replaced by the simple rule, which is that the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states should be elected president,” Kitchen said.

Utah gaining political power

“Aren’t we just vastly overwhelmed by states that are much larger. How does this [bill] help Utah?” Dave asked.

“So you look next to us. We have Nevada, with about 3 million votes or 3 million people. Iowa — big campaign state — 3 million people. Utah, 3 million people. 94% of presidential campaign events were held in just 12 states,” said Kitchen. “Utah has similar population of these two states, but we don’t seem to matter at all there’s no attention paid to us when it comes to presidential cycles. . . . Elections should reward population growth. Early census data show that Utah was the fastest growing state over the last decade. Our rapidly growing population should be, I think, rewarded with more political power. So at the end of the day, I think that this [bill[ will actually increase Utah’s political influence nationally.”

Not a constitutional amendment

“Changing the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment. You are a state senator. Some people may be wondering: Do we really have a dog in this fight? Would your proposal get us a dog in the fight, senator?” Debbie asked.

“This is not a proposal to change the Constitution. This is a compact between states [National Popular Vote Interstate Compact]. So as, you know, each state commits their electoral votes to go towards the winner of the national popular vote. This won’t take effect until we hit enough states that reach that 270 mile marker that you mentioned in your intro. 

“So right now, enough states have adopted this compact, and we’re sitting around 202 delegate votes or electoral votes. Utah’s six [votes] will take us up closer. . . . but it won’t become active until enough states adopted that we reached the 270 mark,” Kitchen said.

“If five other Republican lawmakers haven’t been able to launch this, how are you going to as a Dem?” Debbie asked.

“I’m doing my best, you know . . .  a good idea is a good idea and so I’m gonna keep pushing,” the Salt Lake City Democrat replied.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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State senator’s bill would give Utah’s electoral votes to the winner of US popular vote