More than a decade ago, Maryland agreed to enter a compact to bypass the Electoral College in favor of the national popular vote for electing a president — if enough other states went along with the proposal.
But the effort to kill the Electoral College stalled.
Now, state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, is pushing a bill in the Maryland General Assembly he hopes will speed up the move to a national popular vote if other states also adopt the idea.
Ferguson’s bill, which is scheduled for a committee hearing this week, would authorize Maryland's 10 Electoral College votes to go to the winner of the national popular vote for president — instead of the winner of Maryland’s votes — provided a red state with the same number of Electoral College votes (in Maryland’s case, Wisconsin) agrees to do the same.
“This is about expediting Maryland moving toward the popular vote,” Ferguson said. “It breaks the political logjam through a pairing strategy. All of those states that sign up for the pairing strategy will send their votes to the winner of the popular vote.”
In 2007, Maryland entered into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which states agreed to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote. But for the compact to kick in, states with a combined 270 votes needed to agree to join— and, so far, just 12 states with 172 electoral votes have signed the compact.
Ferguson hopes his bill, if copied in other states, could provide a model in which blue states and red states of the same Electoral College size make the move to the popular vote together — hastening the demise of the current Electoral College system for selecting a president.
“The Electoral College is fundamentally undemocratic,” he said. “This is a national effort, and Maryland can lead the way.”
Ferguson’s bill has three co-sponsors in the Senate: Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Guy Guzzone of Howard County; Sen. Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat from Anne Arundel County; and Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat from Frederick County.
In American history, the winner of the nation’s popular vote has generally also won the Electoral College vote, thereby becoming president. But five times, the candidate with fewer overall votes became president.
Republican Donald Trump won in 2016 after losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In 2000, Republican George W. Bush won the Electoral College, despite collecting fewer votes than Democrat Al Gore.
The other three cases occurred in the 1800s, when John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison became president after losing the popular vote.