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Challenge Begins In Ohio To Ditch Electoral College

voting booths
John Minchillo
Associated Press

A group has filed paperwork in Ohio for an ballot issue to get rid of the Electoral College and award the presidency to the candidate who actually gets the most votes.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has certified the ballot language summary. Now, it’s up to the Ohio Ballot Board to give the O.K. for a national group to begin collecting petition signatures. If they collect enough, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could end up on the ballot in an upcoming Ohio election.

The compact would not eliminate the Electoral College—which is enshrined in the Constitution—but rather pledge all of Ohio's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Currently, Ohio has 18 electoral votes, all of which go to the winner of the state popular vote. 

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) says he’s not the one who filed the paperwork to authorize Ohio’s membership in the compact but he’s long been behind the idea of scrapping the electoral vote, which was originally designed to prevent the tyranny of the majority.

“Right now, what we have is the tyranny of the minority," Leland says. "We have a situation where a minority of people in the United States are actually controlling what happens in our presidential elections."

So far, 13 states and Washington, D.C. have signed onto the compact.

There have been several elections in recent years, including the one that swept President Donald Trump into office, where the winner of the popular vote was not the person who took over the nation’s top office. Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, yet lost the Electoral College and therefore the White House.

In 2000, Ohio also tipped the election in favor of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, who won about 540,000 more votes in the national popular vote.

Abolishing the Electoral College would ultimately require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Besides delivering the presidency to a candidate who didn't win the most votes, opponents of the Electoral College system argue it gives undue power to a handful of swing states, like Ohio, where candidates focus the bulk of their money and attention.

Supporters of the Electoral College include smaller states, which fear they would be overlooked without it as candidates stuck to high-vote, high-population areas.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said backers of Ohio's popular vote amendment submitted two petitions with different summaries, each supported by the required 1,000 signatures from registered voters.

"This is an unusual tactic, and perhaps the first time it has been used," the Republican's office said in a news release.

Only one summary was deemed a "fair and truthful representation" of what the amendment seeks to do. The second was rejected, Yost said, because it left out the proposal's main impact.

"The second summary fails to note the most important piece of information for the voter: that the amendment, if adopted, could require Ohio's representatives in the Electoral College to vote for the winner of the national presidential popular vote rather than for the winner of Ohio's presidential popular vote," he said.

The amendment requires lawmakers to "take all necessary legislative action so that the winner of the national popular vote is elected President." It gives them 60 days to do so.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.