Nevada could become 15th state to ditch Electoral College in favor of popular vote

Nevada could soon become the latest state to pledge to give its Electoral College votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote.

A measure, which has passed the legislature and will soon be on the desk of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, would bind Nevada with 14 other states into an agreement to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote.

The shift from giving a winning candidate in each state its electoral votes has percolated through statehouses for more than a decade, but gained momentum after the 2016 election, when President Donald Trump lost the popular vote but had more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton.

The Electoral College, a group that comes together every four years to technically elect the president, is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It was established as a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress and election by a popular vote of qualified citizens, according to the Office of the Federal Register.

A handful of Democrats running for president in 2020, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have advocated eliminating the Electoral College, but backers of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact say their plan is more realistic than passing a constitutional amendment.

According to National Popular Vote, an organization dedicated to educating the public regarding the proposal, the constitution gives states the "exclusive" and "plenary" power to choose how to allocate their states' electoral votes.

Critics say the compact will diminish the influence of less populous states, but supporters argue it will ensure that every vote counts. The compact needs enough electoral votes to total 270 in order to succeed, which is the number it takes to win the presidency.

If Sisolak signs the Nevada legislation, the compact will have 195 votes.

Members include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and the District of Columbia.

Maine and Oregon are currently considering legislation.

National Popular Vote President Barry Fadem said Wednesday it's extremely unlikely the compact would reach 270 by 2020, but the effort appears to be gaining momentum.

"I think people are just really tired of the system that means every vote does not count and that six to eight states decide who is elected president," Fadem told the Associated Press.

The popular vote compact has attracted bipartisan support and opposition, but backers tend to be Democrats.

Democrats who control Nevada's Senate passed the bill Tuesday on a party-line vote.

Republican Sen. Keith Pickard of Henderson, who voted no, said the idea sounds "well-meaning" but would threaten the outsized voice smaller states like Nevada have with the Electoral College.

"I think it's totally irresponsible for us to consider giving away what little influence we have on the national stage to the more populous states which will ultimately control the election," he said.

Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall, who voted yes, argued Nevada's role as an early nominating state will ensure it continues to play a prominent role in choosing a president.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.