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Nevada’s Democratic governor splits from party to veto national popular vote legislation

Gov. Steve Sisolak bucked a pact among a growing number of states to give all Americans an equal voice in the outcome of the presidential election.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 07:  Clark County Commission Chairman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak waves to supporters after winning his race against Nevada Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt at the Nevada Democratic Party's election results watch party at Caesars Palace on November 7, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Americans voted on their choices of candidates in the midterm election, which is seen by many as a referendum on President Donald Trump.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 07: Clark County Commission Chairman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak waves to supporters after winning his race against Nevada Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt at the Nevada Democratic Party's election results watch party at Caesars Palace on November 7, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Americans voted on their choices of candidates in the midterm election, which is seen by many as a referendum on President Donald Trump. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nevada’s Democratic governor vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have required the state’s electoral votes to be assigned to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote.

By issuing his first veto of the 2019 legislative session, Gov. Steve Sisolak bucked a growing pact to give all Americans an equal voice in the outcome of the presidential election.

Nevada would have joined 15 states in pledging its Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote. However, the pledge would have only kicked in when enough states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes adopted it. So far, only 189 electoral votes have been pledged.  

In a statement, Sisolak said he decided to strike down the bill passed by state legislature — which fell under Democratic control during the 2018 midterm elections — because the pact “could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose,” he said.

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“In cases like this, where Nevada’s interests could diverge from the interests of large states, I will always stand up for Nevada,” he added.

However, the National Popular Vote compact is intended to end the current process in which only a handful of swing states decide the outcome of presidential elections– especially as the nation turns its attention to the 2020 election.

The Constitution allows states to choose how they allocate their Electoral College votes during national elections. While Maine and Nebraska split their electoral votes, the rest of the country gives all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate that wins the most votes in their respective states.

But the demographics of the country have changed since the Constitution was written. Today, half of the country lives in just nine states, giving those who reside in the rest of the country disproportionate power when it comes to deciding the outcome of a race.

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During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes but lost to then-candidate Donald Trump because he narrowly won in a few key swing states, where known Republican voter suppression tactics came into play. President George W. Bush also won the 2000 election despite losing the popular vote in that race as well.

As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in its testimony to the Nevada state legislature, the compact gives “each citizen equal power in the election, regardless of the state in which the voter lives. Instead of voters in a few swing states deciding the outcome, candidates will need to speak to- and listen to- all citizens throughout the country equally.”

Despite only having six electoral votes, Nevada is considered a swing state during presidential elections, drawing candidates who take time to speak to, listen to and court potential voters. Reliable blue states like Massachusetts or red states like Alabama receive far less attention from national candidates.

Chip Evans, a member of the advocacy group Indivisible Northern Nevada told state legislators that the pact would allow Nevadans to safeguard their “enormous influence in choosing our major party presidential candidates and preserving the opportunity to educate them to our western state views and issues.”

“Every Nevadans’ vote is weighted equally as every Americans’ vote should be in a national election, irrespective of whether that voter is nonpartisan, Libertarian, Republican, or Democrat,” Evans explained. “It will restore the full value of every American vote and honor every American voter.”

Sisolak said that signing the pact could diminish the state’s role in the national political landscape. But by bucking his own party, Sisolak made the road to giving all Americans a voice in the process much more difficult.