Connecticut National Popular Vote Activists Push for Legislation to Nullify Electoral College

Posted April 12, 2017

MP3 Excerpt of speeches by Jane Eyes of the Connecticut League of Women Voters, Connecticut state Rep. Matt Lesser of Middletown and Debra Torres at a rally for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


In the aftermath of Donald Trump's Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton, who won almost 3 million more votes than Trump in the national popular vote, supporters of a simple change in the way Americans' votes are counted are now redoubling their efforts. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact calls for all of a state's electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide. The Compact will take effect once states with a collective total of 270 electoral votes join. That's the number of Electoral College votes required to elect the president. Supporters say this would make operational the principle of one person, one vote.

Today, legislation adopting the Compact has passed in 10 states and in Washington, D.C., totaling 165 Electoral College votes – 61 percent of what's needed. A bill now before the Connecticut House of Representatives offers the best chance in years to have the Nutmeg State sign on to the compact. At a rally in New Haven on April 8, about 100 enthusiastic supporters – many from new groups that have organized in response to Trump's election – were joined by a half-dozen Democratic state representatives who support the bill., H.R. 5434.

Unlike in some other states, the debate over the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is purely partisan in Connecticut, with no Republicans supporting the bill. Opponents claim that it's unconstitutional because it contradicts the Electoral College system, but supporters point out that it leaves the Electoral College in place and simply requires a different way of electors apportioning their votes. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus was at the rally and recorded and produced this segment presenting several speakers who addressed the crowd. We first hear from Jane Eyes, director of advocacy with the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.

JANE EYES: Under the current system, presidential candidates tend to focus their campaigns on the relatively few battleground states that determine an Electoral College victory or loss. A large part of this country is virtually ignored, and residents of non-key states become passive observers of the election process. With a shift to the national popular vote, voters across the country, including Connecticut, would have a greater sense that their votes do indeed count and would have an incentive to pay attention, to vote, and to participate in the electoral process. The League believes that this is more important than ever to preserve the democratic ideal of making every vote count.

BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Jane Eyes of the LVW of Connecticut. Next is state Rep. Matt Lesser of Middletown, who has championed the bill in several legislative sessions.

STATE REP. MATT LESSER: Hello snowflakes! Hello, nasty women! Hello, New Haven! Are you fired up!? (Yeah!) I’m Rep. Matt Lesser from Middletown, and I’ve introduced national popular vote legislation many times, long before anybody took Donald Trump seriously. I introduced it again with colleagues this year. For years, we’ve argued with our opponents over the intent of the Constitution and what makes sense today. And for years our opponents have ignored the Declaration of Independence, which says not only, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" – and yes, Donald Trump, all women, too (cheers). But also declares that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed; consent of the governed. Think about that for just one second.

Twice this century, this country has elected a president who lacks the consent of the governed. For any government to have legitimacy, it needs to have the consent of its people. That’s not just in our founding documents – although it is. It’s a universal right, and it’s in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I don’t have to tell you it’s not just the legitimacy of the presidency. Today all our great institutions are under attack. Freedom of worship is under attack when we ban Muslims from entering our country and Jewish cemeteries are desecrated. Freedom of the press is under attack every single day. We see attacks on the rights of LGBT Americans, on workers’ right to organize, on communities of color, on reproductive rights, on women in the workplace. And our courts, a vital check of our democracy, is under attack when a Supreme Court seat is stolen and the president of the U.S. says a judge’s decision is illegitimate just because he happens to be a Latino.

And in a nation where refugees once came here on the Mayflower, I stand before you not just as a legislator, but as the son of an immigrant and the grandson of a refugee, let me tell you that attacks on the rights of immigrants are an attack on the soul of our country (applause). You know, I’ve introduced the national popular vote bill a number of times, but this year something is different. Something is happening in Connecticut. You can feel the difference all across the state, in big cities and small towns, good people of good will are coming together to stand up for our values as Americans. New groups are springing up; new coalitions are forming. People who have never been involved in anything are coming forward, and change is coming. Immigrants are organizing, women are standing up against dangerous threats, and people of all races are declaring that Black Lives Matter (applause).

Change comes from the bottom up. All our institutions, all our rights are important, but in our democracy no right is more important, more core, more fundamental than the right to vote. That's what motivates us to register people to vote, that’s what gets us to knock on doors, to lobby our legislators, to hold house parties, to organize online, to speak up at town halls. The right to vote is why Dr. King marched from Selma to Montgomery; it’s why suffragettes led hunger strikes, to get women the right to vote. It’s why my own mother became a U.S. citizen. Votes everywhere should matter. Your vote should be counted.

BETWEEN THE LINES: That was state Rep. Matt Lesser. Finally, Debra Torres, who is from New York City, explained why Connecticut should join her state in the Compact.

DEBRA TORRES: Even though New York has a lot of electoral votes, it’s committed to voting them in favor of the popular vote winner, even if it’s not who New York voted for. More states need to do that, because it's happened twice in the past 16 years, that the person who won the popular vote didn’t become president. So I think it’s important for Connecticut to go the same way.

For more information on the National Popular Vote State Compact, visit

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