Malloy, Williams back national popular vote

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, endorsed legislation Monday that would have Connecticut join an interstate compact committing the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

The governor’s office announced the support of Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman as the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee held a public hearing on the bill.

The legislation is a House bill, so a more immediate hurdle to reach the floor after it clears the committee is an endorsement from House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden. He has said he would schedule a vote on the bill if sought by his caucus.

“I fully support a national popular vote for President. All Americans deserve to have their votes counted equally for the highest office in the country,” Malloy said. “Connecticut should join the nine other states and the District of Columbia in taking this important step. The candidate who wins the most votes should be president.”

“We should choose our president in the way we chose every other elected officeholder – by the popular vote,” Williams said.  “The person that receives the most votes should be elected.  Determining our national elections with the popular vote can ensure that the candidates for president are talking to all Americans rather than just the people in a small number of battleground states.”

The governor had been non-committal about an issue that passed the House in 2009 without a Republican vote, but never was called for a vote in the Senate. This year, National Popular Vote is making a new effort to lobby  Republican legislators in the General Assembly.

At least one GOP lawmaker now is publicly in favor.

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, submitted testimony supporting the bill, as did Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for president in 1988.

With the current system of winner-take-all contests for ever state’s electoral votes, Dukakis said the focus by presidential candidates will remain on a shrinking number of battleground states.

“I did it. Al Gore did it. John Kerry and Barack Obama did it, and our Republican opponents did it, too,” Dukakis said.

Rep. Brian Becker, D-West Hartford, and Rep. John Hetherington, R-New Canaan, each submitted statements in opposition to a compact that would commit Connecticut to casting all its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how residents voted.

Hetherington questioned how the legislation could guarantee that electors would be abide by the compact.

“The compact is a contract without means of enforcement,” Hetherington said.

Chris Healy, a former Republican state chairman, is lobbying the bill in Connecticut this year after working on the issue in other states. He and Laura Brod, a conservative Republican who was a Minnesota House member, pitched the bill to GOP lawmakers here before the session opened Feb. 5.

On this issue, Healy and Brod are on the same side as high-profile progressive groups, such as Common Cause and the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. Miles Rapoport, the former Connecticut secretary of the state who now is  national president of Common Cause, testified in support of the bill Monday.

Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, the chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

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