Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill to join a national compact of states pledging to award their presidential electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.
The measure known as HB177 passed by a vote of 51-46 in the Democrat-controlled Virginia House after clearing the Privileges and Elections Committee last week.
It initially failed to report out of the committee as the bill's sponsor, Democratic Del. Mark Levine, said "there was some misunderstanding about this compact and how it works."
If the bill is passed by the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats, and signed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia will join the 15 other states and Washington, D.C., that have already joined the coalition.
The compact began five years after George W. Bush took office after winning the 2000 election, despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore by about 500,000 ballots, and several states passed laws to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 race, with nearly 3 million more votes than President Donald Trump.
Presently, a state's electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the state popular vote. But there is no law that requires states to award their votes this way. Each state can decide how to award their votes, which is why some are now split by districts.
"Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia," a summary of the bill states. "The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact."
The coalition currently has 196 of the 270 votes required for it to go into effect.
Proponents argue that the National Popular Vote would give every American voter an equal say in the election, while opponents such as Republican Virginia Del. Israel O'Quinn believe it would lessen the impact of smaller states.
"Virginia currently assigns its electors to reflect the opinions of voters in the Commonwealth and this bill might as well have an amendment stating our electors will be chosen by the State of California," O'Quinn said. "Virginians should choose who gets Virginia's 13 electoral votes -- not a handful of large states."