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Bill would allocate state's electoral votes by congressional district

A Trump-Clinton tossup in Minnesota? Under the terms of HF406, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe), that would have been the state’s Electoral College result.

For presidential elections, Gruenhagen wants the winner in each of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts to earn one electoral vote. The state’s remaining two electoral votes would go to the winner of the statewide vote, as all 10 of Minnesota’s electoral votes do under current law.

In the 2016 presidential election, Gruenhagen’s plan would have meant a tie. Donald Trump, who won in five congressional districts, would have gained five electoral votes. Hillary Clinton, who won three congressional districts as well as the state as a whole, would also have had five.

After a wide-ranging debate Thursday, the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee held the bill over for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion.

Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley) unsuccessfully proposed a completely different system in a delete-all amendment. It failed on a 10-6 party-line, roll-call vote.

Freiberg’s plan would allocate all 10 of Minnesota’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It would take effect only after like legislation was adopted by other states that together account for more than half of the total votes in the Electoral College.

The U.S. Constitution leaves it to state legislatures to determine how electoral votes are allocated, Gruenhagen explained. Two states – Maine and Nebraska – use the method he is proposing.

Freiberg and Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) said they feared Gruenhagen’s plan would open presidential elections to skewing by state officials who gerrymander congressional district boundaries.

In the long run, Gruenhagen said, his bill would benefit both political parties. It would attract presidential candidates who otherwise wouldn’t campaign in far-flung parts of Minnesota, and better represent how people vote in their congressional districts.

“(HF406) would give voice to the people in each congressional district in Minnesota,” said Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-Chanhassen). “The will of the people would be spoken.”

Rep. Sandra Masin (DFL-Eagan) called the Electoral College “a disservice to the country” that elects presidents who don’t win the national popular vote. Gruenhagen said it has given us “stable government for over 200 years. … We need to stick with the Electoral College.” 

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