This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An interesting, rather unique thing happened to Utah this year. Some presidential candidates actually cared about the Beehive State enough to make an appearance during their campaign stops.

But other than adopted favorite son Mitt Romney four years ago, presidential candidates usually don't pay much attention to Utah, or most other western states, for that matter.

We are lumped into the category of states sadly referred to as fly-over states because our relatively sparse population relegates to us so few electoral votes that we won't make much of a difference when the final vote is counted for president.

That's because to win, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes, whether he or she has more popular votes than the opponent or not.

But a growing group of Utah legislators are making moves to change that, and if they succeed in their endeavor in the next legislative session, Utah will make news as the first state with a Republican majority to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC).

The compact is a movement by states in which they commit to giving all of their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the election, whether that candidate is a Republican or Democrat.

So far 10 sates plus the District of Columbia have joined the compact. They represent 161 electoral votes, or 61 percent of the electoral votes needed to win the election. And they all have Democratic majorities.

Movements to change the presidential election process from the Electoral College to a popular vote scenario have been tried in the past, but doing away with the Electoral College would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is a difficult thing to do. The last time a constitutional amendment was passed was in 1992. The 27th Amendment delays any increase in congressional salaries until after the next election of representatives.

The beauty of the NPVIC is that it doesn't do away with the Electoral College, so no constitutional amendment is required. It simply commits its members to casting their electoral votes to the candidate with the most popular votes. So if enough states sign on, the candidate with the most votes will become president by virtue of the most committed electoral votes, with the electoral vote system still intact.

Bill files to have Utah join the NPVIC and, therefore commit its six electoral votes to the candidate with the most popular vote have been opened by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, in the House and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, in the Senate.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who is president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, is heavily involved and may be the Senate sponsor of Eliason's bill.

"When I first heard about the idea, my reaction was not just 'no' but 'hell no.' Then I started doing research and learning more about the pros and cons, and now I am solidly on board," Bramble said.

His initial opposition came from his belief that our nation is a representative democracy as set up by the Constitution and the Electoral College consists of electors acting as representatives of their states to choose the president, based on the rules of each particular state.

Besides, had a national popular vote been in effect in 2000, Al Gore, not George W. Bush, would have been elected president.

But Bramble and other Utah legislators noticed that all the attention from presidential candidates was focused on the few swing states whose electors actually choose the president.

Those swing states also get preferential consideration from the federal government.

Popular vote advocates note that the drug benefit program Medicare Part D was passed largely to appease the large swing state of Florida, which has a large retirement population. Federal subsidies for ethanol production were an appeasement to the swing state of Iowa.

"When Utah rebuilt I-15 in Utah County, it was all done with state funds," Bramble said. "You look at the battleground states, and they get all sorts of federal help for their [infrastructure] projects."

If the NPVIC gets enough members to elect through the Electoral College the candidate who gets the most popular vote, it levels the playing field, said Bramble. All states will count to one degree or another.

And Utah could even be a player, Mitt Romney or no Mitt Romney. —