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Assembly balks at bill backing popular vote

A national movement to use the popular vote to replace the tense red-and-blue state politics of choosing a president through the Electoral College was dealt a blow in New York on Tuesday.

Supporters of the effort argue it would require presidential candidates to take New York voters and their issues more seriously. Critics warn it could force Democratic electors to cast ballots for a Republican they and most state voters might strongly oppose, such as former Alaska governor and U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Assembly's Democratic majority, meeting behind closed doors, balked at a bill that would have New York join 20 other states where the popular vote movement is gaining strength.

The movement's goal is getting laws in a majority of states that would require electoral votes to be cast for the winner of the national popular election. That would replace the system of casting the votes for the candidate who wins the state, which is usually dominated by enrollment of one major party.

"Obviously it slows (the effort) down," said the bill's prime sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat. "I'm not sure if or when the bill will come to a vote, even though there was a huge number of sponsors."

More than 70 Democrats and Republicans in the 150-seat Assembly signed on as co-sponsors or have publicly supported the idea.

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