Wednesday, April 15, 2020

National Popular Vote to appear on the ballot this fall

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2020 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge Protesters hoped the Electoral College would opt against Trump in 2016. - RENA SCHILD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com
  • Protesters hoped the Electoral College would opt against Trump in 2016.

The two sides in a battle over who gets to elect the president are coming into clearer focus ahead of the 2020 fall election.

The issue: whether the presidency should continue to go to the candidate with the most Electoral College delegates — the system that's been in place since the country's founding — or the person who garners the highest support among individual voters, thereby winning the popular vote.

The College has a total of 538 electors, including nine in Colorado. The number of a state’s electors is equal to its senators (two) plus the number of representatives, which is based on population. Under the current system, those electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the state's popular vote.

The National Popular Vote movement, which started in 2006 but recently gained momentum, asks state legislatures to pass a law pledging their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. It doesn't go into effect until states that hold a total of 270 electoral votes (enough to win the election) have signed on.

So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia (representing 196 total electoral votes) have passed National Popular Vote laws.

Colorado’s popular vote law, Senate Bill 42, was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on March 15, 2019. But state legislators included a provision that, should someone file to place a referendum on the ballot in 2020, the law would not go into effect until voters had weighed in.

An opposition group — led by Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Monument Mayor Don Wilson — did just that, submitting enough petition signatures last August to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

On April 14, the Yes on National Popular Vote committee launched a campaign to get Coloradans to approve the law. But it's been raising money for a while now. The committee had raised more than $1.7 million as of Jan. 15, including a $330,000 contribution from Santa Monica, California, resident Josh Jones.

Opponents, including the Protect Colorado's Vote committee, argue that the National Popular Vote reduces the influence of less populous states by making every individual vote equal. (That committee had raised nearly $800,000 as of Jan. 15.)

Outrage over the idea of handing Colorado's electoral votes to New York and California has become a rallying cry against the change.

"Vote Democrat if you want to give your presidential vote to New York and to California," Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said at a February rally to re-elect President Donald Trump.

One counterargument to that viewpoint: The outsize influence of small states only benefits the residents of those states who are members of the state's majority party.

Under a winner-take-all model, a minority-party vote doesn’t get tabulated toward a total that ultimately decides the presidential race; it essentially disappears. (Colorado voted Democrat in the last presidential election, meaning all of the state's electoral votes were awarded to Hillary Clinton.)

"The National Popular Vote will make sure every voter across the country is relevant," state Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said during a conference call announcing the Yes on National Popular Vote campaign's launch. "Somebody wanting to vote for a Democratic candidate in a red state will have the same voice as someone wanting to vote for a Republican candidate in that state."

Foote, the National Popular Vote bill sponsor in Colorado, said the committee had grassroots support from communities across the state. Organizations that have endorsed a "yes" vote on the referendum include the League of Women Voters of Colorado; the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference; and Common Cause Colorado.

"Colorado voters have a really great opportunity to show the rest of the country that the National Popular Vote is in fact a good idea and a good idea in our democracy by voting yes this fall," Foote said. "...If it doesn’t pass, then that just means that it’s off the books in Colorado ... but all you need is states with 270 electoral votes to pass the National Popular Vote agreement for it to go into effect."

The campaign hosted the first of several virtual town halls April 14, with more to come.

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