Splitting the vote 

Electoral College reform puts focus on Colorado

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Amendment 36

The rumors are true: Colorado's Amendment 36 may impact the outcome of what is expected to be another tight presidential election.

If voters approve the proposal on Nov. 2, the winner-takes-all system of allocating the state's nine Electoral College votes in Colorado would be eliminated. The system would be replaced with a system that allocates electors depending on the number of votes a candidate gets.

That means if George W. Bush won Colorado by only a slim margin, he'd come away with only five electoral votes, instead of all nine.

Had the amendment been in effect in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore would have become president. Backers note Gore received roughly 540,000 more popular votes than Bush, but lost the election after a controversial Supreme Court decision awarded Bush Florida's electoral votes.

If Colorado's GOP leaders are concerned about the possible effect on the outcome of the 2004 race between Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry, they are playing their cards close to their chest. Instead, they are letting a political committee called Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea do the talking.

The committee acknowledges Amendment 36's every-vote-counts appeal, but fears Colorado would be a less tempting battleground because Democratic and Republican voters would always be splitting electors, rarely, if ever, capturing them all.

That's not a convincing enough reason to vote against the measure, say backers like Ron Tupa, a Democratic state senator from Boulder. If the amendment passes, he theorizes presidential candidates would wind up fighting for every Coloradan's vote. That would mean Colorado would get more attention, not less.

"The issue is one person, one vote," Tupa told the Independent, noting that in close elections nearly half the state's voters are disenfranchised when all the electoral votes go to one candidate.

The amendment is largely funded by Jorge Klor de Alva, the wealthy out-of-state CEO who runs the University of Phoenix. Strangely, de Alva has also contributed to Colorado Against a Really Stupid Idea. De Alva could not be reached to explain his reasons. Tupa said he hopes voters will pass the initiative, showing other states they can reform how they participate in the Electoral College.

Only two other states have systems in place where the winner does not receive all Electoral College votes: Maine and Nebraska.

Ralph Nader, whom Democrats failed in legal maneuvers to strip from the ballot, is excited about the amendment, said his Colorado spokesman Chris Wetherill. If it passes, it could reap what might be one of the brighter spots in the Reform Party candidate's campaign.

"It would probably mean his first and only Electoral College vote," Wetherill said.


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