DENVER – Democrats in the State Senate passed a bill Tuesday that aims to have Colorado join an interstate compact with a goal of awarding presidential elections to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide as opposed whoever wins the most votes in our state.
Senate Bill 19-042 , the National Popular Vote bill, was passed on a 19-16 party-line vote. It now moves to the State House for consideration.
Colorado Senate just passed the National Popular Vote bill SB 19-042. It enters Colorado into an interstate compact with other states with the goal of awarding electoral college votes based on the popular vote nationwide, as opposed to state by state contests. pic.twitter.com/erzGnW7NBi
— Andy Koen (@KOAAAndyKoen) January 29, 2019
Senator Mike Foote of Centennial was the bill’s lead sponsor. He urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the legislation saying it was an issue of fairness.
“Making sure the people, no matter where they happen to live, have an equal vote to wherever another person might happen to live,” Foote said.
Foote was joined on the Senate floor in support of the bill by Greenwood Village Democrat Jeff Bridges. He pointed to Article II of the US Constitution as giving state legislatures broad authority to determine how their electors are chosen for presidential contests.
“We are, last I checked, the legislature and we do, under the United States Consitition, have an authority to determine whatever manner we would like to appoint our electors,” Bridges said.
Several Republican Senators spoke in opposition to the bill including Robert Gardner and Owen Hill, who are both from Colorado Springs.
Gardner read a letter from a constituent who stressed that the bill thwarts the long-standing structure of national elections in which the States select the president rather than a popular majority.
“It is an attack on the Constitution that will forever change our representative form of government,” Gardner said.
Hill described the legislation as, “very Un-Coloradoan” noting that lawmakers were essentially making voters here subordinate to voters of other states.
“It says you’re votes and your choices are no longer your own. We are going to tie your representation to what the other 49 states choose,” Hill said.
Similar legislation has been enacted by the blue-states of New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.
Proponents of this effort hope to pursuade enough states to pass similar bills that more than 270 Electoral College votes would be awarded to a popular vote winner. There are 172 votes currently pledged to the effort, Colorado would add nine more.
According to non-profit National Popular Vote Inc., which promotes the compact, Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney made 23 campaign visits to Colorado during the 2012 Presidential election and bypassed numerous other states where the results were assumed to be a foregone conclusion. The group believes that extra attention led to disproportionate federal assistance.
As they explain on their website, “battleground states receive 7% more federal grants than spectator states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.”
Many Democrat voters expressed frustration with the Electoral College process following the 2016 Presidential Election. Donald Trump won a majority of States (30), even though around 2.8 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton.
“My first thought it that’s it’s probably not a good deal for Colorado,” said UCCS Political Science Professor Josh Dunn.
By tying itself to national results, Dunn believes Colorado is giving up much of its power in presidential elections. He also wonders if the multi-state compact would survive a legal challenge.
“Article 1 of the Constitution forbids any compact between states that is not approved by Congress,” Dunn said.
The bill will now head to the State House of Representatives. If passed, it would then go to Governor Jared Polis to be signed into law.