‘We actually see this as a constitutionally conservative approach…’
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) Democrats in the state of Colorado are advancing legislation that seeks to abolish the Electoral College in a roundabout way.
The Colorado legislature, controlled by Democrats, wants the state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and are quickly advancing a bill to that effect, according to the Associated Press.
States in the compact pledge that their electors will not be bound by the statewide result of the presidential election, but will instead vote for the candidate who is the winner of the national popular vote.
The kicker: the compact would only go into effect once enough states sign on with a total of over 270 electoral votes, the amount needed to win in the Electoral College, thereby preserving states’ influence in the institution until it is effectively abolished.
The compact was launched after Al Gore lost the disputed 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush and picked up new momentum following similar circumstances that put Donald Trump in the White House, though there have been suggestions that voter fraud provided Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win.
Clinton has since argued that the Electoral College should be eliminated.
“It’s not new, and it hasn’t always been partisan,” said Rep. Jeni Arndt, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.
She noted that the compact had support with past chairs of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
“We actually see this as a constitutionally conservative approach,” said her fellow Democratic co-sponsor, Rep. Emily Sirota, in describing what is effectively a way to cleverly amend the Constitution without going through the conventional constitutional amendment process.
The bill has sparked fierce debate in the legislature, with some warning that going with the national popular vote would undermine rural voices and lead to presidential elections being decided by big cities.
“Why do we want to cede our voting power to the national popular vote? To what California says? To what New York says?” asked Republican State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg. “The current system represents rural parts of the country well.”
Ironically, Democrats rejected a Republican attempt that would put the compact idea up to a statewide referendum.
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Jared Polis, the new Democratic governor, supports the bill, and a constitutional law professor at the University of Colorado Law School says it’s likely to pass.
But he says it might be a long time before enough states sign on to make it effective.
“To get enough states on board at the same moment is extremely difficult,” said the professor, Richard Collins. “It’ll probably pass here, but what most people need to know is that it’s a longshot nationally.”
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won both the popular vote nationwide and in Colorado.
Right now, other members of the compact include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. None of these states have voted for a Republican at the presidential level since 1988 (Colorado last did so in 2004, voting to re-elect George W. Bush).
Should the measure pass in the Colorado legislature and be signed by the governor, the number of electoral votes belonging to states in the compact would total 181.