Colorado May Choose to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Do you support or oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact?
by The 2020 Causes Voter Center | 10.31.20
What the Referendum Does
This veto referendum, known as Proposition 113, asks Colorado voters whether they support or oppose joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), under which the state’s Electoral College votes would be allocated to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of Colorado if states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes adopt the compact.
Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have signed onto the NPVIC, representing 187 electoral votes. Democrats in the state legislature passed a bill to make Colorado the 15th state to join the NPVIC that was signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in March 2019, bringing the compact’s electoral college tally to 196, but the filing of this veto referendum suspended its participation pending the outcome.
Argument In Favor
On five occasions the presidency has been won by a candidate who lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College or a contingent election, and such outcomes subvert the democratic will of the largest group of voters across the country and the principle of one person, one vote. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would deliver the presidency to the winner of the popular vote once states with at least 270 electoral votes have joined.
Colorado should cast its electoral votes in favor of the candidate who obtains the most votes in Colorado. Joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would give away Colorado’s electoral power to voters in a few large cities and states in other parts of the country. A national election by popular vote could result in recounts and litigation all across the country. Additionally, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact may be unconstitutional.
The League of Women Voters of Colorado is among the organizations supporting Proposition 113 and efforts to bring Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact:
“Elected officials represent all the people in a democracy, not just those in a few states. A strong democracy makes every vote equal and every voter relevant. The League of Women Voters has supported a national popular vote since 1970 because we believe the most important officeholders of the land ― our President and Vice President ― should be accountable to all Americans.”
Protect Colorado’s Vote is among the organizations campaigning against Proposition 113 and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact:
“This end-run around the constitution requires Colorado’s presidential electors to cast their votes for the candidate for President who received the most votes nationally, even if that candidate DID NOT receive the most votes in Colorado. Demanding Colorado’s electors cast their votes this way is theft of our votes for president and gives them to more populated areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. [The Electoral College] ensures that the minority always has a voice by allowing smaller, less populated states to have a more proportionate voice in electing our President.”
Advocates for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact argue that it would have a much greater likelihood of delivering a national popular vote than an effort to abolish the Electoral College through a constitutional amendment, given the difficulties of securing supermajorities in Congress and the possibility that smaller states may decline to ratify it. They also argue that the Electoral College has on several occasions delivered a victory to a presidential candidate who lost the national popular vote, including:
- 1824: John Quincy Adams won through election by the House after the Electoral College failed to deliver a majority, despite Andrew Jackson winning the popular vote by 38,149 votes.
- 1876: Rutherford Hayes won a majority in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by 254,235 votes to Samuel Tilden.
- 1888: Benjamin Harrison won a majority in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by 90,596 votes to Grover Cleveland.
- 2000: George W. Bush won a majority in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by 543,895 to Al Gore.
- 2016: Donald Trump won a majority in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by 2,868,686 to Hillary Clinton.
Opponents of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact argue that its implementation would lead to candidates focusing their campaigns on urban areas and neglecting rural areas, creating a regionalism that’s contrary to the goals of the Electoral College. It could also create the need for a nationwide recount of the election’s results if there was a challenge. The NPVIC’s detractors also use several lines of argument to push back on its constitutionality, contending that:
- The NPVIC violates the Constitution’s Compact Clause, which requires congressional approval for any interstate agreements which alter the vertical balance of power between the federal government and the states in the agreement, or the horizontal balance of power between the states within the agreement and those that aren’t party to it.
- The NPVIC negates provisions in the Constitution related to the powers of Congress in presidential elections in which there is no majority in the Electoral College.
- States’ ability to choose the method of selecting their electors is limited by the plenary powers doctrine and by Supreme Court precedent, which could render the NPVC unconstitutional.
- The NPVIC violates the statutory goals of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the relative voting power of minorities in populous states, and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because of disparities between states in terms of voter eligibility (e.g. voting by felons).
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / JakeOlimb)
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