DENVER – Colorado Governor Jared Polis told a crowd in Fort Collins that he has his pen ready and is prepared to sign the bill that will award Colorado’s nine electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Senate Bill 19-042 cleared the House of Representatives Thursday morning 34-29 without a single Republican vote in favor. The legislation previous cleared the Colorado Senate on January 29 on a party-line vote of 19 to 16.
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During earlier discussions in the House, a committee panel rejected two amendments. One would have required a referendum to voters asking “Shall the state adopt an agreement among the states to elect the President of the United States by national popular vote?” The other called for not enacting the law in Colorado unless the United States Congress gave consent.
Representative Marc Snyder, a Democrat from House District 18, favored the first amendment seeking a public referendum.
“I just feel like a vote this important, that affects every person in Colorado, really we should give everybody in Colorado an opportunity to vote on it,” Snyder said. “So, I would I would put in on the ballot and let the people decide.”
Snyder is one of six House Democrats (four of whom represent Southern Colorado communities) to break ranks and vote against the bill. Representative Daneya Esgar from Pueblo also voted no.
“I think our system is in place for a reason, whether we like it or not, that’s the system we’re under,” Esgar said. “I want to make sure Colorado’s voice truly is Colorado voice in any election, and that includes in the presidential election.”
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. The effort hopes to convince enough states to pass the law so that it would total 270 votes, the majority needed to win the White House.
In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won by approximately 2.87 million votes in the popular vote, but Republican Donald Trump won the electoral college vote 306 to 232 votes.
Speaking on the House floor just prior the final vote, sponsor Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver told her colleagues this change is about fairness and ensuring every vote counts equally.
“I hear time and again, my vote doesn’t count, my vote doesn’t count,” Sirota said. “I think that there are a lot of reasons that people have out there for believing that their vote doesn’t count and our current system is one of those good reasons.”
The loser of the popular vote won the presidency three other times in American history: John Quincy Adams (1824) Rutherford B. Hayes (1876) George W. Bush (2000).
Democratic state senators who support the bill said it is within a state’s legislature’s right to determine how Colorado’s electors are chosen for presidential contests.
Representative Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont, countered arguments against the bill by rapping to his colleagues.
“I’m not throwing away my vote, I’m not throwing away my vote. I’m just like my district, chill, scrappy, and optimistic and I’m not throwing away my vote,” he said.
Representative Terri Carver, a Republican from Colorado Springs, pointed out that the compact will commits Colorado’s electoral college votes to a candidate that voter here may not want.
“We totally disregard and ignore the decision of Colorado voters in the presidential election, that’s what this bill does,” Carver said.
Republican State Senator Owen Hill from Colorado Springs called it “very Un-Coloradoan” during the floor vote in January. Other elected Republicans said it made votes in Colorado less important than votes in other states.
Sen. Paul Lundeen, a Republican from Monument, said the Electoral College serves the interests of federalism and worries a popular national vote will lead to mob rule.
“The reality is that if we turn it into a mob rule vote, it changes the tone, the tenor, and quite frankly I think it will have the function of tearing us apart as a country.”
By joining the National Popular Vote compact, some 181 electoral votes are now pledged to the effort. Senate Bill 42 will only take effect if the National Popular Vote movement can add enough states to reach an electoral vote count of 270, the number needed for a presidential candidate to claim the White House.