DENVER – Colorado voters affirmed the state legislature’s 2019 decision to join the state in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which means that the nationwide popular vote could someday decide who wins the American presidency.
That would only be the case if enough states join the compact to account for more than 270 electoral votes, at which time those presidential electors would all cast their vote for the candidate who won the popular vote nationwide.
The Associated Press called the race Wednesday afternoon, with 52% of Coloradans voting in favor of Proposition 113’s passage, compared to 48% who voted against it, with 87% of precincts reporting and more than 2.8 million ballots counted in the race.
“The National Popular Vote is a very straightforward concept. One person should always equal one vote and the presidential candidate who gets the most votes should win the election,” said state Sen. Mike Foote, one of the legislative sponsors of the 2019 bill and a proponent of Prop. 113. “We are two-thirds of the way to changing how we elect the President for the better. We hope the results in Colorado will go a long way in convincing other states to come on board with the National Popular Vote too.”
With the measure's passage, Colorado and 14 other states, along with the District of Columbia, have joined the compact, accounting for 196 electoral votes.
Last year, Colorado’s legislature passed a bill to sign the state onto the compact. But this year, opponents of the idea were able to garner enough petition signatures to put a referendum on the ballot for voters to have the final say.
The compact was an effort started in 2006 but which gained steam after the 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, but Trump won the presidency because of the Electoral College system. It was one of five times in U.S. history when the winner of the popular vote lost the election because of the Electoral College split.
Joe Biden was leading President Donald Trump by more than 3 million votes as of Wednesday evening and led in electoral votes 264-214 after the Associated Press called Michigan and Wisconsin for Biden Wednesday.
There are 538 electoral votes up for grabs each presidential election, divided up to the states by their populations. Colorado and 47 other states are winner-take-all states, and in Colorado, the winner of the popular vote will receive all nine electoral votes by law when electors cast their ballots in December.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed states’ rights in determining how electoral votes are decided. Two cases, including one from Colorado, posed the question of whether faithless electors were allowed to exist or whether states can compel electors to vote a certain way.
The Supreme Court justices concluded that states can determine how electors are divided among candidates.
Supporters of joining the compact, including Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, say it upholds the concept of “one person, one vote” and will keep presidential campaigns from focusing solely on battleground states and to campaign more broadly across the country.
Other supporters say that the compact would encourage voter turnout in non-swing states, as voters whose parties do not generally win presidential elections in those states would be encouraged to have their vote count toward the national popular vote.
Republicans and others have pushed back, saying it undermines the Electoral College and harmed Colorado’s ability to be a player in the presidential elections. Fountain and Monument have already passed resolutions opposing the law. Monument’s mayor was one of the organizers of the referendum initiative.
They and other opponents say the compact flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, which outlined the Electoral College process, and would lead to campaigns focusing only on states and cities with the largest populations.
“…[O]pponents of the Electoral College routinely claim to have overwhelming support,” opponent group Save Our States Executive Director Trent England said in a statement. “Even in ‘blue’ Colorado, nearly half the voters rejected this end-run around the Constitution.”
Karen Sheek, the president of the Colorado League of Women Voters, which has long backed the National Popular Vote compact, said the bipartisan support was key to the measures success.
“This has been a long journey,” said Yes Proposition 113 coalition coordinator Sylvia Bernstein in a statement. “We worked extremely hard from the beginning of 2019 until now and to see the majority of Coloradans agree with us is very gratifying.