The Colorado Senate voted to have the state join a group that is sure to change presidential elections in the United States.
The state legislative body passed SB-19 on 28 January. This bill will award Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections. The bill still needs to be passed by the state’s House of Representatives and signed by the Governor.
Once this bill is passed and signed into law, Colorado will join 11 other states and Washington DC in what is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — an agreement among states to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote. With Colorado joining this pact, the NPVIC will have 181 electoral votes, 67 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to formally win a presidential election.
The 11 states currently in the NPVIC are Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut. With Washington DC added, this makes up 172 electoral votes. The agreement in this interstate compact would not go into effect until enough states join to equal 270 electoral votes.
Maryland was the first to join the compact. Former governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law in 2007. New York is the most recent state to join the compact. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill to join the compact in 2018.
The effort to move the country towards an election system based on a national popular vote is led by a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation called National Popular Vote Inc., a bipartisan organization whose specific purpose is to study, analyze and educate the public regarding its proposal to implement a nationwide popular election of the President of the United States.
Several local news outlets in Colorado reported that the bill was passed 19-16, with the vote being split down party lines. Every Democrat in the Senate voted for, while every Republican voted against. Senator Mike Foote sponsored the bill, and framed it as an issue of fairness, meaning that every individual vote in a presidential election should count.
But would every individual vote count under this kind of system? If a majority of voters in a state like Colorado voted for the candidate that doesn’t win the popular vote, what would that mean? And how would voters respond to this?
The issue of using the national popular vote to choose the winner of the presidential election became a widely-discussed topic, again, after the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton when he obtained the 270 electoral votes needed to win, despite Clinton winning the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. Coincidentally, all the states to join the compact to this point have voted for the Democratic candidate in past presidential elections.
Once Colorado joins this compact, it will still need 89 more votes to reach 270. Reaching that mark is sure to spark legal battles, as reaching the 270-vote threshold wouldn’t automatically change the electoral process.