Move Toward National Popular Vote Gains Momentum

Colorado could become the latest state to link its electoral college votes with the national popular vote.

Move Toward National Popular Vote Gains Momentum
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The United States could be one step closer to having presidential elections decided by the national popular vote after state legislatures across the country consider changing the way the electoral votes are assigned.

Colorado would be the latest state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact which also includes the District of Columbia. The National Popular vote states account for 172 electoral college votes. Colorado would bring that total up to 181. 

The founding fathers sought to create the electoral college as a way for Congress and the states to have a say in the election of the President. Under the constitution, states can decide how their electors are assigned.

Here's how the vote compact would work. Once enough states join the agreement totaling at least 270 electoral college votes, those states would then link their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This would happen regardless of how the people in those states voted.

Proponents of the national movement say it's bipartisan despite having passed in Democratic leaning states. The goal is to make sure every voter is heard in national elections rather than just swing state voters.

"Everybody's voice should count everybody's vote should matter and right now under our current system it's not," said Colorado state senator Mike Foote, one of the Democratic sponsors of the bill. "I think that if you're a Democrat that lives in Mississippi or a Republican that lives in Oregon your vote really isn't courted and you may or may not actually even be motivated to cast a vote for President."

The vote passed in Colorado over strong opposition from Republicans who say the have concerns over states' rights and the founding fathers' concept of federalism. There are also concerns over interstate agreements between states without the consent of Congress. 

"The idea that each one of those locales, the original concept of community gets to have their say in what the national elections look like," said Paul Lundeen, a Republican and staunch opponent of legislation in the Colorado state legislature. "And that's [why] the constitution is setup to have the states not the people, but the people through their states elect the President of the United States."

 Patrick Rosenstiel is a conservative Republican and says there are supporters of the bill on both sides of the aisle.

"And so we've got this system right now that we're not stuck with right, the legislature can choose to move to a national popular vote through the electoral college which is what we're working on," said Patrick Rosenstiel, who is a senior consultant for the National Popular Vote, a non-profit non-partisan organization aimed at implementing the popular vote bill. "And when that happens," he continued. "Every voter and every state will be politically relevant in every presidential election. And feel like they have valued participation."

Presidential candidates need at least 270 electoral college votes to win the election, and most have a winner take all system that is state law. If the compact comes into force, it'd likely pressure candidates to change how they make their case to voters. 

"I see a lot more people voting [and] I see a higher turnout, but I also see candidates running campaigns in very different ways where Democrats would try to activate people in the metropolitan areas," said Todd Belt who is the director of the political management master's program at the George Washington University. "Republicans would try to convince them they shouldn't be voting...And the reverse would be true in the rural areas. The suburbs would be where both candidates would be going after voters and trying to convince them one way or another to come over to their side."

Since 1992, two Presidents have won the Electoral College and lost the national popular vote. The Governor of Colorado is reportedly expected to sign the legislation into law and supporters say they expect court challenges if the compact goes into effect.