Proposition 113: Adopt Agreement To Elect U.S. Presidents By National Popular Vote, Explained

October 12, 2020

Voting yes for Prop 113 would affirm a decision Colorado lawmakers made in 2019 to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Voting no would repeal the law and remove Colorado from the agreement.

A simple majority vote is required for the proposition to pass.

The compact is an attempt to make the Electoral College obsolete without actually removing it from the Constitution. States that join agree to bind their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote, even if most people in the state chose a different candidate. The hitch is that it will only take effect once enough member states sign on to bind a majority of electors, thereby ensuring that the compact has the power to determine the outcome of the presidential election.

Views on the electoral college have become increasingly partisan in recent decades. Republicans George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 both won the White House in spite of losing the national popular vote. In 2019, after Colorado Democratic lawmakers voted to join the compact, opponents turned to a provision of Colorado’s constitution that allows citizens to refer some new laws to voters to have the final say.

A state’s number of electors is tied to the size of its Congressional delegation: one for each senator and representative. Because of that formula, states with smaller populations, like Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii, get an outsized say in the electoral college, relative to their number of voters. A recent analysis also pointed out that in states with high voter turnout, individual voters have proportionally less impact on who is elected president.

Backers of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact argue it would ensure that each Americans’ vote carries equal weight in the presidential election and encourage candidates to try to win over support across the country, instead of focusing just on a few battleground states. 

Opponents say the effect would actually be to encourage presidential candidates to focus on only the country’s largest metropolitan areas, ignoring both rural voters in general, and Colorado as a whole. And they point out it could put Colorado’s electors in the uncomfortable position of casting their ballots for a candidate the majority of Coloradans rejected. Finally, opponents argue close elections could lead to lawsuits and recounts in every state as each candidate tries to uncover or invalidate enough votes to claim victory.

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