Written by Marcia Martin
The 2019 Colorado State Legislative Session began last week. This week, committees will begin hearing bills, and referring them on to consideration by other committees, or to be debated by the full House or Senate. To become law in Colorado, both the State House and State Senate must pass the bill, just like in Washington D.C.
At a committee hearing, any member of the public may speak in opposition or support of any bill being heard. This is a right I urge every engaged Coloradan to exercise. Because early indications are that this year’s newly unified crop of legislators have decided to go big. Here’s an example.
Senator Mike Foote (who represents Longmont) has introduced, as his first bill of 2019, SB19-042, National Popular Vote. As of this writing, it’s the #1 most accessed bill on the State Legislature’s web site. For good reason.
This simple bill holds out the promise that, without a change in the State or Federal Constitution, no candidate for President of the United States who has not won the nationwide popular vote may take office. It does this by entering Colorado into an Interstate Compact of States who agree that all electors in the Electoral College from their state will vote for the popular vote winner. The trick: the Compact only goes into effect when the total electoral votes wielded by states in the Compact exceeds half the electors in the Electoral College.
Should Colorado join the Compact?
There are at least two ways to look at it. What is the right thing for democracy, for justice? Or, what gives my party, or perhaps my state, the biggest advantage?
Let’s take the “justice and democracy” case first. As things are, if you, an arbitrary voter, live in a state where you’re in the political minority, the vote you cast for president is nearly meaningless. The political majority chooses the electors, and they vote for their party’s candidate. Even if you’re voting with the majority, not every vote counts equally, because of the way electors are apportioned. A vote from a state with low population carries more weight than a vote from California or New York. Surely, for the president, everyone’s vote should count the same.
That brings us to “partisan advantage.” It happens that today, more states with small populations lean Republican, while states with large ones lean Democratic. So today, nationwide, a Republican’s vote counts more than a Democrat’s. Democrats gain advantage if the Compact takes effect. Republicans, numerically, should prefer the Electoral College system.
Should Colorado join the Compact? Twelve states, with a total of 172 electoral votes, have already done so. Colorado would bring 9 more. It’s too early in the season to know how many other states will consider joining this year – but it is frankly unlikely that enough additional states will join the Compact before November 2020 to affect the outcome of the next presidential election. 89 more electoral votes besides Colorado’s are needed to put it into effect. Any advantage, then, is long-term. So what’s the right thing to do?
It’s a moral dilemma. That’s why our legislators need our help. Anybody can become a “Community Lobbyist.” You just have to be a “member of the public.” All of us qualify.
Senator Foote wants to hear from you. He’s inviting us all to speak out on SB19-042, National Popular Vote, on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 at 1:30 pm at the State Capitol, in Senate Committee Room 357. Speak for three minutes, from your heart. It’s not hard. Or just come and listen to the sound of democracy working. You’ll be surprised what you learn.
I vote for doing what we can to make everybody’s vote count the same. Because if you are thinking about looking for partisan advantage, consider this: things change. The two parties have switched positions on many issues during the lifetime of this voter. The reason smaller states (rural) are Republican and big ones (urban) are Democratic is cultural, not monetary. Current Republican monetary policy favors many urban voters over rural ones, but rural voters lean Republican and urban voters lean Democratic. The strength of the two-party system itself may be waning as younger voters register but don’t affiliate. But the principle of one person, one vote would stand the test of time. If only we had it.
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