News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Veronaa/Getty Images

Campaign is joined on Colorado's future in electoral vote compact

Civic engagement and progressive groups this week launched their campaign in Colorado to defeat one of the hottest ballot measures in the world of democracy reform this year.

The proposal would make the state quit a deal it made just a year ago: It pledged to award all its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, as soon as states with 270 votes in the Electoral College (a majority) do likewise.

Fifteen other states and Washington, D.C., with a combined 187 votes, have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. All of them are more deeply blue than Colorado, which has tilted increasingly that way — and is the first place where a grassroots campaign to exit the compact has gained significant traction.

For those alarmed at how two of the past three presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, got elected while finishing second in the popular vote, the compact has gained steam as the leading alternative to outright abandoning the Electoral College. That's a near impossibility because it would require amending the Constitution and smaller states would never agree.

The campaign kicked off on Tuesday with a tele-town hall featuring organizers and state officials. The groups will be hosting a series of virtual discussions over the next several weeks, hoping to build momentum for defeating a repeal referendum that has already earned a spot on the ballot in November.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

The Democratic General Assembly passed and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the measure joining the compact in March 2019. The effort to revere that decision by popular votes started soon thereafter.

It was led by two Republicans, Commissioner Rose Pugliese of Mesa County, centered on Grand Junction, and Mayor Don Wilson of Monument, a suburb of Colorado Springs.

They gathered more than 125,000 signatures to get their challenge on the ballot. Their main argument is that the pact will give the big cities unfair control over the presidency at the expense of suburbs and rural areas.

Their position put them at odds with their party's leader, Trump, who has said he supports doing away with the Electoral College.

Three committees have been formed in support of staying in the pact: Coloradans for a National Popular Vote, Yes on National Popular Vote and Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote. The Colorado chapters of the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and Common Cause, along with more than a dozen other civic engagement organizations, are also backing the initiative.

A "yes" vote is for staying in the compact, which is still years away from being joined by enough purple and deep red states to take effect.

A "no" vote is to get out, and if that side wins the state will stick with the current system of awarding its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in Colorado.

Colorado has nine electoral votes now, but is projected to gain a 10th starting in 2024, because of population gains reflected in the census that will also award the state an additional House seat.

© Issue One. All rights reserved.