The 2020 elections are only getting closer, and many millions of Americans don’t want a repeat of 2016, when Donald Trump ascended to the White House despite finishing with millions fewer votes than his opponent Hillary Clinton. To that end, Colorado state legislators are advancing legislation that would join the state in a National Interstate Compact that — if seen through to completion — would bypass the electoral college, which Trump used to cruise to victory.
Although he finished with fewer votes overall, he won enough individual states to secure a majority in the electoral college, which puts states on closer-to-equal ground for a final formal ballot casting no matter how many people actually live in them.
Trump praised the electoral college system following his victory, although he’d fiercely criticized it before. His team at times suggested that the difference between the electoral college and raw popular vote results didn’t matter — as if the majority-Democratic Californians aren’t Americans too or something.
Trump isn’t the first Republican to benefit from the system. George W. Bush became president in 2000 despite winning fewer votes overall because he won enough individual states — including Florida, whose final results were infamously close. The compact that Colorado hopes to join got kickstarted after that debacle.
Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia are part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would only go into effect once member states pass the 270 electoral vote majority needed to elect a president. Once they have that majority, they’d switch to pooling their votes for a more popular vote-based final tabulation.
At present, the compact boasts member jurisdictions with a total of 172 electoral votes. Adding in Colorado — which Hillary Clinton won in 2016 — would bring the total to 181, buoyed by the presence of big states like California and New York.
Colorado is pursuing membership in the compact while under fully Democratic control. The legislation that would join them up with the effort has already passed the state Senate after Democrats shot down a GOP effort to put the issue on a state ballot, and on Tuesday, the state House’s State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee approved the bill for a full floor vote. Democratic Governor Jared Polis has indicated he supports the measure.
The compact has previously attracted the support of high-profile conservatives including eight former chairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
State Rep. Emily Sirota (D) explained her take:
‘We actually see this as a constitutionally conservative approach. This bill is about making sure every vote is equal and matters.’
You’d hope that Republicans would be on board with such a push, but experience has proven otherwise. Across the country, they’ve sought to stamp out the influence of the individual vote through means including strict voter ID laws that disenfranchise low income and minority individuals, stripping large numbers of voters from the rolls over some arbitrary standard, and otherwise reducing access to the ballot box.
None of that may be enough to preserve the Republican places in the federal government come 2020. President Donald Trump already faces a substantial field of competitors.
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