by Lisa Cyriacks
Governor Jared Polis, with the stroke of a pen, added Colorado to the growing list of states and the District of Columbia to adopt an agreement among the states to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote.
The pact will only take effect when enough states with a collective 270 electoral votes—the number needed to win the presidency—agree to join. With Colorado’s nine electoral votes, compact members have 181.
Other jurisdictions that have enacted the legislation include Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and California.
New Mexico, with five electors, and Delaware, with three electors are also considering joining the movement.
The National Popular Vote campaign was launched after Gore won the popular vote but lost the election when electoral votes were counted.
This is because although Americans vote directly for their chosen candidate in the presidential election every 4 years, the president is actually selected by the institution called the Electoral College.
Historically five out of 45 presidents have taken office without winning the national popular vote. The most recent was Donald Trump who lost the popular vote to candidate Hillary Clinton, but swept to victory with 304 electoral votes.
A switch to a direct popular election for president would completely alter the current two-party system. In the current political climate, many Americans (42%) identify as independents, and a popular-vote based system could allow a third-party candidate to make a credible run for the White House.
Under the Constitution, states have the power to determine how they award their electoral votes in national elections. Most states have winner-take-all laws, which award all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes within the state. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, split their electoral votes.
Colorado Democrats won control of the state legislature in November, and quickly introduced the bill earlier this year.
Republicans in the Colorado legislature mounted a fierce effort in opposition to the bill. Not a single GOP vote was cast in favor of the measure as it cleared the Capitol. Republicans argued the compact would compel presidential candidates to bypass smaller, rural, often Republican-leaning states during their campaigns.
Two Colorado Republicans, Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, have pledged to seek a 2020 state ballot measure that would undo the law. They would need to collect 124,632 signatures to put the question on the ballot.
Signing the bill into the law has also put Governor Polis, who has only been in office two months, at risk of recall by at least two conservative groups. Polis needs to complete six months in office before the recall effort can begin. The Statewide Recall Polis group also needs to collect 631,266 signatures just to get the recall question on the ballot for everyone to vote on.
Two other controversial pieces of legislation have triggered the discussion about recall: the Red Flag bill and the proposed changes to Colorado oil and gas regulations with the intent to protect public health.