Editor’s Note: This week and next, Ark Valley Voice will go through each 2020 ballot question, covering the pros and cons of each question. All 2020 Ballot question coverage will be filed under the AVV In-depth category “Elections.”
Proposition 113 on the Nov. 3 election ballot would enter Colorado into an agreement among states to elect the president by a national popular vote.
This would occur after enough states joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Currently, there are 14 states plus the District of Columbia that have signed on. If enough states to comprise 270 electoral votes sign-on, the ballot question would go into effect.
The Interstate Compact is an agreement among the participating states that the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide is elected President. States joining commit to awarding all their state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most votes nationally.
The agreement will only become binding when participating states representing more than half the electoral votes (at least 270 out of the 538 votes cast in the Electoral College) sign on. Otherwise, Colorado will continue to award its electoral votes to the winner of the state’s popular vote.
This measure will have no effect on the 2020 presidential election, contrary to what some opponents believe.
Voters in each state cast votes for the President and Vice President of the U.S. This popular vote in each state determines which candidate their state electors will support in the 538 members of the Electoral College.
The electors vote each December after the presidential election. If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes (at least 270 of 538 potential votes) then the U.S. Constitution provides for the House of Representatives to choose the president, while the Senate chooses the vice president – something that has not happened since 1824.
Five times in U.S. history, the winner of the popular vote was not picked as president by the Electoral College; three in the 1800s, and notably, in the elections of 2000 and 2016 where the runner-up in popular votes became the president.
The measure on the ballot was passed by the Colorado Legislature, and a referendum petition garnered enough signatures to place the question before the voters.
Opponents of the measure contend that Colorado should cast its electoral votes for the candidates who obtain the most votes in Colorado, arguing that a national popular vote may encourage candidates to focus their campaigns on large population centers. They hold that Coloradans risk having the unique regional issues they care about losing out to the interests of a few large cities in a few large states.
Another argument against it is the feeling that it could lead to disruptions in the electoral system. In addition, it’s argued that in a close election in 50 separate states, trying to determine who won the national popular vote could lead to recounts and litigation in every state, perhaps ‘delaying results, and causing confusion and eroding confidence in our electoral system.’
Proponents say the agreement on a national popular vote for president supports the one person, one vote principle of democracy, and ensures all votes count equally. Ironically, the presidential race is the only political contest in the United States where the candidate with the most votes is not guaranteed to be declared the winner.
Supporters argue the current system places far too much importance on competitive ‘battleground’ states, where candidates focus their attention and campaign efforts. Passage would force candidates to reach out to voters across the country and take stands on issues affecting all parts of the nation.
Proponents also argue that adopting a national popular vote for president gives all votes equal weight on the election’s outcome. They state that “Recent history demonstrates that when the results are close in even a few states, it is easy for the Electoral College vote to not reflect the national popular vote.’
The 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet states that if Proposition 113 were to pass, it would have no fiscal impact, nor change the process by which election results are certified by the Secretary of State and will not affect the revenue, spending, or workload of any state or local government entity.