By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado could help change the way the nation elects presidents. Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would support the winner of a national popular vote.

It has already passed the State Senate.

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The debate over whether to get rid of the Electoral College heated up after the 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote, but President Donald Trump won the electoral vote.

(credit: CBS)

But, upending a system that’s been place for more than 200 years is bound to be controversial. A large crowd gathered for a hearing on the bill in a House committee Tuesday.

Rep. Emily Sirota, one of the bill sponsors, suggests the concept is simple.

“It’s to make every vote count equally no matter where you live in the country, and we should elect the President as a nation, as a whole.”

But in practice, it’s more complicated.

File photo of voting booths. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of voting booths. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Right now, most states award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in that state. Under the bill, Colorado’s nine electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

Rep. Patrick Neville, who opposes the bill, says it’s unconstitutional because it involves a group of states entering into a compact and that needs Congressional approval. He also worries big cities in populous states will have an outsized say.

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“You would see all the campaigning and all the issues be based on all urban, big city issues and that’s where they would be trying to move the votes because rural areas wouldn’t matter anymore.”

Sirota disputes that, “If a candidate wants to win they will have to campaign across country because every vote counts equally and there are not enough votes in the cities.”

If the bill passes, it would only take effect if enough states – with a combined 270 electoral votes – join Colorado. Right now, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation.

They have a total of 172 electoral votes. Neville says lawmakers should let voters decide the issue.

“If they think this is such good idea why don’t we turn it into measure that gets voted on by the people?” asked Neville.

Rep. Jeni Arndt, the other sponsor of the bill, says voters elected her to make those decisions for them.

“It is before the voters. That’s the first thing in my name tag is Representative.”

Shaun Boyd

Comments (3)
  1. Paula Rettle says:

    Actually it is designed to represent all areas, Rural America!! If we go by the popular vote, all the large metropolis areas will determine our elections. And, of course, Liberals want this because they are namely Democrat!! We have to make sure all people are represented. Our country was founded on an Agrarian culture which was based on capitalism and rural areas tend to be Republican. Socialism rose after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and thus Democrats tend to be in large cities. The Founding Fathers exactly knew what they were doing.

  2. Theodore K Guy says:

    So we want to ignore the 49 states that elected the last president so California will select our president. Absurd no matter who is running. No one state should control the country.

  3. Anyone who supports the current presidential election system, believing it is what the Founders intended and that it is in the Constitution, is mistaken. The current presidential election system does not function, at all, the way that the Founders thought that it would.

    Supporters of National Popular Vote find it hard to believe the Founding Fathers would endorse the current electoral system where 38+ states and voters now are completely politically irrelevant.
    10 of the original 13 states are politically irrelevant now.

    The Founders created the Electoral College, but 48 states eventually enacted state winner-take-all laws.

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in states where there was a popular vote, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1880s after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state. . The Founders had been dead for decades

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    States have the responsibility and constitutional power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond. Now, 38 states, of all sizes, and their voters, because they vote predictably, are politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

    The National Popular Vote bill is 64% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency in 2020 to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.

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