This fall, Colorado voters have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposal called national popular vote, a scheme that would award Colorado’s presidential electoral votes to the national popular vote winner, who might not even be the candidate who wins the most votes in Colorado.
It’s hard to imagine any region of the country that would be hurt as badly by implementation of the national popular vote compact as Southern Colorado. Long a battleground region in a presidential “swing” state, Southern Colorado has earned attention from presidential candidates in the form of visits and attention to issues of importance to us.
Under national popular vote, the center of power in presidential politics would immediately migrate to large, metropolitan areas in California, New York, Texas and Florida. So, it’s no wonder groups that advocate for the interests of Southern Colorado — from the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, to the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce, to Action 22 — are lining up against national popular vote.
National popular vote is bad for Colorado, and particularly bad for Southern Colorado. This November, Southern Coloradans should vote NO.
Here’s the simple math. Under the current electoral college system, Colorado has nine very valuable electoral votes. To win, a candidate must build a majority (270) of electoral votes from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a battleground state, Colorado’s nine votes have been highly coveted. Presidential candidates care about our state’s interests and needs.
Not so under national popular vote. With a mere 1.7 percent of the nation’s population, Colorado’s interests would be easy to ignore, or at least overlook, in favor of the wants and needs of states with large, metropolitan areas.
Likewise, consider the interests of rural Colorado and rural communities across America. To win Colorado, a candidate must compete for and care about all of Colorado. Candidates fight for our votes and our interests! As a pivotal community in a battleground state, Southern Colorado has the leverage it needs to defend its interests on important issues so that our rural voice is heard.
Consider water policy. From agriculture, to tourism, to economic development, water is vital to our economy and our way of life. Because presidential candidates care about Colorado and its nine electoral votes, they are reluctant to sell out our water interests to thirsty, downstream users, like California.
National popular vote turns this dynamic on its head. Instead of competing for swing state voters, candidates would turn their attention to large metropolitan regions and states with the most people.
California would have seven times as much political power as Colorado. Who would win a dispute over water policy under a national popular vote system? Hint: if a candidate is competing to appeal to and turn out California voters, not Colorado.
Still skeptical that national popular vote migrates presidential election power out of Colorado? Follow the money. Since national popular vote is on the November ballot, proponents have to disclose their donors. In 2019, 98 percent of the money in support of Colorado’s national popular vote campaign came from out of state. And 76 percent came from California alone.
In the face of bipartisan opposition, Colorado lawmakers approved national popular vote in April 2019.
A statewide uprising ensued: 228,000 Coloradans signed petitions in opposition to national popular vote, resulting in the first successful effort to put a “citizens veto” on the ballot since 1932, meaning that implementation of national popular vote in Colorado has been suspended until voters get a chance to weigh in this fall.
Now, Southern Colorado voters have an opportunity to drive a stake in the heart of an idea that would surrender Colorado’s voice in presidential politics, and its leverage on water, healthcare, and other important issues. Let’s make sure our voice is heard. Vote no on the national popular vote scheme this November.
Gigi Dennis of Alamosa is a former Colorado Secretary of State and former state senator.