Colorado voters could decide in the 2020 election to void a controversial new law that could award the state’s nine Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide — regardless of who wins in Colorado.
The law’s opponents on Thursday submitted more than 227,000 signatures on a referendum petition to the office of Secretary of State’s Office Jena Griswold, far more than the 124,632 needed to get the question on the ballot.
The office has about a month to validate the signatures, plus 30 days to allow for protests or challenges to the petition.
Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese head the group, called Protect Colorado’s Vote.
The petition collected more signatures than any state referendum or initiative on record. The runner-up was the initiative that garnered about 212,300 signatures to put Amendment 75 on the 2018 ballot, said Serena Woods, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office.
The office does not have records of how many signatures were collected for initiative and referendum petitions before 2001, she noted.
The petitions seeks to challenge a new state law that would commit Colorado to join a "national popular vote interstate compact" if enough states pass similar legislation.
Senate Bill 42 became law last spring, but it will only take effect if enough states enact similar legislation to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia now belong to the compact, for a total of 196 electoral votes.
A movement to create a system of electing presidents by national vote has been gathering steam -- especially among Democrats -- since Republican candidates twice were elected president in the Electoral College while losing the popular vote over the last two decades: George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2018.
Wilson and others fear that the measure would allow densely populated metropolitan areas and large states to drown out the voices of smaller states and more rural areas in elections.
“I think a lot of people do understand the dangers of it and what the Electoral College protects us from,” Wilson said. “Part of the greatness of the Electoral College is that it still gives smaller states a voice.”
State Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who proposed the law, has said it would allow every voter’s choice to matter equally in a presidential election, regardless of where they live.
“Equal representation is not a red or blue issue — it is a way to ensure every American and every Coloradan has an equal say about who leads our country,” Foote said in a joint statement in March to the law’s House sponsors, Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, and Emily Sirota, D-Denver.
The Colorado League of Women Voters of Colorado on Thursday reiterated its support for a national popular vote.
“Our mission is to empower voters and defend democracy, and that is exactly what the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would do,” said the Colorado league's president, Ruth Stemler.
Volunteers collected more than 100,000 of the petition signatures, said Wilson. His group also hired Blitz Canvassing to gather signatures. In all, about 2,200 volunteers circulated petitions, acted as notaries or performed other tasks, he said.
Republicans and Democrats support the referendum, Wilson said, recalling a former Bernie Sanders delegate who signed his name.
“I’ve been really impressed with how non-partisan it’s been,” he said. “We didn’t expect this kind of support.”