Organizers with a Colorado group backing the movement for a national popular vote for president are hopeful that a change in how states’ Electoral College votes are awarded will be passed by enough states to determine the winner in next year’s presidential election.
If the proposal passes in Oregon and Nevada in coming weeks, as it did in Colorado earlier this year, the number of electoral votes in the national compact would reach 202 — 68 fewer than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the election.
“I think if we pass 200, we’ll have a lot of momentum, and it’ll become a serious issue for other states before 2020,” Sylvia Bernstein, co-chairwoman of Colorado National Popular Vote, said Saturday during a forum in Colorado Springs hosted by the Pikes Peak region chapter of the League of Women Voters.
Under the change, a state’s Electoral College votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally. Those votes now go to the candidate who carries the state except in Maine and Nebraska, where they are split proportionally.
The movement arose after the 2016 election in which President Donald Trump won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote, leading to claims by Republicans and other opponents that the national popular vote movement amounts to sour grapes by Democrats because their candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost the election. Opponents also have questioned its constitutionality.
Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law in March, making Colorado the 12th state plus the District of Columbia to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Since then, New Mexico and Delaware have jumped on the popular vote bandwagon, raising the number of electoral votes in the compact to 189.
Nevada’s state Assembly and the Oregon Senate also have approved the measure. The Oregon Senate bill passed 17-2 with bipartisan support April 9. In Nevada, the measure made it through the Assembly 23-17 on April 16, with opposition from every Republican and five Democrats.
The bill was introduced in Oregon’s House Rule Committee April 10. Nevada’s Senate held a public hearing on the issue April 24.
The League of Women Voters is a staunch advocate for the compact. Judy Beerbaum, who is on the nonpartisan group’s Colorado board, said it is “one piece of the pie in making sure every vote counts.”
Even with the majority of the Colorado legislature on board, a cohort of Coloradans were so appalled by the move that they are seeking to recall Polis and key legislative backers, Rep. Meg Froelich and Sen. Jeff Bridges, both of Greenwood Village. The group’s Facebook page, titled Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis, argues that the initiative is unconstitutional and a “total disregard to whether or not the citizens of the state would approve.”
The group, which says it has more than 38,500 members, also cites the law aimed at boosting oil and gas regulations and the “red flag” gun measure allowing weapons to be confiscated from people determined to be a danger to themselves and others as reasons for Polis’ recall.
They need about 650,000 signatures — 25% of votes cast for that office in the previous general election — to trigger a recall.
Jane Ard-Smith of the League of Women Voters said the controversy compelled the local chapter to invite Bernstein to speak about the issue before its annual meeting.
“The League is dedicated to getting people to participate in elections and, because this is such a hot topic in the community and the state, we knew it was important for us to educate our members and the public,” she said. “We are all about getting out the facts and information people need to vote.”