A citizen initiative to repeal state Senate Bill 42, the national popular vote law, has been approved for the 2020 ballot, the Secretary of State's Office announced Thursday.
Senate Bill 42 would pledge the state's nine presidential electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than to the winner of the state's popular vote for president.
Opponents have claimed that such a move would dilute Colorado's vote, particularly for rural communities, and see it as a challenge to President Donald Trump, who won the Electoral College vote in 2016 but lost the popular contest by some 3 million votes.
After the 2012 election, Trump called for doing away with the Electoral College, calling it "a disaster for a democracy … a total sham and a travesty." He reiterated his views in a November 2016 interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" in his first interview as president-elect, stating he wouldn't change his opinion just because he won.
The national popular vote is an interstate agreement to grant electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes. The agreement would go live once enough states have adopted the measure to add up to 270 electoral college votes, the number required to declare a winner in a presidential election.
At least 12 states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia have already approved the agreement, with a total to date of 170 electoral votes.
The drive to repeal Senate Bill 42 is the first time Coloradans have sought a ballot measure to repeal a state law since 1932, when citizens decided to challenge a law on a tax on Oleo margarine. The measure was passed by voters in the 1932 election, according to the secretary of state.
Opponents, including Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, began seeking the repeal of SB42 before the measure was signed by the governor.
The ballot measure needed 124,632 valid signatures; the secretary of state reported that of the 228,832 signatures submitted, the initiative had 183,673 valid signatures and declared it accepted for the 2020 ballot.
Only measures dealing with taxes can be voted on in an odd-year election, which is why the ballot measure won't be decided in the 2019 general election.
Pugliese said in a statement Thursday that the "people of Colorado will have their voice heard."
"We will not give our votes for president to states like California and New York. I look forward to the campaign ahead, and I look forward to defeating Colorado’s participation in the national popular vote scheme."
Wilson told Colorado Politics Thursday that "it's a big relief" that the measure was approved.
"Our volunteers made that happen," he said.
Next steps: "We'll start working on more fundraising," as they expect to have a lot of money raised by the opposition to the repeal, and they'll put together an education campaign to explain how national popular vote would work.
Colorado GOP Chair and U.S. Rep Ken Buck of Greeley said Thursday afternoon that "Colorado's presidential choice should be controlled by Colorado voters, not population centers in New York and California. The tremendous grassroots opposition to this law is nothing short of historic." Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters will stand together to repeal the law in 2020, he added.
Patrick Rosenstiel, president of Yes on National Popular Vote, called the repeal Thursday "a clearly partisan effort to overturn the governor and legislature."
"Our focus today is simple — to build the political organization required to win this campaign and bring our country one important step closer to having a popular vote for president," he said.
"We're asking Colorado to vote yes on a popular vote for president, and ratify the excellent decision made by the governor and the legislature. A majority of Colorado voters want a national popular vote for president, and they will demand one next [sic] November.”
State Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette, the prime sponsor of SB42, told Colorado Politics Thursday that the 2020 ballot measure "will give us a great opportunity to talk more about the national popular vote and how much it's needed."
Foote added that the law "would make sure everyone's vote counts, no matter where they live. I look forward to opponents telling people why Colorado should throw out a million votes at the presidential election, [because] national popular vote will change that."
As of June 30, ballot measure proponents had raised $590,324 in cash and non-monetary contributions. Large donors, mostly Republican heavyweights, include the conservative Better Jobs Coalition, with $105,000 donated; the state GOP, with $20,000; and the federal Project West Political Action Committee, chaired by Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Yuma, with $50,000. The bulk of the $495,858 already spent has gone to petition-signature gatherers.
Opposing the ballot measure, Yes on National Popular Vote's issue committee was just registered at the end of July and has not yet reported contributions. A second committee working against the repeal, Coloradans for National Popular Vote, has raised $6,835 in cash as of Aug. 12. Its largest donor, John Koza, at $3,500, is the head of National Popular Vote.
The National Popular Vote measure has been cited by those seeking the recall of Gov. Jared Polis and state Sens. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Pete Lee of Colorado Springs as one of the reasons for the recalls.