Colorado’s Democratic lawmakers may have had their way in passing a controversial "national popular vote" bill this week, but Republicans want to have their say before it hits Gov. Jared Polis' desk.
“Those arrogant idiots in the state legislature think they’re smarter than [the framers of the Constitution]” said Jeff Hays, chair of the Colorado Republican Party. “They’re convinced that those people were wrong.”
Colorado’s House on Thursday approved Senate Bill 42 -- which would pledge each of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote, regardless of who is favored by Colorado voters. The Senate approved the measure last month.
Thursday afternoon, Hays emailed fellow Republicans, imploring them to call Polis and ask him to veto the bill.
“It’s important that our folks express themselves to our government about this very important issue,” Hays said. “Whether he listens to them or not is a different story. That’s up to Jared Polis.”
It's a "Hail Mary" move given that Polis previously expressed his support for the bill. His signature could come next week.
Hays’ assessment on the framers of the Constitution and the light in which the bill’s sponsors view them couldn’t be further from the truth, said Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, one of the measure’s two backers in the House.
As she argued on behalf of the bill, Arndt had nothing but praise for the framers.
“They were geniuses in their humility, to design a flexible system that would stand the test of time,” she said. “We as a people need to care for our democracy and ensure that it breathes and grows as our country changes over time.”
Indeed the country has changed, Arndt said, noting that when the Constitution was written, only white, male landowners could vote.
She said she understands respectful disagreements on the topic. Even six Democrats voted against the measure Thursday and that’s OK, she said. But sometimes the conversation turns sour.
“We’re having a civil discussion at the Capitol and I would expect to have a civil discussion statewide,” Arndt said. “Some of them have been just downright hateful. … The hatefulness is what I object to.”
Civil or not, it appears that Hays’ efforts might be in vain because Arndt said Polis was recently in her district and expressed his strong support for the measure.
“My pen is ready,” Arndt said she heard Polis say.
Opponents have a backup plan, however. Don Wilson, Monument’s mayor, and Rose Pugliese, a Mesa County commissioner, said Thursday they intend to petition a question onto the state’s 2020 ballot. If they gather about 125,000 signatures and the law is enacted, the popular-vote measure would be suspended and its implementation would hinge on a vote in the statewide election.
Wilson told Colorado Politics he hopes his effort will benefit from Hays’ work.
“Jeff does really good at getting the word out, and if he can at least get that spark going, where if people don’t get to make that call [to Polis] or don’t feel that they’ve gotten their word in, then if it ends up relying on us, hopefully that helps us in our efforts,” he said.
Rather than a partisan issue, Wilson said he was optimistic that people across the state would vote against the national popular election.
“A big thing with Colorado is independence,” he said. “This takes away some of that. I think we’re going to get a lot of people that we didn’t expect supporting [the referendum] for that reason. We want to be an independent state in the union.”
If Wilson and Pugliese manage to petition their way onto the ballot, Arndt said she’ll respect the results.
“That’s part of how we make decisions to govern ourselves,” she said. “And if it gets overturned -- I won’t vote for it -- but so be it. If that’s the will of the people. That’s my whole jam.”