In every election this fall, from county commissioner to U.S. senator, the candidate who earns the most votes will win the election. This is true everywhere in Colorado and throughout the country, with the exception of one office: the presidency.
The National Popular Vote agreement is a way to make sure the presidential candidate that earns the most popular votes nationwide actually wins the election.
A recent column in this publication by political commentator Eric Sondermann called the National Popular Vote agreement a “complicated theorem” ("SONDERMANN | Electoral vote end-run: still stupid," June 28). On the contrary, most people understand the concept of the most votes winning elections.
Imagine the outcry if our governor was elected only by the sheer number of counties that voted in his favor, or a state legislator by the number of precincts. We don’t accept second place winners for any other type of election. We certainly should not for the most important elected office in our country either.
The second-place candidate has won the presidency five times throughout our history and there have been several near misses — most recently in 2004 — as well. Had John Kerry flipped just 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004, he would have won the presidency despite losing to George W. Bush by over a half a million popular votes throughout the country.
This unfortunate feature leads to presidential campaigns focusing on only a handful of closely divided swing states in order to win the election. Since they know they need not win the majority of popular votes nationwide, but instead the most votes in a few swing states, those candidates understandably focus their time, resources, polling and organization on those swing states.
Ask yourself whether it is fair that Arizona, a state with just two more electoral votes than Colorado, receives a bevy of presidential candidate visits, advertising, polling, and grassroots organization resources. Colorado will get none of those things this year because it is not a swing state. Why do candidates care much more about Wisconsin, with its 10 electoral votes, than Maryland, also with 10? It has nothing to do with the important issues within each state and everything to do with whether they are states that could go either red or blue this fall.
That dynamic leads to governing that disproportionately benefits swing states as well. Just last week, President Trump claimed credit for awarding a multibillion-dollar federal shipbuilding contract to a Wisconsin firm because of Wisconsin’s important “location.” A Trump administration official recently acknowledged that Florida received all of its COVID-19 protective equipment requests because of how crucial Florida is to the president’s re-election. Examples abound of similar preferential treatment during prior administrations too.
Presidential candidates would seek votes from across the country under a National Popular Vote. They would seek votes in swing state Arizona as well as red state Alabama. They would campaign in blue state New Mexico as well as swing state North Carolina. They would care about Colorado again. The winner would then govern in a way that benefits the most Americans, not just those Americans who happen to live in a half dozen swing states.
The National Popular Vote enables us to have a true nationwide election while preserving the states’ power over elections and the Electoral College. Once enough states sign onto the agreement, those states’ electors would go to the candidate that receives the most popular votes nationwide. The presidential candidate who receives the most votes wins the election; again, hardly a “complicated theorem.”
Colorado is among 15 states and Washington, D.C. that have signed onto the agreement since 2006, and Colorado voters get to approve that decision during this fall’s election. If you believe presidential candidates should care about Colorado again, and you believe the candidate that earns the most popular votes nationwide should win the election, you should vote YES on the National Popular Vote this fall.
Mike Foote, a Lafayette Democrat, represents District 17 in the Colorado Senate. He was one of the sponsors of the National Popular Vote bill in 2019.