Wil Armstrong

Wil Armstrong

Apparently, Colorado’s legislature and governor have decided they no longer care about the votes of their own citizens!

As shocking as that sounds, they have agreed to assign Colorado’s electoral votes in presidential elections to the winner of the national popular vote — regardless of how Coloradans vote. That means Colorado would forfeit its voice in presidential elections and voluntarily diminish its influence on important federal policy debates.

The coronavirus pandemic has diverted our attention from almost every other issue lately, and we are right to be concerned. But I also remember my dad, U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, worrying that we get so wrapped up in the urgent that we forget the important. This Electoral College issue is vitally important to Colorado’s future.

If you wonder what’s behind the so-called “National Popular Vote” (NPV) scheme, follow the money. The National Popular Vote is being funded by out-of-state interests, particularly a handful of California billionaires, for a simple reason: it benefits large urban centers in California and New York.

Here’s how their undemocratic scheme would work: Participating states would agree to award their Electoral College votes for president to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide. In other words, if Coloradans vote for, say, the Democratic nominee but the Republican wins more votes in the nine largest states where a majority of voters live, Colorado’s electoral college votes would be awarded to the Republican. That’s a hijacking of Colorado’s votes for president — plain and simple.

It is shocking that Colorado’s political leaders approved legislation in 2019 to join this scheme, with virtually no discussion or debate. What is not surprising is the unprecedented groundswell of opposition it has generated across the state. Colorado voters responded by exercising what is called a “veto referendum,” a provision of the state’s constitution last used in 1932. More than 225,000 Colorado voters signed petitions in opposition to the legislation, suspending its implementation until voters can weigh in this November.

Coloradans instinctively know changing the Electoral College is a mistake. It protects smaller states like ours against domination by the largest states. Our nine — soon to be 10 — electoral votes for president have been highly coveted by candidates of both parties in their quest to achieve the necessary 270 votes to become president. But if NPV is implemented, Colorado would constitute a mere 1.7 percent of the nation’s population, turning Colorado into fly-over country, to be ignored during presidential elections. A presidential candidate might make an occasional stop in the Denver metro area but not in non-metro areas of the state such as Pueblo, Grand Junction and Greeley — sites of frequent presidential candidate rallies in recent years. Even legislative Democrats from these parts of Colorado knew this was bad for their districts and voted against the National Popular Vote scheme.

Worse yet, consider NPV’s impact on important policy and funding debates. Under the Electoral College, presidential candidates care about Colorado’s interests. That’s important when it comes to securing transportation funding, or when it comes to our ongoing water wars with southern California. Think about it. Southern California alone has five times the population of the entire state of Colorado! Why would Colorado ever want to forfeit its power — and maybe its water — to California?

On these pages, Matt Machowiak, a political consultant from Texas, recently argued that Coloradans should support National Popular Vote. He said Colorado is no longer a battleground state, and NPV could restore Colorado’s relevance in presidential contests. Funny, both parties certainly think Colorado is a vital battleground, and they target it with loads of money and other resources every election. That would end if NPV is implemented.

With a mere 1.7% of the nation’s population, how could Colorado ever again be considered a heavyweight in future presidential contests?

But selfish, parochial interests aren’t the only reason Coloradans should oppose the National Popular Vote scheme. The Electoral College recognizes the unique interests and power of each and every state. In order to achieve a majority in the Electoral College, candidates must cobble together a broad coalition, either center-right or center-left. A regional or ideological niche candidacy is unlikely to succeed. The Electoral College has a way of reining in political extremes.

Not so, under National Popular Vote. Think about the electoral dynamics it would create. Instead of competing over battleground “swing” states like Colorado, candidates would be faced with an entirely different incentive: how to generate more turnout in vote-rich “base” areas. What better way to accomplish more turnout in vote-rich southern California, for instance, than to promise its residents more funding, more water, and more government money.

Here’s the upshot for Colorado voters: There can be no doubt that by effectively abandoning the Electoral College, the National Popular Vote would migrate political power to large, urban population centers, such as California and New York. It’s no wonder that almost all of the financial backing for the National Popular Vote campaign comes from outside Colorado. Of the more than $1.8 million raised by proponents for this fall’s campaign, 99.4% has come from outside Colorado, and 76% from California.

Colorado has nothing to gain by forfeiting political power to California and New York, home to some of the highest tax rates, worst business climates and unfunded pension liabilities in the nation. The big states are already powerful enough without Colorado voluntarily giving them its own power too. Vote no on the National Popular Vote scheme this November.

Wil Armstrong is campaign co-chair for Protect Colorado’s Vote, the committee formed to keep Colorado’s voice and its votes for president with the people of Colorado. He is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist and lives with his family in Cherry Hills Village.

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