NPV Repeal Makes 2020 Ballot–But Will It Even Matter?

As the Colorado Independent reports:

The Secretary of State on Thursday certified that petitioners opposed to Colorado’s participation in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact have collected enough signatures to place the matter on the November 2020 ballot.

This is a direct challenge to a bill passed earlier this year and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. The bill provoked a significant party-line fight at the Capitol, during which Democrats — who control the state House and Senate — expended much more political capital than they’d planned for. Republicans seeking to recall Polis and various Democratic lawmakers have alleged the bill is a key example of overreach during the past session.

According to the Secretary of State, Colorado hasn’t seen a state law challenged on the ballot since 1932, when voters overturned a tax on margarine.

That the ballot measure challenging this year’s National Popular Vote Interstate Compact law adopted by Colorado received enough signatures to make the 2020 ballot should come as a surprise to no one. In marked contrast to the recall petition drives underway showing little sign of success, backers of the NPV repeal initiative excitedly kept the press informed about their progress and turned in well over the required number.

Since the campaign to repeal the NPV Compact in Colorado got started last spring, we’ve been frank about the likelihood that its solidly Republican proponents would succeed in their petition drive, and be better served politically to organize around this effort than with recall campaigns against legislators in a few small districts. Since then, however, the debate over NPV has become cluttered with external factors like the recent federal court ruling in favor of so-called “faithless electors.” At the same time, the national NPV push appears to have stalled with several states having defeated their attempts to join the compact. As of this writing it’s very unlikely that the NPV Compact would be in effect for the 2020 elections, and even if it were it may not be enforceable against the wishes of Colorado electors.

Donald Trump.

And as we’ve said before, if NPV remains a partisan question in a state about to reject President Donald Trump on the same ballot, the repeal measure’s prospects are dim no matter how many Republican signatures they received.

To all of that uncertainty, here’s another twist–a column in Politico published Wednesday just ahead of the NPV question in Colorado making the ballot, by Republicans arguing that the National Popular Vote Compact is necessary for that party in the long term as well:

In the wake of the 2016 election, when Democrats lost the presidential election but won the popular vote for the second time in 20 years, it’s easy to understand why momentum to abolish the Electoral College once again gathered on the left. It’s not so easy to understand, though, why Republicans have become so committed against the idea of a national popular vote in response. [Pols emphasis]

The Denver Post recently reported that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner actually donated $50,000 to an effort to withdraw Colorado via a referendum from the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact is an agreement that state legislatures have voted to join that would pool the electoral votes from among the participating states. Once the 270-vote threshold has been reached between those participating states, they would award all of those votes to whoever wins the popular vote across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Fifteen reliably blue states, plus the District of Columbia, have joined the compact since 2006, but it has not been as popular among Republicans—perhaps because of some kind of partisan loyalty to the Electoral College.

That loyalty is misguided, though. From a practical standpoint, moving to a national popular vote may well be the best way, and perhaps the only way, for Republicans to have a reasonable chance of winning the White House in 2020 and beyond. That’s because, despite President Donald Trump’s widely unexpected 2016 electoral victory, there is no red state advantage in the Electoral College. And things are going to look much, much worse for the GOP’s chances with the Electoral College if red Texas, along with the battleground state of Florida, move to purple or blue in the coming years.

This column makes a convincing argument that with large states like Texas and Florida steadily moving leftward, the still-large bloc of GOP voters in those states could save a Republican presidential candidate in a nationwide popular vote–voters whose voices are completely lost in today’s 50%+1 winner-take-all system. Which, we should add, has been the status quo for Republican voters in Colorado too in the last several presidential elections.

Like the panic over “faithless electors,” there’s a simple resolution: just make every voter’s vote equal.


14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    This seems pretty basic: if the state can't force electors to vote a certain way, how can the NPV law?

    Another one of those "I'm not a lawyer but…" moments.

    • VoyageurVoyageur says:

      Very simple.  The legislature selects the electors, choosing those strongly committed to the popular vote winner.  If one or two go back on their word, so what?  Faithless electors have never changed an outcome.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        There actually was a time when that was how it was done. As recently as 2000, people in the Florida legislature were threatening to simply select a slate of electors pledged to vote for G.W. Bush come what may from the U.S. Supreme Court.

        • That's actually still how it's done, every election. That you get to vote for the slate of electors doesn't change the fact that it's technically the legislature that validates the election and sends the candidate's slate of electors off to college.

    • Genghis says:

      Simply put, it can't. State legislatures decide how electors are chosen, but the electors can vote however they goddamn jolly well please. That recent Tenth Circuit decision confirmed what the Constitution already made pretty clear. The NPV legislation, if it ever takes effect, will no more bind Colorado presidential electors than the current electoral vote mandate (winner-take-all based on statewide popular vote).

      By its own terms, NPV won't take effect anywhere unless and until it's adopted by the legislatures of states that control more than half of all electoral votes. Last I checked, NPV had passed in states with 196 electoral votes. The chance of rounding up another 74 electoral votes is exactly 0.00%, so this voter initiative to repeal NPV in Colorado is just another wingnut clown punching exercise.

      We've had something like 150 faithless electors in U.S. history, with 10 or so since 1948. Most of the recent FEs have engaged in grandstanding dumbfuck potato nonsense like switching president and VP or turning in blank ballots. The overwhelming majority of electors have voted as their state laws mandate.

      Of course, one can always go to county conventions and such, and extract a public promise from anyone seeking an elector position that s/he will follow state law and not go the FE route. That way, at least name-and-shame is an option if that person actually becomes an elector and goes rogue.

  2. MADCO says:

    every vote equal?


    seriously, no one ever wanted that s a goal. Not in the Declaration, not in the Constitution, not in the Federalist papers, not in Cook County, not in Alabama or MIssissippi burning, nowhere.

    It's implied in the Magna Carta. But still… 

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      I watched Mississippi Burning again this week.  The klan rally towards the end of the movie could have been filmed today in almost any state south of the Mason-Dixon. As a frequent guest in Dallas County, AL these days the needle has barely moved since 1964.

      • MADCO says:

        cried when I saw that movie. And want to again when I hear stuff like that.

        Danville, IL once upon a time, largest klan chapter in the world.

        What?! in Illinois?  yeah. they had signs and a plaque 

        • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

          The movie should be a required watch by everyone, starting with high school kids. I'd forgotten the skanky Sheriff was acquitted in the murders and the longest sentence any of them had for the three deaths was 10 years. 

          Crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge into Selma still gives shivers to anyone paying attention to what's going on today on the west side of the landmark. 

          Folklore is that Wray was one of the early chapters in Colorado. The only local targets at that time would have been Catholics (our first Catholic church was torched during that period of time)  


  3. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    The chance of Republicans winning the Presidential election if electoral votes of Florida (now 29) and Texas (now 38) go Democrat is slim.  The recent high water mark of Republican success was 2004, when Republicans actually DID win a majorities of 3 million votes and 286 electoral college votes.  Florida and Texas picked up 6 EC votes with the 2010 Census, and are likely to pick up more with the 2020 Census.  Flip those two states blue, and Republican EC votes in 2004 would have been 61 votes lost, or 225. 

    NPV would have saved that election for Bush.  Texas went to Bush by 1.7 million, Florida by about 0.3 million — so there is a CHANCE Bush could have won the popular vote and lost the EC.

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