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January 23, 2007 09:10 PM UTC

Electoral College Fireworks

  • by: Colorado Pols

Got a little hot under the collar on the floor of the Colorado Senate yesterday, as the Rocky reports:

A partisan battle over how Colorado counts its votes for president broke out in the Senate Monday with a Democrat accusing his leading Republican critic of distorting the truth about the bill.

Senate Bill 46 would put Colorado in an interstate agreement to elect the president by popular vote, instead of the electoral system currently in place.

The Senate gave initial approval to the measure; a formal vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said the current system is antiquated and causes presidential candidates to target only a handful of states.

But Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, called Gordon’s proposal a “sneaky, backdoor” way to change the voting process, a “Utopian scheme” and “end-run” around the U.S. Constitution. And Mitchell questioned why Gordon would bring back a measure similar to one voters rejected in 2004.

Gordon disputed the notion that his bill is the same as the ballot measure. “Senator Mitchell,” Gordon fumed, “you’re wrong on every single count, and usually you do a better job arguing against bills here.”

Gordon said it was untrue that if the measure passed, the presidential vote would become “irrelevant,” as Mitchell maintained…


44 thoughts on “Electoral College Fireworks

  1. This measure is nothing like the split-vote measure that Colorado voters rejected in ’04.

    That measure would have gutted Colorado’s power in Presidential elections – proportional splitting of our EC votes unilaterally, without buy-in from the other states.

    This measure is in some way the exact opposite of that initiative; a pooling of EC votes between states, multilaterally, to ensure votes for the single candidate winning the national popular vote.  It maintains Colorado’s current position in electoral politics until the measure passes in enough states to take effect, and then it would actually increase our representation slightly because we are a “larger” state (IIRC, any state with 7 or fewer electoral votes is benefitted by the current system; Colorado, with 9 electoral votes, benefits from a popular vote system).

    1. Why a bright wing nut like Shawn Mitchell would resort to such a disingenuous argument like this is beyond me.  He should have simply stuck to Mike Coffman’s position:  it’s a controversial issue, so let’s allow the voters weigh in on it….

      1. I don’t know Shawn Mitchell, but I feel I do know Ken Gordon, and would never accuse him of “sneaky, backdoor” behavior.  He’s one of the most upfront, straight shooting people I know. 

        You may disagree with his position, but I wouldn’t question his motives.

        1. Wow, has Ken Gordon got you fooled.

          His behavior towards the Colorado Green Party candidate for Secretary of State in 2006 was absolutely “sneaky” and “backdoor”.

          And … this has got to be one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard.
          Say the 2008 Democrat nominee is defeated by, say GOP nominee Sam Brownback, by 500 votes nationwide. Now if Colorado voters picked the Democrat by say two-to-one — all of our electoral votes still go the Republican with Gordon’s plan.

          So, you’ve just disenfrachized a whole state in the presidential election.

          Stupid, stupid idea, Ken Gordon.

          If you want to abolish the electoral college, why not have Udall and DeGette and Perlmutter and the Salazars introduce a constitutional amendment to do just that?

          Now that — would be the ‘upfront, straight shooting’ thing to do.

          1. Because throwing out negative rumors without proof is against the site policy here:

            I’m sure you know that *no* state could allocate their electors this way unless and until the majority of states passed the same law.  If the scenario you described were to happen, Colorado would be one of a majority of states (or at least states holding a majority of electors) to use the same formula.

          2. It is always possible that Ken Gordon has got me fooled, it’s not like I’ve known him since childhood or anything, but I have seen him in action both on and off of the campaign trail and was very impressed by integrity.

            One example, during his run for the Secretary of State’s office, I attended a public debate/forum where he and Coffman were to take the podium.  Since the moderators were going to be taking questions from the floor, I asked Ken if there were any particular question he would like to be able to answer, or any particular question he’d particularly like to have put to Coffman.  He replied that he wouldn’t appreciate having that sort of tactic used against him, so he wouldn’t do it to Coffman.  It seemed to me that the Secretary of State race was one of the “cleanest” races in the state, and I think that speaks well for the candidates.

            I admit to complete lack of knowledge to the Green Party incident you refered to. 

            1. I expect someone is going to have to pay to defend the Supreme Court case and – my bet – is that the current court will strike this law down. The states have the right to enter into binding agreements but this law actually allows the chief electoral officer to ignore the decision of the voters and appoint a slate of electors different than the slate selected by the voters. This is granting the chief electoral officer the right to ignore the voter’s decision. I really believe this is unconsitutional – in my humble, legal opinion.

              Also, what happens if the national popular vote margin of victory is less than the cummulative number of votes for mandatory recounts for all the members states. Do all the states then have to perform a recount? You have just removed the ability to have a recount for the presidential election. I still think this is a very bad idea.

              1. “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”

                U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 1.  That’s the sum total of what the Constitution says about the Electoral College, and it argues for the NPV proposal being legally solid and Constitutional.

                Your points about recounts are excellent.  Is there even such a thing as a nationwide recount trigger?  I thought it was on a state-by-state basis, and the popular vote in that state would still be the important thing to look at.  Theoretically you could have a situation where a state voted for the candidate who lost the overall popular vote, but that state’s margin for the loser was so narrow as to trigger an automatic recount, even though all the state’s delegates were going to the other candidate regardless due to the national popular vote.

                I still think it’s a good idea.

                1. until all recounts are in? And, in the world of Diebold, does this just mean that you go for Grand Theft in one state, rather than petty theft in a bunch?

                  1. Until other laws catch up, we would still have recounts even if, popular vote-wise, it didn’t make sense to have one.  (E.g. in 2004, Bush won by ~3,000,000 votes; it would make little sense to have a recount here, regardless of who was marginally ahead – the chances of a 3,000,000 vote swing are miniscule.)

                    Regarding petty theft vs. massive theft, petty theft in Florida cost us President Al Gore in 2000.  The dynamics of this wouldn’t change much in the current climate, but were the election to become more skewed, then grand theft in a single state might be easier than petty theft in a few.  It’s probably easier to swing individual state’s EC votes than it is to swing the popular vote, regardless.

          3. would be to come back here and put your money where your mouth is.

            I was under the impression Mr. Van Wie dropped out of the SoS’ race willingly after learning of Ken Gordon’s openness to Instant Runoff Voting solutions.  In fact, he endorsed Senator Gordon–I got an email from local Greens saying so.

            If you know otherwise, enlighten us.

            As an aside, there are Green Party politicians who see some good in Democrats holding the Congressional majority, and who are eager to work with the responsible ones and to push them toward truly progressive policies wherever possible.  But your website writings show you eager to criticize the “Dimocrat [sic] Party,” even before they regained any power in the Federal government, and not in a constructive way at all.  The Republicans who own today’s mess aren’t on your radar for some reason.

            How’s that working out for you?

  2. Why aren’t we looking at changing the Constitution? Seems to me like this bill will require coordination with other states in order to go into effect right? Why aren’t we actually fixing the thing that seems to offend everyone so badly and do away with the EC in the manner actually provided by the constitution?

    1. As many people have discovered over the years, it’s nigh-on impossible to get either 2/3 of Congress or 3/4 of the States to sign on to *anything*.  This effort is within the bounds of the Constitution (the individual States having the right to choose their electors as they see fit) but requires a lower threshold.  If it goes through and the world doesn’t end, it will make the case for a Constitutional change (of any sort – abolishing the EC or enforcing proportional representation) much easier.  (And if for some strange reason this *does* cause the world to enter its final decline, it’s a lot easier to repeal, too.)

      Good enough reasoning?

      1. So the optimal solution is to undermine the votes of this state until the rest of the nation catches up and want to just change the Constitution also? Am I the only one who thinks that logic is stupid?

        1. You haven’t been reading here much, have you…

          The state’s votes do not get allocated in any way by this bill until a number of states comprising a majority of electoral votes approve this exact legislation.  Unless 271 or more electoral votes are to be allocated this way, Colorado will retain its own determination of its 9 electoral votes.

      2. No, your reasoning is not good enough. It muddies the waters and is comparable to the strategy  of the so-called prolife people who do not like Roe. So instead of fighting for a Human Life Amendment to the Constituion, their brilliant strategy has been to push to put judges on the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe and return the matter to the individual states.  Which would transform a civil right, individually held by women, into a state right.  That ultimately underminds the whole structure of civil rights….

        The electoral college has to do with the federal nature of our republic. There are problems with the electoral college. they need to be addressed through the process of a constitutional amendment….it is the process which provokes debate and that is what needs to be done.

        Yeh, it is hard to change the constitution  because it is supposed to be. It is not impossible at all. It took no time when baby boomers started to grow up to change the voting age from 21 to 18 through a constitutional amendment.  We ought to celebrate that.  1971.  I remember it well.

        1. In the past, many Constitutional amendments were presaged by other acts done more locally, or proclaimed by law before being enshrined in the Constitution.  Even the 1st Amendment has its roots in state law…

          I see no contradictions or Constitutional crises here…

  3. Imagine Colorado pledging its electors to Hillary in spite of a majority voting for McCain…

    Sounds like a good way to put John Andrews and his ilk back in charge!

    And how “democratic” is it to implement such a radical voting reform via legislation as opposed to referendum?

    Sounds pretty “republican” to me.

    1. I think the people in Colorado would support a popularly elected President and I think they will support this as a way of getting to that.  IMHO, most people see the electoral college as an antiquated relic of past centuries that’s long past due to be repealed.  If this does it, the so be it.  From my point of view, the likelihood of the popular vote winner losing the electoral college is relatively low (only happened twice in 220 years).  So, I see this as a fail safe.  Besides, who says Hilary doesn’t beat McCain in Colorado anyway???

      1. Either get rid of the Electoral College or use it for the purpose it was intended: expressing the will of the people as a state in a presidential election.

        You don’t like the Hillary/McCain scenario? Then how about Bush/Gore 2000?

        Bush won the popular vote in Colorado. You think the people would have been okay with Colorado’s electoral votes going to Gore instead of Bush?

        I don’t think so. You’re not sure?

        Then put this voting reform measure before the people as a referendum and we’ll see if it passes.

  4. Has Gordo cleared this with the DNC?  It seems that he has nothing better to do than screw with the best system in the world.  Get a job Gordo or at least a life….

    1. This bill is such a loser.  It is a giant middle-finger to the will of the people of Colorado established with Amendment 36 in 2004.  While this bill is awful there’s no denying that the GOP will score major points from the bevvy of bufoonery coming from the Dems this year.  The union bill is a loser in the public and this Gordon bill is a loser with Republicans AND Democrats.

      Think of this:

      What if the Hildebeast wins Colorado but Romney wins the national popular vote and our nine votes decide the election.  Can you imagine???  What would the Democrats do? 

      Hold on to your hat, Lauren, because, to quote Hillary, “I think it’s going to be a VERY interesting two years.” 

      1. I guess they think this will be a winner for Hillary (or Obama/Edwards/Gore).  It seems like a bit of a gamble though.  I’ll be holding my hat and watching with interest.  Will this be the next Amendment 41?  Stay tuned!

        1. That Colorado is more likely than not to stay red.  If Gordon really believed that Colorado would vote Democratic this bill would not see the light of day.  But the Democrats are demonstrating what serious people know: Colorado is still a red state and the Democats are trying to make that fact irrelevant.

          1. This measure, when enected by enough states, will allow the will of the people of the United States of America to be expressed without regard to party affiliations or regional political calculus.

            Colorado *gains* in stature from this proposal; we have more people in proportion to the nation than we do electoral votes in proportion to the EC. 

            1. except the jet trails of the candidates flying back and forth to where all the people live.  If you could get Colorado’s votes by winning more votes in the big states then why would you even stop over in our dusty ol’ cowtown?  Of course you wouldn’t!  You’re going straight for the big cities.  That means that if you can pull a few thousands extra votes out of LA or New York or Miami or Houston or wherever–anywhere besides Denver–that’s where you’re going.

              I didn’t quite understand your last paragraph since the EC votes are awarded proportionally to your population compared to the national population.  Until now you win Colorado’s prized nine votes by coming here and persuading folks to vote for you.  That’s been the only way.  But now you can win our votes without ever stepping foot in Colorado.  So why would you?

              Don’t exaggerate the import of Colorado.  Politically we are still a hole in the wall mostly ignored by the media.  Denver was picked for the Dem convention because New Orleans is still a backwater, Minneapolis was stolen by the Republicans, and Bloomberg didnt’ want a piece of the convention.  Denver is not a smashing cosmo-style metropolis where you go to be seen.  It’s where you go to walk your dog, eat at Village Inn, drink beer, and go to church.  It’s where normal people live and politics and media are not interested in normal people.

              Denver can rest it’s laurels on being the Dems’ plan L. 


              1. The EC isn’t constituted strictly on the proportion of the citizens – each state also gets two additional electors.  Proportionaly, it works out that we’re somewhat larger than your “average” state, and our 9 electors represent a larger-than-average voter to elector ratio.

                More importantly, though, switching to a national proportional vote will mean that every vote counts evenly.  You don’t go to California and expect that the whole state will vote with you based on a single platform; you can’t go to Texas and please everyone there, no matter how hard you try.  Democratic candidates will still need the votes of Colorado mountain independents, and Republicans will still need the votes of rural Colorado independents (to name two small but important groups).  Candidates will have to convince a majority of the country to vote for them; they can’t count on “safe” states like Texas or California, or pander to “swing” states like Florida and Ohio.  This diminishes the importance of California especially, probably more than any other single state…  You should be thrilled at this possibility.

  5. This anti-EC stuff sounds not unlike the type of populism that brought about the three biggest mistakes in American history – the 16th, 17th, and 18th Amendments.  I guess we’re back then again.

  6. I’m not sure how to view this.

    Mitchell is wasting his breath, however.  Thanks to the Rs performance in the last election, they can do nothing to block or change legislation proposed by the Ds in Colorado.  Gordon must be a gentleman, or not yet figured out his political advantage, because he coulda said “bite me.  Watch what we pass.”

    IMHO, the President should be popularly elected.  Winning the majority of EC votes seems to invite mischief and controversy ala Ohio and Florida that undermines public confidence in elections.

    I don’t know how this bill affects the dynamics of the election, or whether it will encourage politicos to visit Colorado.

    Ds (or Rs) win in Colorado, Rs (or Ds) win national popular vote.  Colorado’s EC votes go to the Rs (or Ds).  Doesn’t seem fair, but I’m not sure that’s any less fair than what we have now where a candidate can lose an election even though he has a popular majority.

    I’m pretty sure, however, that votes of folks who live in the sticks will still count like they do now in statewide and national elections — not at all.

    1. Collectively, rural voters are a force that needs to be addressed.  Within most states, though, urban voters overwhelm rural votes, and the EC is decided in most states based on the feelings of city-dwellers – big or small…

      I think farmers and ranchers would have a (slight) bit more clout in close elections, because collectively they’d have a voice in a popular vote.  (Of course, so would any number of minorities and mid-sized groups; each party would probably pick a set to pander to, and try to build a majority off of their constituencies…

      Removing the dance of the EC cannot be an incredibly bad – a lot of other countries do it just fine.

      1. “Other countries” aren’t federal republics with long histories of individual state sovereignty.  With the end of any state representation in Washington (17th Amendment) and the continued ignoring of the 10th Amendment, the Electoral College is the last bastion of the reality of the states in this republic.

        Surely people on a site dedicated to state politics, with considerably more resulting relative clout in said state, even compared to the more powerful national blogs’ clout relative to the federal government would understand the importance of maintaining state sovereignty.

        1. At least if you think of it in disproportionate terms, the last bastion of the states is the Senate.  It will be around long after changes to the way we elect Presidents, or re-apportion the House…

          The EC has made a difference *how* often?  Twice, out of 54 elections (1960 and 2000 – the 1800 and 1824 races were decided in the House).  Its importance is overrated, and its main use – to appoint electors who were informed, in a day when instant media didn’t exist – has been outlived.

          1. The Senate isn’t a representative of a state.  It’s a representative of the people of the state.  Therein lies the problem.  Increasingly, the state is becoming an irrelevant political entity.  Which I’d say is kind of a bad thing, not only for the obvious fact that it’s worked so well for so long, but also because it’s the easiest, most efficient, most free way to combine effective government with democratic principles. 

            People gripe all the time about how ignorant politicians are, and how it’s the “big corporations” who run Washington – yet that gripe is often followed up by the sorts of things that the politicians in Washington *should* do.  Well, how about they send stuff back to Denver and all the other capitols, where oversight by the people is easier? 

            It’s so crazy, it just might work for nigh on 231 years.

            1. The current system makes him answerable to competitive (and big) states, elevating the importance of such tiny constituencies as the Cuban exiles or the Israel lobby. Thank you Electoral College for that.

              No, it’s time to elect the President the same way we elect every single other public official anywhere in the United States – directly.

              I don’t know if this reform idea is really any good or not. The other day I came out saying either amend the constitution to do this or just leave things the way they are. I still think that’s the best course, if only because I think any other attempt at reform will result in a confusing new system (once all the compromises come through) can be exploited by the parties. It’s not like reform doesn’t have a history of creating bigger messes, right?

              So let’s get rid of the EC. Sorry, smaller states, but you don’t matter that much in presidential politics now. The swing states, the ones that 2000 and 2004 depended on, were Florida and Ohio, two of the biggest in the Union. You’ll count more if your citizens vote with the rest of America.

              1. Wouldn’t everyone just be part of the big pool state, the USA?  A citizen of Vermont has just as much voice in the outcome as one from Texas.  It would also pretty much kill the Florida and Ohio types of manipulations; you win a state by a small margin and gain a lot of electoral votes.

                If, like in 2004, Ohio was won by 3 million votes – let’s say dishonestly for my purpose here – those 3 million would just be part of the 100 million cast

                I think the EC virtually begs for corruption is one party or the other – oh, wait, it’s always THAT party – chooses to be dishonest.

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