Legislature debates plan to dilute Electoral College
DENVER – Colorado lawmakers said it’s time presidential candidates start paying attention to smaller states like Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and approved a plan Monday that would effectively circumvent the Electoral College in hopes of making them do that.The proposal is being considered in four other states – California, Louisiana, Illinois and Missouri – and is part of a national effort to change the way the nation picks a president.It calls on other states to enter into compacts that pledge that all their Electoral College delegates will vote for the winner of the national popular vote. It would only take effect if enough states agree to decide the election on a popular vote.The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure (Senate Bill 223) and sent it to the full Senate for debate.Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, said the current system split the decision among electors from all 50 states and favors swing states like Iowa and Florida, which have local issues – such as Cuban immigrants in Florida or ethanol in Iowa – that don’t apply to the rest of the nation.”It definitely distorts the election,” Gordon said.Gordon said Democrat John Kerry would have won the presidency in 2004 if he picked up 60,000 more votes in Ohio, even though Bush won by 2.8 million votes nationwide.Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said if Colorado approved the compact, candidates would be forced to campaign for the popular vote in big states like California, Texas, New York and Florida.”The president is not the super mayor of Washington, Chicago or Los Angeles,” Mitchell said.John Koza, who is promoting the plan, said small states already were being ignored by the major candidates and a compact would force the candidates to address national issues. Koza said two-thirds of the advertising and two-thirds of the visits during the last presidential election were focused on five states and 95 percent of the attention went to voters in just 16 states.Koza said the proposed change was constitutional because the U.S. Constitution leaves the decision on how to allocate electoral votes to the individual states.Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College, said the move was an attempt to dilute the power of the Electoral College. He said it could backfire if small states approve the compact because it would force candidates to go to the most populous states for votes.Lawmakers said it would be a disaster if there was a nationwide recount and the election was close, like the one that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before President Bush was declared the winner by a margin of 537 votes six years ago.”A recount would be politically divisive and catastrophic,” Mitchell said.
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