Opinion: One person should always equal one vote

Marjorie Gray
League of Women Voters

One person should always equal one vote in every election no matter where that person lives. It makes sense that the candidate who gets the most votes wins. This is a fundamental principle of our democracy. Proposition 113, the national popular vote, embraces those equal voting rights.

One person, one vote applies to every elected official, including U.S. senators, U.S. representatives, governors, state legislators, county officials, school board members, municipal offices and even high school student councils. It applies to every elected office except for the president of the United States. The president represents the entire country and is our most important elected official, yet millions of American votes for president get tossed aside because they didn’t vote with the majorities of their state.

The U.S. Constitution grants each state the ability to choose how their electors vote for president in the Electoral College. Colorado and 47 other states have what is called the “winner-take-all” system. This means that our nine electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the most votes in our state. The presidential candidate who wins by just one vote in Colorado gets all nine electoral votes. The same is true in most other states. In 2016, Donald Trump got 1.2 million votes and Hillary Clinton got 1.3 million votes in Colorado. But Clinton got all nine of Colorado’s electoral votes. That meant 1.2 million Coloradans did not have their voices heard under the current system. We would all be outraged if the same thing happened to our votes for governor or for any other statewide office in Colorado.

Proposition 113 would change the current system and make every vote count in every election. It’s that simple. It is within our state’s constitutional authority to reform the current Electoral College system. Instead of only the majority votes in the state counting toward the presidential election, a national popular vote would count every vote from every single voter.  Every vote from every voter is added up, and the presidential candidate who earns the most votes nationwide wins the election. Again, this is how we elect every other political office holder in the country.

While electing our president by a national popular vote is a straightforward concept, opposition to it has attempted to instill fear and misinformation against it. Some opponents claim big states like California and New York will dominate a national popular vote without explaining that it does nothing to increase the influence those states currently have in the Electoral College. One or two states do not determine the winner in the current system and they would not under a national popular vote, either.

Opponents also claim the national popular vote violates the Constitution while skipping over the unambiguous language in Article II, Section 1 that gives states the exclusive power to determine how presidents are elected. Therefore, Colorado and other states can choose to treat the presidential election like the national contest it truly is.

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Facts show a presidential election does not inherently favor candidates from one party or the other when every vote throughout the country is counted. Since 1924, the number of votes nationwide for the Republican presidential candidate (828 million) have equaled the number of votes for the Democratic candidate (828 million). In 2016, the top five most populous states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, in that order — divided their votes between the Republican and the Democratic candidates 50-50.

A national popular vote for president will make every vote count equally, and under that scenario, Democrats have just as much of a chance to win as Republicans do. Then, instead of campaigning in just a few competitive “battleground” states where the winner is decided, presidential candidates will need to appeal to the majority of voters throughout the country. 

Colorado, along with many other states currently not considered “battleground” states, would be relevant again. The candidate with the best ideas and the most support throughout the country would unquestionably win the election. That’s how it should be. 

Please join me and the League of Women Voters of Colorado in voting “yes” on Proposition 113. We strongly believe that every vote should matter, and one person should always equal one vote.

Marjorie Gray is the president of the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County, a nonpartisan, grassroots, activist organization dedicated to voter education.

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