Michael Steele & Saul Anuzis
Every Colorado voter – Republicans in particular – should think twice about the opportunities and benefits that come from Colorado becoming the 13th jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact – the movement to ensure that the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide is awarded the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president.
The agreement will become effective when enacted by states combining at least 270 electoral votes, the total to be awarded to the candidate with the most popular votes across all 50 states and DC. With Colorado’s nine electoral votes, the Compact now has 184 electoral votes – just 86 short of the goal.
Why should Colorado Republicans embrace rather than fear the state’s entry into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact? For starters, they will go to the polls knowing their votes will actually count for something again in presidential elections.
In fact, not since 2004, when George W. Bush won Colorado’s popular vote and its nine electoral votes, have this state’s Republican voters made one iota of difference in who becomes president. Presidential election years 2008, 2012, and 2016 produced a combined total of 3,461,356 votes for GOP tickets headed by John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump – but not one single Republican electoral vote. That’s because over the last three elections, the Democrat ticket has won Colorado’s popular vote, and under the winner-take-all system of allocation, the state’s nine electoral votes.
Colorado Republicans will surely continue to do all they can to reverse the state’s decade-long move toward presidential blueification. But a National Popular Vote is the only way to guarantee that every GOP vote will actually help the ticket win the majority nationwide, and not be cancelled out if the Democrat ticket wins Colorado’s popular vote.
Beyond spreading the false notion that Republicans should fear a National Popular Vote, opponents are trotting out any number of myths – among them the idea that under the Compact, Colorado voters will sacrifice their own unique voice in choosing a president. In fact, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact significantly amplifies the voice of every Coloradan. Here’s why:
Under the current system, Colorado voters control just nine of 538 total electoral votes across the nation – an important voice, but not a big one. But under a National Popular Vote system, they become part of an interstate compact that controls 270 electoral votes – enough to elect a president. That’s real power.
Another myth advanced by opponents is that National Popular Vote is nothing more than a conspiracy by big states to disenfranchise small states. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
Under the current system, twelve so-called battleground states with a quadrennial propensity to swing between red and blue hijack every single presidential election. Candidates spend virtually all of their time and money in these swing states while 38 others, with 70 percent of the population, are left sitting on the political sidelines. The logic is simple. Campaigns won’t spend precious resources in states where they are so far ahead they can’t possibly lose, or so far behind they can’t possibly win. So if your state is faithfully red or predictably blue, the most you are likely to see of the candidates are the bottoms of their planes as they fly over.
On the other hand, when candidates know they must win the majority of votes in all fifty states and DC in order to be awarded 270 electoral votes and the White House, logic dictates that the traditional 12-state presidential campaign will become a 50-state campaign. Every voter will matter. Candidates will be compelled to go after every single voter regardless of where they live or the voting history of their state.
Beyond Colorado, the National Popular Vote movement is steadily gaining momentum nationwide. With just 86 more electoral votes to go before enactment, it’s not unreasonable to imagine 2020 being the first presidential election where every voter in every state will be politically relevant and powerful. In short, we believe National Popular Vote is a great American idea whose time has arrived.
Michael Steele is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Saul Anuzis is a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.