Popular-vote bill needs vetting

To the editor,

It was the unintended consequences question that affected my vote last week. As one of the most difficult, but researched, votes I have taken this year, I voted no on the National Popular Vote bill, SB19-042.

According to the mail I received, as well as one person who chose to call me at 5:45 in the morning, the vote should be simple, either a yes or no with no discussion. But that isn’t the way I saw it.

Some of my peers at the Legislature argued that they have been advocating for this issue for years. But in all the town halls I have held or attended in District 59, all the mail and email I have received (up to this year) and all the constituents I have met, no one mentioned this issue. Discussions may have been happening elsewhere.

The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, gives each state’s Legislature the ability to determine how its  electoral representatives are chosen. This bill basically says that Colorado will join with other states to elect the president and vice president of the United States by an agreement called the National Popular Vote. Currently, if Candidate A receives 60 percent of Colorado’s votes, all electoral votes are delegated for that candidate. The other 40 percent of votes are irrelevant.

With the National Popular Vote, Colorado’s 60 percent would be added to all the other votes in the nation for Candidate A. The 40 percent would be added to all the other votes for Candidate B. One vote. One person. The electoral tally will follow the voters, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Sounds easy, but it apparently isn’t. I have had many in-depth discussions with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and they all had strong opinions for both sides of the issue. This issue is all new to me, so my learning curve was steep.

I question what some say is tweaking the Constitution. I question if this new way of delegating electoral delegates will work. I question if this will finally induce candidates to visit every state, not just those with the largest number of electoral votes, as promised.

It feels like we should discuss the issue more. If Colorado votes to join this group, we will join 11 other states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which will take place once it has 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. The Senate passed it 19-16, the House passed it 34-29, and the Governor said he will sign it.

Colorado, with nine electoral votes, will raise the current total to 181.

So, unless several other states join in, this compact won’t take effect until, perhaps, 2024. I would like to see much more discussion before then.

Many opponents said this is a Democrat Party issue, and I can see their point. In the last election, Democrat Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes nationally than Republican President Trump. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost to Republican George W. Bush. But, they join winning candidates Democrat-Republican John Quincy Adams in 1824, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

Others say that until the United States has uniform registration and voting rules, we will all be subject to voter fraud. Colorado, as many pointed out during debate, has an excellent record of clean elections, but they feared other states would taint our positive results.

I’d like to list the unintended consequences but, then, they wouldn’t be unintended any more. The premise of SB19-042 is interesting, but I want more discussion, more debate and more data.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango