Colorado voters have backed the National Popular Vote Compact, a nationwide effort that would effectively neutralize the Electoral College and ensure that the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in the nation as a whole becomes president.
Most states assign all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state as a whole. But the Constitution permits states to assign electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” The core insight of the National Popular Vote Compact is that, if a bloc of states that controls 270 electoral votes all agree to assign their electors to whoever wins the national popular vote, rather than the candidate who wins their state, then whoever wins the national popular vote will become president in every election.
The compact does not take effect until enough states to add up to 270 electoral votes have joined it. Including Colorado, a group of 15 states plus the District of Columbia — totaling 196 electoral votes — are parties to the compact. So several more states will need to join the compact before it takes effect.
The battle over how Colorado will allocate its electoral votes in the future started with a bill in the 2019 legislative session. Democrats pushed hard for the idea that joining the compact would bring more fairness to presidential elections, by giving each vote across the country equal weight. They argue the Electoral College encourages candidates to focus on a handful of swing states — of which Colorado is no longer one — while ignoring most of the country.
Once the issue was on the ballot, advocates for a national popular vote spent big to try to sway voters. The group Yes On The Popular Vote raised and spent about $4.5 million dollars since registering last July. The majority of that money came from wealthy individuals and left-leaning dark money groups in other states. Opponents of joining the compact, including the state’s Republican Party, characterized the Yes campaign as a California-led effort to dilute Colorado’s significance in the presidential election.
This may be one of the most expensive campaigns in Colorado history to succeed, and yet still potentially have no impact. The fifteen states that have signed on so far are all reliably Democratic in presidential elections. To go into effect, the effort will have to win over lawmakers in more closely divided states, the kinds of places that currently capture most of the campaign attention, where it is likely to prove a much harder sell.
Here’s the organization’s website for anyone who wants some more detail