Old college try fails once again

There was good news from the state Capitol in Denver late last week. A bill aimed at making an end run around the Electoral College in presidential elections has failed.

Senate sponsor Sen. Chris Romer of Denver allowed House Bill 1299 to die without a vote late Thursday when it became apparent he didn’t have enough votes to secure the bill’s passage.

Well hooray for that.

As we argued earlier with this bill and similar measures introduced in previous years, the legislation was little more than a way to guarantee that Colorado and other moderate-size states have less say in presidential elections.

Under the U.S. Constitution, each state has Electoral College votes equal to the number of its congressional seats and its two senators. So Colorado now has nine Electoral College votes. And all of those votes go to whichever presidential candidate wins the majority of the popular votes cast in the state. So Colorado’s nine votes went to Barack Obama last year.

As some have put it, the United States doesn’t have one national election for president, but 50 state elections.

However, many populists detest the Electoral College. They would prefer to see the president elected by a popular vote nationwide, but they know that amending the
Constitution would be difficult. So they come up with smoke-and-mirrors proposals such as HB 1299.

If that bill had passed, all of Colorado’s Electoral College votes would go to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide, regardless of how Coloradans vote.

In 2008, that wouldn’t have made a difference. But in some years, Colorado voters buck the national trend in presidential races. Do we really want to give up our voice to whatever the national majority is?

Furthermore, as the repeated visits of both the Republican and Democratic nominees to Colorado last year demonstrated, even states with relatively few Electoral College votes can be important in determining the outcome of a presidential election.

But if candidates are only interested in winning a majority of the popular vote nationwide, they’ll campaign where the most voters are — states like California, New York, Texas and Florida.

HB 1299 was bad public policy. We’re glad to see it dead, for now. But we fully expect similar proposals to come up in the future.


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