The editorial staff of The Daily Sentinel's is right: Direct democracy is problematic. Allowing two wolves and one sheep to vote on what's for dinner will only result in the devouring of minority rights.
However, they are dead wrong when it comes to the issue of the Colorado General Assembly adopting the national popular vote interstate compact — a move that pushes us closer to the brink of a future constitutional crisis. It is appropriate for voters to demand that lawmakers pump the brakes.
Don't take my word for it. Listen to the words of those who are pushing to adopt a national popular vote.
"The bottom line is that every Coloradan should have their voice heard," said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. Foote is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 19-042, which would require the state electors to cast their vote for the winner of the national popular vote.
To quote the Sentinel, consider the bizarre scenario unfolding before our eyes. National popular vote proponents champion the cause of "every vote being counted" (their words not mine). But when asked if we should actually place this issue on the ballot — you know, that thing where votes are counted — they become oddly dismissive.
Paging, Mr. Irony: Please pick up the nearest courtesy phone.
Criticizing the referendum process seems even more hypocritical when perusing old issues of the Sentinel. In years past, the paper has endorsed umpteen ballot measures — many that originated as citizen petition. But when some concerned citizens kick the tires of a possible — not even fully materialized — ballot measure, suddenly the referendum process is being "misused"? Understandably, the ink on the bill needs to dry before a referendum can start, but to dismiss citizens petitioning their government seems arbitrary and disingenuous.
I'll concede this double negative: The Electoral College is not infallible. Nothing is flawless, especially systems crafted by something as imperfect as humans. Also, I am deeply sympathetic to the objectionable history of this institution and the racially-biased context of its founding. (Google "Three-Fifths Compromise" and get back to me about "all men are created equal.") And I do believe that there are good-faith arguments about reforming how we elect our president, especially proposals that seek to shake up the current "winner-take-all, two-party-duopoly" model such as ranked-choice voting or proportional allocation.
But the interstate compact is not a realistic alternative. Arguably, it generates more questions than answers, and its supporters' myopia ignore many unforeseen issues down the road.
If a majority of the popular vote cannot be achieved, will plurality suffice for this same crowd? What if a highly competitive election actually occurs, and the biggest vote-getter only garners 39 percent of the vote? Surely, somebody just as unpopular as the current president could sneak in with such a low vote. Does a certain percentage threshold need to be achieved? If so, what percentage? Do we need to have a runoff to achieve a pure majority? What happens if faithless electors defect en masse? What happens when a clash between the interstate compact and Electoral College inevitably lands in court? Are national popular vote enthusiasts really OK with another election being decided by the Supreme Court, à la Bush v. Gore (2000)?
The Sentinel was correct to remind readers that we live in a "representative republic." However, I would like to add one modifier to this "lawsplaining": The United States is a "constitutional republic," meaning that our system of government is bound to the limitations and processes enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.
In 1787, the Electoral College was first codified by Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution. Then, the 12th Amendment was added in 1804, superseding a portion of the original text to include the provision of the House of Representatives deciding an election in the absence of a clear majority. Finally, the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, added the line of succession to promote the vice president if the House could not reach a decision by March 4.
As history shows, the Electoral College has evolved legally over time. If dissidents wish to reform or abolish it, then they must continue down this path of legal adaptation. And there is truly only one vehicle to take them down that path: a constitutional amendment. Anything else, such as the interstate compact, is an end-around that mocks our founding document.
In addition to the constitutional test, they really should be able to pass their own aforementioned rhetorical test. If every vote should count, then why are they so afraid of the interstate compact being on the ballot?
Indeed, this is a bizarre scenario.
Jay Stooksberry is a writer and activist based in Delta, Colorado.