Opinion: Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 113

This fall, Colorado voters have a decision to make on Proposition 113: whether to join a so-called “national popular vote” compact or not. This decision has national implications. 

A vote for the proposition would require Colorado to award our state’s Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationally. A vote against the proposition would ensure Colorado’s Electoral College votes continue to be awarded to the candidate who wins the most votes in Colorado and would amount to a dagger to the heart of the compact, likely stalling momentum nationally. Some Coloradans care most about defending our state’s unique interests. Others emphasize the need for fair national elections that promote the best interests of the country. 

Colorado is the first state in which voters have a chance to decide the matter.

Either way, the decision about a national popular vote is an easy one. Coloradans should vote “no” on Proposition 113. On this issue, there is no conflict between what is good for Colorado and what is best for America.

Consider first the interests of Colorado. We win under the Electoral College and lose under the national popular vote. Colorado does best when presidential candidates care about our needs and interests, and the Electoral College guarantees that presidential candidates care about Colorado. Our nine, soon to be 10, Electoral College votes are highly coveted. In 2016, the Democratic and Republican nominees for president made 19 visits to Colorado. That means candidates who want to win Colorado care about our interests on issues like water or federal funding of roads, health care and the environment.

Not so under the national popular vote scheme. Colorado’s voice gets muffled. With just 1.7% of the nation’s population, Colorado’s voice would be dwarfed by California, New York and other large states. The national popular vote clearly migrates presidential election power and influence to large states and metropolitan areas — particularly on the coasts. California alone has seven times the population of Colorado. Who do you think would win a water war between the two states under the national popular vote?

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It’s no surprise then that three-quarters of the money backing the national popular vote measure on Colorado’s ballot comes from California and 98% comes from out of state.

Second, consider the implications the national popular vote would have on America at-large. Proponents of this notion say it will be fairer, that the candidate who wins the most votes nationally should win the presidency. Here is what they don’t tell you: National popular vote would undermine one of the few remaining institutions in America that promotes consensus.  

That’s because the Electoral College forces candidates to build a broad enough coalition across the entire country to win a majority of electoral votes. Niche candidates, whether regional or ideological, are therefore rarely successful.

While the Electoral College forces candidates to work to broaden their coalition to win, the national popular vote enables narrower coalitions, even niche candidacies, to win. It would further divide Americans, not unite them. That’s because the national popular vote has nothing to do with winning a majority; one candidate merely has to win more votes than the others. In a multi-candidate field, the winner could be regionally based, ideologically narrow or both.

To make matters worse under this scheme, Colorado might even have to give its electoral votes to a candidate who wins the popular vote but that isn’t even on the ballot in Colorado. Talk about voter disenfranchisement.

Consider where presidential nominees concentrate their appeal currently: to swing voters in swing states, including Colorado. But under the national popular vote, candidates would be motivated to maximize performance and turnout in vote-rich areas friendly to their viewpoint. Existing dynamics and motivations would be turned upside down.

Colorado’s Electoral College votes for president should go to the candidate who wins the most votes in Colorado, not the candidate who wins the most votes in other states. If Coloradans don’t protect their unique interests, who will? In their quest to promote fairness, national popular vote proponents have concocted a scheme that exacerbates division and polarization. 

The Electoral College promotes consensus and coalition-building. It provides for a clear winner in each state and thus our country. While not perfect, it is clearly better than letting a few states decide the presidency. 

Coloradans should vote “no” on the national popular vote compact by voting “no” on Proposition 113.

Wil Armstrong is an entrepreneur and the co-chairman of Protect Colorado’s Vote.

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