Op-Ed: Growing list of controversies in Colorado politics drowns out debate on national popular vote

Op-Ed: Growing list of controversies in Colorado politics drowns out debate on national popular vote

The pace of politics and public policy in Colorado today is overwhelming.

At the State Capitol, lawmakers and executive branch officials are working on a slew of legislative measures. At the agency level, executive branch officials are also pushing regulations that are even harder to follow than bills in the legislature. And on top of all that, there’s an unusually high number of ballot measures working their way through the Colorado Title Board.

In the current climate, it’s natural to stay focused on new proposals and new conflicts. But unfortunately, this means other matters of public concern get overlooked.

A prime example: The debate over Colorado’s role in presidential elections.

This November, voters will decide whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact. Under the compact, Colorado would no longer award Electoral College votes for president based on our state’s popular vote. Instead, our Electoral College votes would go to the candidate with the most votes nationally, even if that candidate loses in Colorado.

If enough states join the NPV compact, supporters argue they can change the way presidents are elected without having to amend the U.S. Constitution. That’s because the number of states needed to control 270 Electoral College votes is much lower than the 38 states needed to amend the Constitution.

Last year, lawmakers and Gov. Jared Polis approved legislation to join the NPV compact. But it was controversial: Six Democrats joined Republicans in opposition and 228,000 Coloradans signed petitions to freeze the legislation until voters could say “yes” or “no” directly on the NPV compact.

No matter where you stand on this issue, the way we choose presidents and Colorado’s role in that process are critically important. But ever since opponents of the NPV compact submitted their signatures in August, the debate has been drowned out by all the other noise in the state’s political system.

That needs to change, so let’s take a closer look at the state of play.

Right now, funding is the big story. The “no” committee – Protect Colorado’s Vote – had roughly $56,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2019, according to state campaign finance records. By comparison, the Yes on National Popular Vote committee had more than $1.4 million – an advantage of 25 to 1.

Why is that? NPV supporters didn’t have to gather signatures, but more importantly, they have huge fundraising networks outside Colorado. Those networks include large metropolitan areas that would become more influential under the NPV compact, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

In fact, the “yes” committee’s 25 to 1 cash advantage comes almost exclusively from out of state, with less than 1 percent of its contributions coming from Colorado.

Recently, another committee entered the fray: Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote. The new group is campaigning nationally, not just in Colorado, and even sent representatives to last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, according to The Hill.

There are some interesting connections, however, between this new group and organizations on the progressive left.

According to the group’s website and Colorado campaign finance records, Rachel Gordon is the registered agent for Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote. Gordon performs the same role for the Yes on National Popular Vote committee.

But Gordon also serves as the registered agent for the Born to Run Action Fund, which trains progressive candidates to run for office in Colorado, and for two committees aligned with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who was endorsed by Emily’s List for her “bold and progressive leadership.”

At a minimum, this begs the question: Where did this conservative group come from? But the question goes unanswered, like many others concerning the NPV compact, because it can’t be heard above all the other controversies in Colorado politics today.

I must admit, I have strong concerns about the NPV compact. I have friends and colleagues working with the “no” campaign, and I’m persuaded by their arguments. Also, as someone who grew up overseas and became a U.S. citizen at the age of 30, I believe the genius of the American system of government lies in the strength and stability of our Constitution – and the high bar that must be cleared in order to change it. The NPV compact, whether you support or oppose it, effectively lowers that bar.

But here’s the more immediate problem: The NPV compact is one of the most consequential ballot measures in state history, and right now, we’re barely even talking about it.

* This article was originally published here


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