Colorado: if NPV wins, we lose

2009/04/20
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As Colorado prepares to debate the Koza scheme, I wrote the following editorial.  It appeared in the April 20th edition of the Denver Daily News and is available on the Independence Institute Web site.

If National Popular Vote wins, we lose

By Amy Oliver

This week the Colorado Senate will debate the relevance of our state in the next presidential election and the legitimacy of our nation as it considers HB 1299.

If passed, our state will join a compact of other states. All nine electoral votes will go the leader of the national popular vote, regardless of the will of Colorado voters. This end run around the Constitution is known as National Popular Vote or Koza scheme, named after multi-millionaire John Koza who concocted the plan to destroy the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote without a constitutional amendment.

Ever since the 2000 election when Al Gore narrowly won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush, some Democrats have been on a mission to destroy the Electoral College. It’s important to remember that had Gore been able to win even a single southern or border state–such as his “home” state of Tennessee or Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, he would have been President. George W. Bush won the popular vote in 30 states, therefore giving him the necessary number of electoral votes to win the presidency. Middle America was able to avoid the tyranny of the East and West Coasts.

Inherent in this movement to rid the country of the Electoral College is a misguided notion that the United States is a democracy rather than a republic. Our Founding Fathers recognized the danger of a democracy where 51 percent rules 49, and thus created a republic where the rights of individuals are protected from the whims of the majority. The Electoral College is vital to maintaining our republic. It forces a presidential candidate to garner support that is both broad and deep, not concentrated on the coasts or urban areas.

Previous attempts to destroy the Electoral College in Colorado have been unsuccessful.

In 2004, a handful of Democrats bankrolled by a Brazilian millionaire asked Coloradans to change how the state awards its nine electoral votes. In a vote that wasn’t even close, nearly 66 percent of voters said, “NO!” and rejected proposed Amendment 36.

In 2007, Senator Ken Gordon introduced legislation that would force Colorado to be part of the Koza scheme. It passed the Senate but died in the House.

This year, State Representative Andy Kerr introduced the Koza scheme in the House where it passed on a 34-29 vote. It passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee along a party line vote and now awaits Second Reading in the full Senate.

Supporters of the Koza scheme are undeterred by arguments that the United States is a republic rather than a democracy and that Colorado will be little more than “fly-over” area during the next election. Perhaps supporters should consider other arguments.

For instance, what about a regional presidential candidate? A candidate could enjoy overwhelming support along the Eastern Seaboard and the Northeast and not even be on the ballot in Colorado. If he is the winner of the national popular vote, Colorado’s electoral votes would go to a candidate on whom Coloradans had no say.

Another problem is that no national standards exist about who can vote. In Vermont, a state considering the Koza scheme, a convicted felon serving time in prison can vote. In Colorado only those convicted felons who have completed their parole may vote. As a result, Colorado may have to award its electoral votes to the candidate that felons serving time in Vermont prisons support but that didn’t win the support of Colorado voters.

Also, political instability would be the rule rather than the exception especially in close elections as states demand recounts if their candidate of choice does not win the national popular vote. In Senate Committee testimony, University Law Professor Robert Hardaway concluded that had the Koza scheme been in place during the 1960 election between Democrat John Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon, the country would have endured years of lawsuits with no declared presidential winner until the 1964 election. In this case, the Speaker of the House would serve as an interim president.

After the 1960 election, some Republicans called for the abolition of the Electoral College. It was the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) who warned in 1979 that without the Electoral College,

“the drama, the dignity, and decisiveness and finality of the American political system is drained away in an endless sequence of contests, disputed outcomes, and more contests to resolve outcomes already disrupted….That is how legitimacy is lost.”

HB 1299 is not only bad for Colorado but also for our nation.  Colorado legislators should ask themselves if it is worth it.  After all history proves that power is cyclical.

Amy Oliver is the Director of Operations for the Independence Institute and can be reached at amy@i2i.org.

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