I've been voting in Colorado for president of the United States since 1952, and I've been somewhat frustrated that my vote in many instances was worthless.
The reason? The "winner-take-all" approach in which electors decide the presidency. We don't vote for president, we vote for nine political party electors. The electoral team I vote for this year may lose by just several dozen votes out of several million cast. So the results won't reflect the wishes of our citizens.
I know the answer given to such concerns. My vote for any person running for election is in the same category as the presidential electors. It's "winner-take all" based on the highest number of votes cast for a particular candidate. However the difference is that my vote for U.S. Senator or Congressperson is a "statewide" or "district" election. Those are not "national" elections pitting my vote against voters in other states.
The U.S. Constitution doesn't set out a "winner-take-all" requirement. How electoral votes are apportioned is left to the states. What the framers and amenders of the federal constitution were concerned about was protection of the smaller states in the union. And the small centers of population are protected from the larger masses.
Let's review the 2000 census. Twenty-six states control the U.S. Senate. They have 52 of the 100 votes, but only 50 million of the 281 million national population. So 17.8 percent of the population elect 52 senators. California and Texas have 55 million people, 19.5 percent of the population and four U.S. Senators.
As for electoral votes, every state gets two electoral votes for their senators plus one vote for each congressperson. California and Texas have 89 electoral votes. The 26 states mentioned above with 50 million people have 128 electoral votes.
The 26 states are Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
I'm going to vote for the proposed initiative to require Colorado electors to be elected in proportion to the number of votes cast for that political party's electors (assuming it gets enough signatures to make the 2004 ballot). So if for every five votes cast for Republican electors, there are four votes cast for Democratic electors, the electoral vote will be split 5 to 4.
The courts may not uphold one part of the initiative that would make it apply to this year's presidential election. The initiative authors recognized this and included a severability clause. The rest of the initiative could take effect despite the "retroactive" approach.
Opponents of the measure claim presidential candidates won't visit our state if our vote is split 5 to 4. Well, 12 other states have four or fewer electoral votes and a number of those states were visited in the past by presidential candidates. I'm sure Al Gore would have "died" for any Colorado electoral votes in 2000.
I understand no other state has approved such an approach. Nebraska and Maine tie electoral votes to congressional election results plus two votes to the winner-take-all concept.
But no other state gave women suffrage to vote before Colorado did. (Wyoming's law granting suffrage was a territorial law.) No other state had passed a Sunset law to repeal or reform obsolete agencies before Colorado did, and now a majority of state have Sunset laws.
Colorado has a chance to once again lead the nation's states to change their concept on a important issue. I want my vote to count in each presidential election and the proposed initiative will give me that right. A little "poetry"?
Republican states are red
Democrats are blue
But purple would be
The best choice for you
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
Copyright 2012 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel