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Op-Ed: The National Popular Vote Is a "Winner Takes All" Approach

The National Popular Vote passed the state's House Military and Veterans Affairs committee late on Tuesday, February 12, on a party-line vote. Democratic representatives Jeni Arndt, of Fort Collins, and Denver's Emily Sirota presented to the committee some of the ways that they believe the NPV, which is a national movement, will fix the problems with the Electoral College, including ending the practice of “winner take all" and disproportionate presidential campaign visits to the states, increasing voter participation and eliminating the advantage that smaller states have in presidential elections.

Sirota and Arndt argue that our current system of “winner take all” in the Electoral College is undemocratic and ignores the voices of those who are in the minority, such as Colorado Republicans in the 2016 election. They say the NPV would fix this issue and provide everyone a voice. (The NPV does not eliminate the Electoral College; nothing but a constitutional amendment can do that, and constitutional amendments are very difficult to pass.)

At this point, you may be saying to yourself: Those are honorable goals; why would anyone oppose legislation that makes our presidential elections more fair? This is a fair question, one many people ask when they are presented with the idea of a popular vote. In theory, we can all agree that a popular vote is the way that things should be done because that is the way that we do everything else in our country. There are major problems with the NPV, though, and they are problems that our representatives refuse to acknowledge.

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What is the Electoral College, and how does it work? Here are the basics: Each state is assigned a number based on the amount of representatives in each state, plus its senators. The number of representatives in each state is based on population. Colorado’s number is nine, because we have seven representatives and two senators. Each state then holds a mini popular vote, and the winner gets all of the electoral votes of that state.

A presidential candidate needs more than half of the 538 electoral votes to win the presidency. Why are there 538 electoral votes? That’s a long story, but the short version is, Congress got lazy and froze all state representation at that figure based on the population of the country in 1910. The NPV would go into effect when enough states sign on to reach the magic number of 270, which means there are 268 electoral votes still available in states that have not signed the NPV. Did you catch that? The NPV does not need the other 268 electoral votes (a little less than half of the country) to go into effect.

Without the NPV, each state holds its own mini popular vote and gives the winning candidate all of their votes. The National Popular Vote does the same thing, except that it treats each state that's signed on as one big state. That is to say, the NPV treats twenty or more states as if they were one, with the winner getting all 270 votes instead of winning small pieces at a time.

There are two major things to notice here: The NPV can ignore 49 percent of the country, and whomever wins the popular vote in the other 51 percent will get all of the electoral votes needed to win. Our Democratic representatives knew these facts before they agreed to move the NPV out of committee. They knew that the NPV is not a truly national popular vote, and they knew that it is a “winner take all” system.

The Libertarian party of Colorado urges all voters who believe in fair and equal representation to call or email their representatives and tell them to vote against the National Popular Vote.

Michael Lopez is a freelance writer, entrepreneur and Libertarian who is dedicated to protecting the union that our founders established for us. You can read more of his thoughts at deadletters.org.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds on topics of interest to the Denver community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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