Colorado voters could decide in the 2020 election to void a controversial new law that would award the state’s nine Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide if enough states pass similar legislation.
The law’s opponents submitted more than 227,000 signatures on a referendum petition to the Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday, far more than the 124,632 needed to get the question on the ballot. The office has about a month to validate the signatures, plus 30 days to allow for protests or challenges to the petition.
Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese head the opposition group, called Protect Colorado’s Vote.
The petition collected more signatures than any state referendum or initiative on record. The runner-up was the initiative that got about 212,300 signatures to put Amendment 75 on the 2018 ballot, said Serena Woods, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
The Secretary of State’s Office does not have records of how many signatures were collected for initiative and referendum petitions before 2001, she noted.
Senate Bill 42 became law last spring, but it will only take effect if enough states enact similar legislation to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia now belong to the compact, for 196 electoral votes.
Wilson and others fear that the measure would allow densely populated metropolitan areas and large states to drown out the voices of smaller states and more rural areas in elections.
“I think a lot of people do understand the dangers of it and what the Electoral College protects us from,” Wilson said.
“Part of the greatness of the Electoral College is that it still gives smaller states a voice.”
State Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who proposed the law, has said it would allow every voter’s choice to matter equally in a presidential election, regardless of where they live.
“Equal representation is not a red or blue issue — it is a way to ensure every American and every Coloradan has an equal say about who leads our country,” Foote said in a March statement with the law’s House sponsors, Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, and Emily Sirota, D-Denver.
The Colorado League of Women Voters, a proponent of the new law, condemned the ballot initiative in a Thursday news release.
“It’s time to put voters ahead of partisan politics,” wrote Toni Larson, the League’s director of advocacy.
“Opponents have engineered this ballot referendum solely because they believe a National Popular Vote would put them at a political disadvantage. In fact, a National Popular Vote is the only way to guarantee that every vote — Republican, Democrat, or Independent — actually makes a difference in who’s elected president.”
Volunteers for the opposition collected more than 100,000 of the petition signatures, Wilson said. His group also hired Blitz Canvassing to gather autographs. In all, about 2,200 volunteers circulated petitions, acted as notaries or performed other tasks, he said.
Republicans and Democrats support the referendum, Wilson said, recalling a former Bernie Sanders delegate who signed his name.
“I’ve been really impressed with how nonpartisan it’s been,” he said. “We didn’t expect this kind of support.”