Colorado voters are evenly divided over a law that would hand the state's Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally, a new Magellan Strategies poll found.
The poll, conducted by the Colorado-based Republican firm and made available before its release to Colorado Politics, found that 47 percent of likely Colorado voters approve of changing the way Colorado awards its electoral votes, while 47 percent oppose it, with opinion falling solidly along party lines.
Voter opinion about the Electoral College is also split, with 49 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of it and 47 percent saying they have an unfavorable opinion.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the "National Popular Vote" bill into law on March 15, but a pair of GOP officials say they want to ask voters whether to allow the law to take effect.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, and state Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, passed the Democratic-controlled General Assembly without any Republican support.
Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese announced in February that they plan to circulate petitions to force the question onto the 2020 ballot.
If they go ahead with their plan, they'll need around 125,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The law joins Colorado to a compact of states that have agreed to change the way they award electoral votes once enough states have enacted similar laws to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a president.
Colorado was the 12th state to sign on. Its nine electoral votes put the interstate compact's total at 181, and while the legislation is expected to be enacted soon in New Mexico and Delaware — and is under consideration in another five states — it isn't expected that the total will be reached before the 2020 election.
Proponents tend to be Democrats, who point out that Republican presidential nominees have won the popular vote nationally just once this century, though they've taken the White House three times after prevailing in the Electoral College.
The only states that have so far approved of the plan are states won by Democrat Hillary Clinton, who defeated President Donald Trump nationally by roughly 3 million votes, but lost the presidency in the Electoral College, with Trump carrying 306 electoral votes to Clinton's 232.
According to the Magellan poll, the mostly Republican opposition to the law is more intense than the mostly Democratic support for it. Unaffiliated voters are divided nearly equally, with 44 percent supporting it and 48 percent opposing it.
"It's a classic Colorado battle," said pollster David Flaherty, This'll come down to where the unaffiliateds are."
Among respondents who oppose the law, 35 percent say they will definitely vote against it, while just 23 percent of supporters say they will definitely vote in favor of the law.
Republicans appear to be more informed about the law — possibly because it's been a staple on conservative talk radio for weeks, and the state GOP waged an unsuccessful campaign urging Polis to veto the bill — but Flaherty said that will likely even out before ballots are cast.
"By the time the election rolls around, everybody will be informed about this debate, and it'll be close," he said.
Flaherty predicted the law's opponents will be able to make the ballot and could have a good chance of blocking the law.
"This is the very first opportunity for frustrated Republicans to have something to do in protest with this aggressive Democratic Legislature," he said. "Up until now, they haven't had an opportunity to do much but watch."
Even though opinion is evenly split — with 47 percent supporting it — Flaherty said the law starts at a disadvantage. That's because the rule of thumb for ballot measures is they need to start with at least 55 percent support, since opposition nearly always grows over time.
The survey of 500 likely Colorado voters was conducted by live interviewers and automated calling devices using cellphones and landlines on March 11-13, when the bill was in the news prior to its signing.
Results in the survey were weighted to reflect turnout demographics of past presidential elections in Colorado. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.38 percent.
The survey was paid for by clients of Magellan, said Flaherty, who declined to elaborate on their identity.