Florida, Colorado May Supply Election Drama This Year
MTV Choose Or Lose
October 22, 2004
If you thought the Sunshine State's 2000 election
cliffhanger — with cries of voter disenfranchisement, ballot
mishaps and a 537-vote margin that threw the election into the
Supreme Court — had all the stuff of a made-for-TV movie, hold on
to your seats; a ballot proposition in Colorado could make for a
The debate centers on Amendment 36, which would award Colorado's
nine electoral votes proportionally rather than winner-take-all.
Candidates would divide the electoral votes based on the number of
popular votes each receives.
One thing that makes this initiative so contentious is that if it
passes on November 2, the redistribution would be effective
immediately and would split up the state's votes between George W.
Bush and John Kerry. If Amendment 36 had been Colorado law in 2000,
five of the state's then eight votes would've gone to Bush and three
to Al Gore, instead of all eight to Bush. If all other electors had
voted as they did in 2000, neither man would have received the 270
electoral votes needed to win, throwing the election into the House
Katy Atkinson, director of Coloradoans Against a Really Stupid Idea,
says this proposition would dilute the state's impact on
presidential elections, as the state's partisan split would almost
certainly be 5-4, resulting in a net vote of one. And a state with
just one electoral vote holds little political power, thus suffering
when it comes to winning favors in federal legislation. "All
other things being equal, if Colorado has one electoral vote and
Arizona has 10, we're going to come out on the losing side,"
Robert Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and
Democracy, a nonprofit organization that endorses disbanding the
Electoral College, disputes that argument. "Having one
electoral vote in play is more than some states," Richie said,
referring to states that are traditionally "blue"
(Democrat) or "red" (Republican) and, thus, largely
ignored by both candidates.
Atkinson calls the Colorado ballot measure "mischievous,"
because it was initiated by an Arizona-based group and heavily
funded by a wealthy California Democrat. Critics immediately cried
foul, accusing Democrats of a power play to grab votes for Kerry.
She asserted there is bipartisan opposition — Democratic Senate
candidate Ken Salazar has spoken against the measure. Many Democrats
backed the ballot initiative when it seemed Bush would carry
Colorado, but as the race has tightened, support has waned. Some
Kerry supporters say they'd favor keeping Colorado winner-take-all
if he has a real chance to carry the state.
Atkinson maintains that the matter shouldn't be left up to the
states. "If we want to change the Electoral College, that
debate has to take place on the national level," she said,
adding that she's seen no proof that winner-take-all is a problem.
Richie said he believes Colorado could serve as the model for a
larger, national plan, but he remains cautious, wary that such a
system in a several states could significantly disrupt the Electoral
College system and leave presidential selection in the hands of the
Supreme Court or Congress.
Democratic Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois introduced
legislation last week to amend the Constitution and replace the
Electoral College with direct election of the president. Previous
attempts have failed to pass both houses of Congress, the first step
in amending the Constitution.
Initial public opinion polls in Colorado showed majority support for
Amendment 36, but as Election Day nears, a poll last week by the Denver
Post showed 44 percent opposed, 35 percent in favor. Twenty-one
percent remained undecided. Given those numbers, Denver pollster
Floyd Ciruli believes the amendment will fail and is unlikely to be
reintroduced on future ballots.
Even if it passes, a legal battle is all but guaranteed. Opponents
have already begun planning court cases against the amendment, on
grounds that voters on November 2 will have cast ballots without
knowing how the electoral votes would be distributed.
Richie said a drop in approval ratings reflects political reality.
"It is not going to lose because people [favor] the current
system," he said. "It's going to lose because of partisan
The decision is in the hands of Colorado voters, but the results
will not be certified by the state for several days after the
election; if the national race is as close as it was four years ago,
Americans may be spending a few days on the edge of their seats.
Electoral College Table of