In Colorado, an Electoral College shake-up

By Tim Grieve
Published August 17, 2004 8:27PM (EDT)

In his new book, "Why the Electoral College is Bad for America," Texas A&M political science professor George C. Edwards III explains how the odd-ball way in which we go about electing presidents is "inherently unjust" and disregards the bedrock democratic concept of "political equality."

The problem -- well, one of the problems -- is that 48 of the 50 states allocate their Electoral College votes on a winner-take-all basis. So what if George W. Bush "won" Florida by just 537 votes? He still got all 25 of the state's electors, allowing him to edge Al Gore 271-266 in the Electoral College. What about the nearly 3 million people who voted for Gore in Florida in 2000? Ultimately, even if their votes were counted, their votes ultimately didn't count for anything in actually deciding the presidency.

One way or another, the same thing will happen in a lot of states this year. But maybe -- maybe -- not in Colorado. On Friday, Colorado's secretary of state said that supporters have collected enough signatures to put an amendment on the November ballot that would change Colorado from a winner-take-all state to one in which Electoral College votes are allocated in proportion to the popular vote. If the measure passes -- and if it survives the inevitable court challenges -- it will take effect in time for this year's presidential race.

The stakes are huge. If the plan had been in place in 2000, Bush and Gore would have split Colorado's Electoral College votes 5-3. Al Gore would be president.

With Bush ahead -- albeit slightly -- in Colorado now, Republicans are up in arms about the ballot measure. With California and New York solidly in the blue column, the Republicans must rely on winner-take-all victories in all those smaller red states. If the Colorado idea passes and spreads, it suddenly becomes much harder for the Republicans to put together a winning combination in the Electoral College. Unless, of course, the idea spreads to the blue states.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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