Amendment 36 on Colorado’s state ballot could have an immediate
impact on this year’s presidential election outcome, yet many
voters may not be aware of what the amendment does.
The amendment, which would change the way Colorado’s nine
electoral votes are distributed to candidates, has sparked debate
throughout the state of Colorado. Distribution would change from a
winner-gets-all system to a system where electoral votes would be
divided among candidates based on the percentage of the popular
vote they receive.
In Colorado, each candidate would receive one electoral vote for
approximately every 10 percent of the popular vote he receives.
For example, if President Bush receives 50 percent of the
Colorado vote and Kerry receives 47 percent, with an independent
candidate receiving the other 3 percent, Bush would get five
electoral votes and Kerry would get four. The independent candidate
would not receive any electoral votes.
“There are a number of different ways to interpret this
(amendment),” said Bill Chaloupka, political science professor and
chair of the political science department. “Critics are pointing
(to) the fact that states with smaller numbers of electoral votes
get no attention. Proponents are saying Colorado would get as much
attention and that this is the first step in a broader
According to Bill Ray, spokesman for the Colorado Republican
Party, there is a possibility that a third-party candidate could
receive one of the electoral votes. This would be dependent upon
the third-party candidate receiving at least 10 percent of the
If this were the case, there is a possibility the major-party
candidates would each receive four votes and there would not be a
“winner” in Colorado. Ray said 99.9 percent of the time there would
be a decided winner, but there is the possibility of the
“This is an obvious partisan attempt to shape the outcome of the
presidential election by taking electoral votes away from whoever
wins Colorado,” Ray said. “This could hurt either candidate.”
This new system would be more beneficial to party candidates who
historically do not do as well in Colorado and hurt party
candidates who historically have won because they would receive
only a portion of the electoral votes, whereas in the past they
have received them all.
Opponents of the amendment argue that candidates would
essentially be campaigning in Colorado for one electoral vote,
which is the difference in votes between the winner and loser in
“No candidate will spend time or money for one vote,” Ray said.
“Colorado would completely cease to matter in the presidential
Julie Brown, campaign director for Make Your Vote Count, said
this is a ridiculous argument. She pointed out that Maine and
Nebraska have a similar system and that Amendment 36 would more
accurately reflect the way the state voted.
“A candidate could win as little as 40 percent of the vote and
take all of the electoral votes,” Brown said. “We have nine
electoral votes and the electors should reflect how the state
Brown argued that Maine has a similar system, and Bush has been
to Maine to campaign more than 10 times for one electoral vote. She
said this system would also likely increase voter turnout because
more individual votes would matter.
“If you listen to people right now they say that ‘my vote
doesn’t matter,'” Brown said. “If people know their vote will have
an impact, then absolutely more people will turn out to vote.”
Opponents of the amendment also worry about the long-term
effects of the amendment if it were to pass.
“This would absolutely marginalize Colorado in terms of the
presidential election and future money coming into the state,” said
Kathie Singer, a member of No Against 36, an organization that is
also referred to as Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea. “A
major concern is, ‘Who is going to listen to our issues?’ Another
concern is that we’re not going to be getting as much money back
from taxes. We have a shot at losing billions.”
Chaloupka said this amendment would be advantageous to the party
that loses in Colorado. He also said this is an enormously
important election for both parties.
“This election overwhelms long-term concerns,” Chaloupka said.
“People are nervous about this in the long-term, but this is the
most important election in a long time so it overwhelms all these
Ray emphasized that Democrats and Republicans should both be
worried about this amendment.
“Democrats and Republicans should be concerned about this,” Ray
said. “If this were around in 1992, Clinton wouldn’t have won in
Colorado. Perot would have taken one vote. (Clinton and Bush Sr.
would have split the remaining eight).”
Brown compared the current system to business and schools.
“Schools compete for students and businesses compete for
customers,” Brown said. “This doesn’t apply to the presidential
race. (Candidates) should have to earn the votes. They shouldn’t be
able to take votes.”
Jonathan Neal, Communication Director of the Democratic Party of
Colorado, said the party has no official position on the
Jeanne Laudick, a volunteer with the Larimer County Republican
Office, said people should make up there own minds regarding the
amendment, but she has heard more people say they wanted the
electoral system to stay the same.