Amendment 36

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Sep 282004
 
Authors: Ryan Riggen

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

process.”

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

popular vote.

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

joint-winner.

“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

the state.

“No candidate will spend time or money for one vote,” Ray said.

“Colorado would completely cease to matter in the presidential

election.”

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

voted.”

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

concerns.”

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

amendment.

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.

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