Electoral College may change

Amendment 36 creates controversy on both sides

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Amendment 36, which would change drastically the way Colorado's Electoral College votes are cast in presidential elections, has put the state in a national spotlight.

Instead of using the winner-take-all system, in which all nine of the state's Electoral College votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the popular vote, the amendment would create a system in which the nine votes are awarded proportionally to candidates based on the percentage of the popular vote they win.

The change would be effective immediately and could affect the outcome of this year's presidential election.

"We think it's an absolutely terrible idea for Colorado," said Katy Atkinson, director of Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea, a group formed to lobby against the amendment.

Top Republicans in the state and many top Democrats agree that Amendment 36 is not a good idea for Colorado.

The same is true at the local level, where neither Ken Brenner, chairman of the Routt County Democratic Party, nor Buck Buckland, chairman of the Routt County Republicans, supports the proposed amendment.

"Our forefathers went to great lengths to install a system that they felt would ensure a fair system for electing our presidential leader, other than just a simple popular vote," Brenner said. "I personally would favor keeping their system in place and not supporting the proposed amendment."

Brenner said one negative result of the amendment would be that candidates would focus on big population centers and not on issues that effect entire states.

Buckland agreed that the state's Electoral College system should remain as it is.

Under the current system, if one candidate received 55 percent of the votes, and the other received 45 percent, the first candidate would receive nine electoral votes. Under Amendment 36, the first candidate would receive five votes and the second candidate would get four votes.

All but two states have a winner-take-all system. In Nebraska and Maine, two electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state, and candidates get one vote for each congressional district they win in the popular vote.

A candidate must receive at least 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, and the Electoral College has 538 electors.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the electoral vote would reflect the statewide vote more accurately, and so, could motivate more people to vote.

Opponents of the amendment argue that Colorado would become the least influential state in presidential elections because its nine votes almost always would be split 5-4, meaning the state essentially would be worth only one vote to presidential candidates.

That would amount to "electoral suicide," Atkinson said.

Also, the system makes it easier for minor-party candidates to win electoral votes, possibly creating a situation in which no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes. On a nationwide scale, this would mean the presidency would be determined by the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state getting only one vote.

The Colorado Republicans have published an opinion against Amendment 36 on their Web site. The Colorado Democratic Party is officially neutral on all of the proposed amendments, including Amendment 36, said Julie DeWoody, executive director for the group.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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