- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

DENVER — A proposed ballot initiative would make Colorado the first state in the nation to split Electoral College votes among presidential candidates proportionally based on the statewide popular vote, eliminating the state’s winner-take-all system.

Make Your Vote for President Count, the state group pushing the measure, recently began gathering signatures to place the proposal on the November ballot. If approved, the measure would go into effect starting with this year’s presidential election.

State Republicans are leery of the effort, saying it sounds like a scheme to steer electoral votes to Democrats in an otherwise Republican state. But Rick Ridder, the Denver political consultant helping to organize the campaign, said the idea is to increase voter participation by bringing the presidential race closer to the one man, one vote ideal.

“[We] see this as a way of making your vote count,” said Mr. Ridder, a longtime Democratic consultant who served briefly as Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean’s campaign chairman.

Under the proposal, a candidate getting 30 percent of the popular vote would receive three of Colorado’s nine electoral votes. Like most states, Colorado currently awards all its electoral votes to the candidate who wins a majority of the popular vote.

Two states, Maine and Nebraska, divide their presidential electoral votes based in part on the popular vote by awarding two electors to the candidate who wins statewide, then allocating the remainder to the winner of each congressional district.

Colorado Senate Majority Leader John Andrews, a Republican, said he would oppose the measure, calling it “a desperate move by blue-state liberals who’ve been coming up on the short end and want to dilute red-state influence.”

He was referring to the 2000 presidential election maps that showed coastal states that supported Democrat Al Gore in blue, while most of the rest of the nation, the “red states,” backed Republican George W. Bush.

Mr. Andrews also asked why the effort was being pushed in Colorado, when its most prominent supporters live elsewhere. The Colorado organization is an offshoot of the People’s Choice for President, a national group whose primary donor is Jorge Klor de Alva, a wealthy California educator and businessman.

Mr. Klor de Alva has donated about $150,000 to the referendum campaign, which must gather about 68,000 signatures by Aug. 2 to qualify for the November ballot.

“I don’t see this being advanced in a Democratic bastion like [Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts,” Mr. Andrews said.

“Frankly, a California resident who’s trying to cherry-pick a few extra votes for John Kerry in Colorado is offensive,” he said.

Mr. Ridder said Colorado was chosen because of its history of political reform, its favorable case law, and its open initiative and referendum process. Also, he said, the Colorado legislature considered in 2001 a bill to change the state’s electoral vote system based on the Maine and Nebraska models.

If the measure passes, it “could begin to minimize the red-blue divide,” Mr. Ridder said. “It means candidates would have to campaign everywhere because the margins are so slim.”

But critics said that unless every state followed suit, candidates would be tempted to ignore Colorado because the state’s relatively few nine electoral votes would be diluted.

The measure “would weaken Colorado’s importance as a state,” said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden. “We only have nine electoral votes — it’s not like we’re California or New York. If we want to have any say in the presidential contest, why would we break up those nine votes?”

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