Colorado and Delaware Join States Favoring Electoral College Reforms

*The Breakdown is The North Star’s daily analysis of an essential news story designed to provide historical context, go beyond the popular headlines, and offer a glimpse of where this story may be going next.


Key Facts: Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a law on Friday that would allow the winner of the national popular vote to clinch the state’s Electoral College, according to a Washington Post report. The Delaware state House followed suit, passing a bill that would grant the same conditions.

The two states join a national outcry calling for change in the presidential election process. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia, compose the National Popular Vote Interstate compact — an agreement to award all electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the overall popular vote. The initiative, however, does not eliminate the Electoral College or undermine state control of elections.

“The shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from ‘winner-take-all’ laws that have been enacted by state legislatures in 48 states,” the initiative’s website states. “The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.” Historical Context: The national vote winner has lost in the system at least four times in history. Almost 20 years ago, Democratic candidate Al Gore won the national popular vote by 48.4 percent but lost the electoral vote to Republican hopeful George W. Bush after a hotly contested recount in the state of Florida. The GOP candidate earned 271 votes in the Electoral College.

In 2016, President Donald Trump won the presidency with 306 electoral votes to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 232 votes. However, 48.5 percent of the popular vote went to Clinton, compared to the 46.4 percent attained by Trump. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, give two electoral votes to the winner in each state and one to the winner of each of the statewide congressional districts. The Constitution permits states to determine how the election results are handled.

Beneath the Surface: Delaware Democratic Representative David Bentz, the sponsor of the bill in his state, said Delaware is “already overlooked” as the presidential election takes places.

“Delaware is seen as this true blue state. And if you’re a Republican voter what is your motivation to vote? Because you know at the end of the day Delaware’s three electoral votes will go to that Democrat. If you’re a Democrat maybe you’re not motivated either because you know you don’t have to,” Bentz told radio station WHYY. In Colorado, Democratic legislators in both chambers released a joint statement explaining that each vote will ensure “every American and every Coloradan has an equal say about who leads our country. We are proud that Colorado has joined the compact.”

What’s Next: In order for the National Popular Vote Interstate to succeed, the compact must gather as many states as possible to secure the cumulative 270 electors needed to choose the White House occupant, CNN reported. With Colorado’s legislation passage, the number has increased to 181 electors. New Mexico, with five electoral votes, will join the compact once the governor signs it into law. Though the state of Delaware has only three electoral votes, Governor John Carney said he would sign the bill into law if it were to get to his desk, The Hill reported.

Opponents say this is just a reaction to the Democrats’ stunning defeat almost three years ago. According to The Denver Post, the bill did not receive the support of Republicans in either of Colorado’s chambers, and party members pledged on Friday that they would ask voters to overturn the law.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and U.S. politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.