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In the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections, the Democratic presidential candidate won the national popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. Now there's a renewed interest in a state-by-state plan that would effectively abolish the Electoral College. Sam Brasch of Colorado Public Radio reports.
SAM BRASCH, BYLINE: You might think that moving to a national popular vote would require a constitutional amendment. After all, the founders wrote the Electoral College right into Article II of the Constitution. But some think there's a loophole.
JOHN KOZA: It was left up entirely to the state legislatures how to pick the presidential electors who would elect the president.
BRASCH: That's John Koza. The computer scientist devised the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
KOZA: And it just says that a state will award its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
BRASCH: The agreement would only go into effect if states representing a majority of votes in the Electoral College - or 270 - sign on. With 11 states currently on board, including New York and California, the compact is less than a hundred votes short of that goal. Colorado is on the verge of adding its nine electoral votes, and New Mexico isn't far behind with another five. Democratic State Senator Mike Foote is sponsoring the legislation in Colorado.
MIKE FOOTE: It's about time that every vote in the country for president should count equally. And right now it doesn't. Right now, if you live in a state that's not a battleground state, then your vote really doesn't count nearly as much as those that do.
BRASCH: Colorado and New Mexico have been presidential battlegrounds over the last 20 years. That's one reason past efforts to join the compact failed. Lawmakers didn't want to put their swing state status at risk. But Democrats won control of both state capitals last November, and now they're moving ahead. In Colorado, that spurred a fierce backlash.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: The committee will come back to order.
BRASCH: Opponents packed a recent committee hearing. Many argued the plan would diminish Colorado's role in presidential elections.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: If this national vote passes, they're not going to come to Colorado at all. They're going to focus...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Smaller and mid-sized states in the middle of nowhere will be irrelevant. And any...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: So cities like New York City and Los Angeles and those bigger states will be the power. Rural Colorado will die.
BRASCH: Republican lawmakers have raised similar arguments. Not a single one supported the bill. Democrats argued that presidential candidates would be more likely to campaign across the country. John Koza with National Popular Vote says his plan wasn't always so polarizing.
KOZA: The Trump election - it makes it harder to talk about this in terms of the merits of the issue as opposed to the apparent political benefit. But the atmosphere isn't conducive to getting Republican support easily at this time.
BRASCH: That tracks with what pollsters have found since 2016. Support for a national popular vote for president has plummeted among Republicans and ticked up among Democrats. Seth Masket is a political scientist at the University of Denver. He thinks many supporters see the compact as a movement rather than a practical proposal.
SETH MASKET: It's about saying, the status quo is unacceptable. This might not be the best means of changing it. But it's at least a way of forcing some change and forcing some discussion of it.
BRASCH: In the long term, more Republicans in swing states would be needed to push the compact over 270 votes. Even if that happens, supporters expect lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. For NPR News, I'm Sam Brasch in Denver.
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