California Democrats have been cutting six-figure checks to promote the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV) in Colorado ahead of a referendum vote in the state next November.
The NPV would change how the Electoral College operates without amending the Constitution. It pledges a state's Electoral College votes to the candidate receiving the most votes nationwide in a presidential election.
The Colorado political committee Yes on National Popular Vote has collected just under $750,000 since its creation in late July. Over 98 percent of that money is from California donors, most of which is courtesy of a $500,000 donation from Stephen Silberstein, a board member of the National Popular Vote nonprofit that has driven the movement for more than a decade. Craig Barratt, a technology executive and longtime Democratic donor, gave $100,000. John Koza, chair of the National Popular Vote, contributed an additional $55,000.
Democratic calls for changes to the Electoral College gained traction following the 2000 presidential contest in which George W. Bush narrowly won the Electoral College but received fewer votes nationally than his opponent Al Gore. Enthusiasm surged again in 2016 after Donald Trump also won the Electoral College without garnering the most votes nationwide. Democratic presidential candidates such as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I.) have advocated for eliminating the Electoral College.
Opponents of the NPV argue that less populated states like Colorado will lose some of their clout in presidential years, and heavily populated coastal areas will dominate the outcome.
Colorado's adoption of the NPV earlier this year was significant because it was the most "purple" state yet to enter the compact. Democrats in Colorado passed the NPV after they gained full control of the state government in the 2018 elections, and Governor Jared Polis (D.) signed the bill.
However, a provision in the state's constitution allows citizens to use the petition process to overturn legislation through a statewide vote. This summer, a grassroots effort hoping to repeal the NPV submitted over 227,000 signatures, easily qualifying to appear on next year's ballot.
Mesa County commissioner Rose Pugliese, who helped run the petition drive to get the repeal question on the ballot, said she's not surprised by the influx of cash from California.
"Clearly California is very interested in Colorado's votes, but I think the people of Colorado understand the importance of keeping the Electoral College votes in Colorado," she told the Washington Free Beacon by phone.
"We were so fortunate during the campaign to put the National Popular Vote repeal to a vote of the people, we were so fortunate to have over 2,200 grassroots volunteers statewide," she added. "So obviously we're going to utilize our statewide network of volunteers. But obviously we are trying to fundraise as well. The great thing about the fundraising that we've done so far is that our money is coming from Coloradans."
Opponents to the NPV like Pugliese argue that the compact is unconstitutional, but many legal experts say a lawsuit will not be able to challenge it until it gains enough jurisdictions to become active.
Electoral College votes are awarded state-by-state, and most allocate them in a winner-take-all method to the single candidate receiving the most votes in that particular state.
States that have joined the NPV, however, would award their Electoral College votes to the candidate that wins the most votes nationwide.
For example, if Colorado voters favored the Republican candidate, but the Democratic candidate won the most votes when adding all the states in the compact together, Colorado's nine Electoral College votes would go to the Democrat.
The compact does not take effect until enough states and districts have adopted it that their combined Electoral College vote total surpasses 270, the number needed to win the presidency.
Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia have entered the compact, representing 196 Electoral College votes. Most of the states that have joined are solidly Democratic, like New York and California.
Request for comment to Silberstein and Koza through National Popular Vote was not returned. Requests for comment to Barratt and the "Yes on National Popular Vote" political committee in Colorado were also not returned.