Our view: Amendment 36: Wrong measure,wrong time

We're not convinced that the Electoral College system is the best way to determine the outcome of a presidential election. But we don't think Amendment 36 on the Nov. 2 ballot will solve the problem.

We would be open to serious reform of the Electoral College system, including proportional distribution. But such reform must be nationwide, not with a piecemeal, state-by-state approach. Amendment 36 will hurt Colorado, and it should be defeated.

If approved, the ballot initiative would award Colorado's nine electoral votes proportionally as a percentage of the statewide popular vote rather than the winner-takes-all system.

Under Amendment 36, Colorado would become the guinea pig for testing changes to the winner-takes-all system. Assuming the first-place finisher earned 55 percent of the vote and the runner-up got 45 percent in Colorado, the winner would get five electoral votes and the runner-up would get four.

If approved, the amendment would apply to this year's presidential election.

Supporters of the amendment say proportional allocation of electoral votes better supports the concept of "one person, one vote." Dividing the electoral votes proportionately more honestly reflects how Colorado voted. And third-party candidates would have a shot at collecting some electoral votes they have no chance of getting now.

Clearly, Amendment 36 is part of the fallout from the 2000 presidential election, when the nation's popular vote winner, Democrat Al Gore, lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush. So close was that election that, had Amendment 36 been in place, Gore could have won.

We understand the frustration with the Electoral College. But we also think that the Electoral College is an important component of selecting a president. Electoral votes ensure that all parts of the country have a voice. Without the Electoral College, states with large populations that consistently tend to vote one particular way -- California, New York and Texas -- would disproportionately influence election outcomes.

If Amendment 36 is approved, Colorado would become irrelevant on the presidential landscape.

Because presidential candidates rarely get 60 percent of the vote, the electoral votes most often will be split 5-4, leaving just one electoral vote up for grabs. Suddenly, the nation's least-populous states -- Wyoming, South Dakota and Delaware, for example -- would wield more influence than Colorado.

The most unnerving aspect of Amendment 36 is that the authors made it applicable to this year's election. That leads us to suspect the amendment has more to do with short-term politics than testing long-term reform. Democrats are the primary supporters of the measure, and it's understandable why. Most polls show Kerry losing a close election to Bush in Colorado. Amendment 36 would ensure that Kerry gets at least four electoral votes here and that Bush gets no more than five -- that's an eight-vote swing that could decide the outcome.

In essence, Amendment 36 would change the rules in the middle of the game. That's wrong.

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