Owens: Don’t alter electoral votes
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Saying Amendment 36 amounts to Colorado “unilaterally disarming,” Gov. Bill Owens simultaneously took his campaign against the measure to the local and national levels during a visit to Glenwood Springs Monday.
Owens visited the Buffalo Valley Inn for a rally of local Republicans. While there, he also voiced his opposition to members of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent editorial board, and to a national audience during an interview on CNN.
Sitting alone in front of a CNN camera, Owens fielded questions from a network interviewer about his stance on 36 and the status of the race for president. As he spoke, Republicans young and old, many wearing Bush-Cheney stickers, watched from behind him, trying hard to honor a request by Owens’ aides to keep quiet for the camera.
If Amendment 36 is approved and withstands court challenges, the state’s nine Electoral College votes would be awarded proportionate to the popular vote. Currently, they are awarded on a winner-take-all basis.
Owens said that this would usually mean that whichever presidential candidate wins the state would end up with five votes, and the loser four, leaving Colorado virtually inconsequential in the presidential race.
Supporters of 36 say the state should take the lead in proportional voting, helping propel a national movement to change how electoral votes are awarded. But Owens fears that other states won’t follow, leaving Colorado with little political influence.
“What would be bad for Colorado would be to do this essentially by ourselves,” he told CNN.
He said he fears the result could be that when presidents have to choose between Colorado and other states on such matters as military base closings or highway funding, Colorado will lose out.
“I can clearly see where some administration might choose to go where the electoral votes are,” Owens told the Post Independent.
“It doesn’t make any sense to disarm that way.”
Owens said state legislatures have historically shown themselves unwilling to go to counting electoral votes proportionally, and that only 16 states give citizens the power to act on state matters through ballot initiatives.
However, the U.S. Constitution says that the state Legislature must make changes in the electoral system. But in Colorado, a court ruling has held that citizen initiatives are legislative functions.
He expects that ruling to be challenged if 36 passes. But in the meantime, he fears the measure’s consequences for Colorado.
“If we were doing this nationally, I wouldn’t be nearly as opposed to it,” Owens said.
He said 36 is driven by outside interests that favor Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and hope to win him electoral votes even if President Bush wins the popular vote in Colorado. But he said the Democrats’ strategy could backfire in a future presidential election if a Democratic candidate wins the popular vote.
Owens said the current electoral system favors Colorado, making it a battleground state in presidential elections such as this one.
“Electoral votes make small states more important,” he said.
Speaking of the presidential race on CNN, Owens talked about what he considers to be increasing support for Bush among female voters, due to concerns about protecting families and standing up to terrorism.
“More and more, we’re starting to see women supporting President Bush. It’s a question of who do you trust most to protect your family,” he said.
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