Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: National Popular Vote in Colorado—voters to decide in 2020

Today’s Brew highlights the first veto referendum in Colorado in over 70 years + reviews how states set the start of the school year  
 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, September 3, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Colorado voters to decide in 2020 whether to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
  2. Forty states allow local school districts to set school starting dates
  3. FEC only has three members after vice chair resigns

Colorado voters to decide in 2020 whether to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Colorado voters will decide in November 2020 whether they want the state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The secretary of state certified a veto referendum August 29. It will be the first veto referendum to appear before Colorado voters since 1932. 

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an interstate agreement to award each member state’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. It would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college vote to adopt it. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C.,—representing a total of 196 electoral votes—have joined the NPVIC. 

The Colorado legislature approved a bill—which was signed by Governor Jared Polis (D)—joining the state to the NPVIC earlier this year. It passed the legislature along party lines, with all yes votes coming from Democrats and all Republicans voting against it. Colorado is one of 14 Democratic trifectas. Thirteen of the 15 states to join the NPVIC and Washington, D.C., were controlled by Democratic trifectas at the time. Two—Hawaii and New York—were controlled by divided governments. 

 Most states currently use a winner-take-all system for awarding their electoral votes in the Electoral College. Under this method, the presidential candidate that receives a plurality of the popular vote in a state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. In five of 58 presidential elections, the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes. This occurred most recently in the 2016 presidential election as Donald Trump received 304 electoral votes and Hillary Clinton had more total votes nationwide. 

Protect Colorado’s Vote—a group that opposes Colorado joining the NPVIC—reported submitting over 227,000 signatures on August 1 to trigger the veto referendum. The secretary of state determined that enough signatures were valid—124,632 were required—to qualify the measure for the November 3, 2020, ballot. 

From 1912 to 1932, Colorado voters decided 13 veto referendums. Of those, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation and three resulted in the law being upheld. Since 1906, 521 veto referendums have appeared on the ballot across the country in 23 states. During that time, voters repealed 340—65.3%—of the targeted laws.

Status of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

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Forty states allow local school districts to set school starting dates 

It’s the Tuesday after Labor Day, and in some states, today marks the first day of school. I live in New Jersey and we’re one of those states. It caused me to think about how states determine when public schools can begin classes.

Forty states allow local school districts to decide school start dates. Seven states mandate that schools cannot start earlier than a specific day in August. The remaining three states—Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia—require that school starts after Labor Day statewide.

Voters in two states—North and South Dakota—have decided ballot measures governing when school districts can begin classes. Voters in North Dakota rejected a 2014 initiative 55.6% to 44.4% that would have required public school to start after Labor Day.

South Dakota voters approved a citizen initiative—Initiative 2—in 1984 requiring public schools to start the school year after Labor Day. It was approved by a margin of 282 votes, 50.1% to 49.9%. In 1993, the state legislature altered Initiative 2 and repealed the requirement that the school year could start no earlier than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in September. This law allowed local school boards to determine school year start dates. 

Voters in South Dakota rejected a citizen initiative in 2006 that would have prohibited school districts from beginning classes earlier than the last day of August. It failed 56.9% to 43.1%.

The Maryland legislature passed a bill—and then overrode a gubernatorial veto of that bill— in April allowing local school boards to set the start of the school year. Previously, the first day of school had to be after Labor Day.

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FEC lacks quorum after vice-chair resigns

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) lacks enough members to legally perform audits, litigate cases, promulgate new rules, issue advisory opinions, or enforce campaign finance violations. This is because the agency only has three voting members after Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen (R)—who had served on the body for 11 years—resigned August 31.

The FEC is an independent federal agency responsible for disclosing campaign finance information, enforcing limits and prohibitions on contributions, and overseeing public funding of presidential elections. The minimum number of members that must be present to make the agency’s decisions valid—known as a quorum—is four.  

The FEC has six members who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They each serve six-year terms, with two seats up for appointment every two years. No more than three members can be of the same political party, and there is a four-vote minimum for any proposal to be passed. 

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub (D) issued a statement last week stating that FEC staff will continue to make campaign finance documents available to the public and issue recommendations regarding campaign finance complaints. However, it will be unable to vote on the recommendations until a quorum is established. Weintraub urged President Trump to nominate new commissioners and encouraged the U.S. Senate to confirm the nominees.

Trump nominated Republican attorney James E. Trainor III to serve on the commission in 2017 but the nomination was returned to the president at the conclusion of the 115th Congress in January.

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About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at dave.beaudoin@ballotpedia.org

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