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Colorado state lawmakers float bill that would effectively do away with the electoral college

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have put forth a bill that would tie the state's electoral college votes to the national popular vote when electing presidents - changing the way the electoral college is used.

Colorado state lawmakers are floating an idea that would basically replace the electoral college when electing U.S. presidents. The bill would let the candidate with the most votes across the U.S. win the election.

The electoral college would still be around, but Colorado's votes would be tied to the national popular vote instead of the state's popular votes. 

Democratic Senator Mike Foote is one sponsor of the bill that would change how Colorado engages in the electoral college - and if this is passed the Centennial State would join several other states with similar measures.

This would be a massive shift from the way things are done now: under the current electoral college rules, Colorado's nine votes go to the candidate in the state that gets the most votes. Not the whole country.

Foote said he thinks a change is needed.

"Every race, the statewide races, the legislative races - everything - is based on popular vote, and other states as well - the presidential is the only one that's not," Foote told 9NEWS.

To be clear, the electoral college would still exist nationwide - but instead of tying the state's votes to popular vote totals in their respective states, it would be tied to national vote totals instead. No more counting to 270.

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The electoral college versus popular vote debate is not just semantics. For two recent elections - 2016 and 2000 - it would have changed who won the presidency.

Brandon Rittiman, 9NEWS political reporter emeritus, explained it pretty well back in 2016 when the state lawmakers tried this before:

"George W. Bush won Colorado, but Al Gore won the popular vote," he said. "Under this plan, Colorado's nine electoral votes would have gone to Gore and that alone would have been enough to send him to the White House instead of Bush." 

The National Popular Vote Nonprofit is pushing for and tracking this legislation. So far 12 states have approved giving their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner for president. Some of the other states that have approved similar legislation include California, Illinois, New York and Washington state.

Should Colorado approve this, 13 states representing 181 electoral votes would be in. However, it can't take effect until enough states sign on to equal the 270 electoral votes needed to become president.

"The electoral college was designed for a certain reason, but it was also designed to have a lot of flexibility to go to the states," Foote said.

9NEWS would like to point out it's being sponsored by a lawmaker who was recently appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Senate - where he received only 98 votes.

Political reporter Marshall Zelinger asked Foote if the lawmaker found it ironic he'd received 98 votes and is pushing for a national popular vote bill.

"I don't think so," Foote replied. "This is totally different. This is the presidential election where every vote should count equally."

To read the full text of the bill in its current form, head here.

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Editor's note: This story was edited on Jan. 10, 2019 to better reflect the fact that the electoral college would not be overtly removed. Instead, its votes would be tied to the national popular vote.

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