California Electoral Vote: Not Winner Take All?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in News

This is huge and it could swing the 2008 election.

From the New Yorker:

Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union.

Now obviously it hasn’t passed yet, but just think about it. If Republicans could get 20 extra votes from Cali, they wouldn’t even need Florida. Personally, I think this is much fairer system, but it has to be across the board. Of course that won’t happen because this is a state to state issue, so why now?

Well, here’s one answer…

The Tuesday after the first Monday in June is California’s traditional Primary Day. But it’s not the one that everybody will be paying attention to. Five months ago, the legislature hastily moved the Presidential part up to February 5th, joining a stampede of states hoping to claim a piece of the early-state action previously reserved for Iowa and New Hampshire. June 3rd will be an altogether sleepier, low-turnout affair. There may be a few scattered contests for legislative nominations, but the only statewide items on the ballot will be initiatives. More than two dozen have been filed so far, ranging from a proposal to start a state-run Internet poker site to pay for filling potholes to a redundant slew of anti-gay-marriage measures. Few will make it to the ballot. Many are not even intended to; they’re a feint in some byzantine negotiation, or just a cheap attempt to get a little attention—for a two-hundred-dollar fee, anyone can file one. (Actually getting one on the ballot requires more than four hundred thousand signatures, and the outfits that collect them usually charge a dollar or two per signature.) Initiative No. 07-0032—the Presidential Election Reform Act—is different. It’s serious. Its backers have access to serious money. And it could pass.

Ahh, they’re trying to sneak one past the goalie. I can only imagine that Dems are going to jump on this and make sure it doesn’t pass, but that means they’ll have to get their voters out to the polls twice. And that can be hard with the famously disjointed Democratic voting block.

And yes, this is simply a ploy by the Republican party…but what a ploy!

Nominally, the sponsor of No. 07-0032 is Californians for Equal Representation. But that’s just a letterhead—there’s no such organization. Its address is the office suite of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, the law firm for the California Republican Party, and its covering letter is signed by Thomas W. Hiltachk, the firm’s managing partner and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal lawyer for election matters. Hiltachk and his firm have been involved in many well-financed ballot initiatives before, including the recall that put Arnold in Sacramento. They specialize in initiatives that are the opposite of what they sound like—the Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006, for example. It would have raised the state minimum wage slightly—by a lesser amount than it has since been raised—and, in the fine print, would have made it impossible ever to raise it again except by a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature, while, for good measure, eliminating overtime for millions of workers.

If they can pass it, more power to them. That’s how this game works and if Democrats aren’t on the ball, well, then they deserve to lose nearly half the electoral votes in California.

More as it becomes available…


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15 Responses to “California Electoral Vote: Not Winner Take All?”

  1. Gene Berkman Says:

    I do not support the Republican Party, but I think this is a good idea. I am in fact a Libertarian Party member and Ron Paul supporter, and dividing the electoral votes – either by Congressional District or by Proportional Representation – is the only way a third party will be able to break into the electoral college.

    While Republicans might hope that dividing California’s electoral votes could give them a victory in 2008 – and Democrats fear the same thing – Bush’s approval rating is so low that a Democrat landslide is likely in 2008, big enough to guarantee a majority in the electoral college even if California (and other states hopefully) opt for this kind of reform.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    “I am in fact a Libertarian Party member and Ron Paul supporter, and dividing the electoral votes – either by Congressional District or by Proportional Representation – is the only way a third party will be able to break into the electoral college.”

    I agree. I don’t believe America needs 25 political parties like some European governments to give the people real choices, but I do believe having only 2 parties is under-representing America.

    It’s funny how often Republicans invoke the panacea of “freemarket capitalism.” It usually goes something like: “The more competition the better” or “give people a choice and let them choose.” Yet, Americans can go to the supermarket and they have
    100 plus choices in what kind of cereal they can buy, but when it comes to electing the most important representative in their life that have 2 choices. Two choices, I might add, that are looking more alike every year. The only ostensible difference appearing to be whether you support taxes or you don’t. That isn’t representative government I’m afraid.

  3. Dustin Says:

    “The only ostensible difference appearing to be whether you support taxes or you don’t.”

    Yes, because there’s NO difference between the parties on issues of religiously influenced legislation, medical law, or foreign policy…

  4. somebody Says:

    Goodbye federalism.

  5. Jeremy Says:

    “Yes, because there’s NO difference between the parties on issues of religiously influenced legislation, medical law, or foreign policy…”

    Touché!

    You’re correct. They have these differences about them. Nonetheless, two parties don’t represent a large portion of Americans. For example, I agree with some so-called Republican values and some so-called Democratic values, however, neither party encompasses even a small portion of the majority of my values.

    I believe in Country. Arguably, equally a Democrat and Republican value. Yet, I don’t believe in Country that behaves as an agressor. Republicans for the most part support the war in Iraq, while Democrats don’t stop funding it. Neither serve me or what I believe to be America’s best interests. There are about 50 to a 100 of these types of issues that I don’t believe either party addresses.

    My main contention was that two parties doesn’t serve 300 million
    people adequately. Yes, on the surface and in some realms Republicans and Democrats do widely diverge, but fundamentally they both have sat on their ass while America is sold out from under hard working Americans. America has been polluted and diluted with the white-noise of political posturing while the real issues facing America are all but ignored and neglected.

    American middle class jobs? What middle class jobs?

    American health care? What health care? Unless you count the ER as health care.

    American higher education? What higher education? Americans on the whole cannot afford “higher” education, they can afford “mediocre” community college courses that teach menial skill sets (albeit, they will probably spend a better part of two decades paying off the “grants” they had to take out to get this pathetically anemic education). I hope you like being a “male” nurse and working until your 80 so you can “enjoy” retirement.

    Global Warming? We can’t even decide whether the planet is in teetering on the brink or whether we are “improving” the weather for the better. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Should we play “oh, darn! we sure were wrong about that global warming thing! too bad the Democrats and Republicans were scoring political points while we were sowing the seeds of our destruction.

    I don’t feel that either of these parties really give a shit what happens to this country. They vote for their pay raises. They aren’t worried about retirement. Playing blow’em up in foreign countries isn’t hard when you are sitting safe and sound at home.
    Stealing from the American people seems to be a viable career choice these days. You are more likely to achieve the “American dream” by opting to be a lobbyist than by serving your country in the armed forces.

    This country needs more parties and money needs to be removed from the political process as much as that is possible. Honesty and service to the country has become secondary in the face of the attainment and distribution of money. This nation seems to be ALL about money and little about the ideals, beliefs and values it was supposed to be founded on. Money is part of our lives, it should not BE our lives.

  6. Lars Says:

    Congressional allocation of electoral votes is nothing more than a power play by a given state’s minority party. The Republicans are trying to do it by initiative in California and the Democrats (a red presidential state) are trying to do it through legislation.

    The real, non-partisan solution is a direct national popular vote for President. That system would eliminate battleground and safe states as we know them and would therefore make every vote equal. Currently a candidate would much rather have a vote in Ohio or Wisconsin, i.e. a battleground state, than in a safe state like Rhode Island, Montana, or Texas. A national popular vote would force candidates to compete for every vote and make winning or losing an individual state irrelevant.
    .

  7. Donklephant » Blog Archive » Calfornia eVoting Machines Hacked Says:

    [...] I wrote about California’s electoral college woes yesterday and now [...]

  8. Jeremy Says:

    “The real, non-partisan solution is a direct national popular vote for President. That system would eliminate battleground and safe states as we know them and would therefore make every vote equal.”

    I’m in one-thousand percent agreement with you on this.

  9. Mike Says:

    A country that cannot change will perish. I applaud this move. I think this could be the first step, if passes, to seeing an abolishment of the electoral college. In our past it worked fine, but now with the more precise vote counting and the sheer number of voters now the move to a strictly popular vote is needed. One electoral vote… the vote of the people of the United States. The main downfall I see from an election where we use only the popular vote is that There will be much more campaign money spent. Candidates would have to concentrate on spreading the word everywhere, instead of narrowing themselves to the states they know they will win.

  10. DosPeros Says:

    The real, non-partisan solution is a direct national popular vote for President. That system would eliminate battleground and safe states as we know them and would therefore make every vote equal.

    I know that our public school system sucks, but please. The US is a constitutional republic not some lice-ridden parisian commune. God save us from the hordes. What does the electoral college do? Well if Mencken is correct: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” The EC and the Senate keeps the rest of us from getting it too good and hard.

  11. Tony Andrade Says:

    Existing California law provides for the statewide winner of the popular vote to take all 55 Electors to vote in the Electoral College for

    President and Vice President of the United States in December.

    California had 20% of the Electors in 2004 but was not involved in

    the process of selecting our president. In the 2004 presidential election the electors selected George W. Bush to be the President of the United States. All of California 55 electors voted for John Kerry. We are out of touch with the views of our founding fathers who stressed a representative form of government.

    The current system in California is that the winner of the popular vote in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas determines the Electors for the entire State. This is not democratic, eliminates third parties, is unfair, and most important, independent voters are not considered.

    We want to reform this system and make California once again relevant in the presidential elections.

    We have filed the Electoral Reform California Initiative with the Attorney General, Jerry Brown, on May 10, 2007. It would repeal existing procedures for selection of presidential electors, and instead require that political parties nominate an elector in each

    Congressional District, and 2 electors on a statewide basis. The initiative would change the system from winner take all statewide to winner take all by Congressional District. Under the initiative, an elector selected on the basis of a Congressional District is required to be a resident of that district. Under the initiative, an elector would be required to be a member of the political party that nominates the elector at the time of the nomination. The initiative would require each elector nominee to sign a pledge that he or she will cast his or her ballot for the candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States who receive the plurality of votes in the congressional district in which the elector is nominated.

    It is called the Mundt-Cordier Plan and is now the existing law in Maine and Nebraska.

    Under the new system we would increase competition for Electors in California. We will give a voice to less populated and rural counties, like Solano, to participate in the presidential election. It would force the presidential candidates, who now ignore us, to campaign in our State. Also, minor parties would have a chance to elect an Elector. independent voters would have a voice. Independent and third party candidates in specific California congressional districts where the political terrain favors their ideology, have a chance to elect a Electors even if they don’t have the resources to compete statewide.

    The current system discourages presidential nominees from having a grassroots campaign effort in California. The current strategy among candidates is to ignore us and simply run television commercials in the largest media markets like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    By shifting to a congressional-district system, it will be important to have a grassroots presence statewide especially in small cities like Dixon.

    “The Electoral College does not function in the manner that the Founding Fathers intended. The statewide winner-take-all system distorts the preferences of California voters and it is time we got rid of it.” Senator Ray Haynes.

    The California Republican Party has adopted this system in 2007, changing the presidential primary from a winner-take-all contest to one where most of the 173 available Republican delegates to the party’s national presidential nominating convention will be chosen by winner-take-all within each congressional district.

    Visit our website: ElectoralReformCalifornia.com

  12. Joshua Says:

    What Mike said. Plus, another advantage is that any electoral dispute would only tie up one or two electoral votes at a time, making it much less likely that either candidate would go to the mat to resolve them a la Florida 2000.

    The only caveat to taking this nationwide is that it would become theoretically possible for a candidate to carry all fifty states yet still lose the electoral vote. Carrying a state guarantees you only three EVs per state (the two statewide votes plus one congressional district), or 150 EVs. That’s a big headstart but is nowhere near the 270-EV target to win the election.

  13. Russ Says:

    I think the Republicans are on their way to game the system for the third time in a row. Beware other blue states. Vote.

  14. Unite For Mike Says:

    Mike Bloomberg Polls Well In California!…

    A new poll out of California suggests that Mike Bloomberg would be well on his way to winning the state, should he choose the enter the race! The poll indicates that 25% of the public would consider voting for him and he hasn’t even announced. 6…

  15. Elisabetta Says:

    Anthony: “The current system in California is that the winner of the popular vote in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas determines the Electors for the entire State. This is not democratic, eliminates third parties, is unfair, and most important, independent voters are not considered.”

    Let me get this straight. Liberals contend that Republicans are up to no good with their initiative. I bet if the roles were reversed, they’d be praising the move.

    Why should L.A. and San Francisco determine who gets all?
    Tony A., I hope the initiative passes.

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