Just when you thought it was safe to start thinking about having a Democrat in the White House, along comes a cynical power grab by Republican operatives. And unfortunately, it's happening right here in my own state of California.
If you haven't heard already, Republican strategists recently announced plans to begin raising money for a dangerous initiative that would radically change the way California apportions our electoral votes in presidential elections. Rather than awarding all of California's electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote -- the way it works in every single state except the small states of Maine and Nebraska -- their scheme would divvy up California's electoral votes based on the number of Congressional districts each candidate wins.
What does this mean? Well, if the last few elections are any guide, rather than the Democratic nominee winning all 55 of California's electoral votes in 2008, this new partisan scheme could hand 20 of California's electoral votes to the Republican candidate and only 35 to the Democrat.
Don't get me wrong: After the 2000 and 2004 election debacles, I'm a strong advocate for election reform. But it's absolutely wrong for California to go it alone. It's just patently unfair for a large "blue" state like California to change our system for awarding electoral votes while other large states which trend "red" like Texas and Florida don't change their system at the same time.
This isn't reform -- this is a partisan power grab by Republican operatives in the Karl Rove tradition.
The initiative's sponsors claim that their plan will make the presidential candidates spend more time campaigning in California. That's nonsense. Their scheme won't make candidates come to California during a general election any more than they do now -- which is rarely, and only to raise money.
Just look at the 2006 election. In 2006, only 2 of California's 53 Congressional districts were truly in play. In the remaining 51 districts, the margin of victory for the winning Republican or Democratic House candidate was always more than 6% -- and in most cases, the difference was 20 or 30 percentage points or more. The number of competitive districts in the 2008 election will not be much different than what we saw in 2006 -- so apportioning our electoral votes based on the winner of each Congressional district would clearly do nothing to bring the presidential candidates to California more often.
If America wants real election reform -- and I know I do -- we need to elect our President directly by the national popular vote, plain and simple. Then the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be elected President. That's the fair thing to do.
If you're interested in joining the fight against this power grab by Republican operatives, I hope you'll check out www.FairElectionReform.com. You don't have to live in California to get involved, because by skewing the results of the 2008 presidential election, this initiative clearly will affect all Americans.
Please join me in fighting for real, fair election reform -- and rejecting this cynical partisan power grab.
While I don't support this naked power grab by Republicans, if Californians did pass the initiative to split up electoral votes, we wouldn't be going it alone:
Maine and Nebraska both use an alternative method of distributing their electoral votes, called the Congressional District Method. Currently, these two states are the only two in the union that diverge from the traditional winner-take-all method of electoral vote allocation.
With the district method, a state divides itself into a number of districts, allocating one of its state-wide electoral votes to each district. The winner of each district is awarded that district’s electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining two electoral votes.
This method has been used in Maine since 1972 and Nebraska since 1996, though since both states have adopted this modification, the statewide winners have consistently swept all of the state’s districts as well. Consequently, neither state has ever split its electoral votes.
Although this method still fails to reach the full ideal of one-man one-vote, it has been proposed as a nationwide reform for the way in which Electoral votes are distributed.
See our page on Reform Options for the Electoral College to find more information.