The Next California GOP Attack on Democracy: California's Electoral College Votes
What's the sleeper issue in next year's June blockbuster election? If you ask me, it's an initiative in the works by right-wing Republicans to steal a chunk of California's electoral votes.
As this excellent piece in The New Yorker tells it, the initiative would split California's 55 winner-take-all electoral college votes. It would award electoral college votes to the winner of each Congressional district. The extra two would go to the overall winner in the state.
Since Bush carried 22 districts in 2004, that means Republicans would have gotten the equivalent of a Pennsylvania or Illinois in the form of California's electoral votes.
The initiative's sponsor is an outfit called "Californians for Equal Representation." But as the article points out, the force behind it is Thomas Hiltachk, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's top election lawyer hack. Hiltachk has masterminded a variety of anti-union initiatives in the past, fought campaign finance laws, and helped with the recall that propelled Schwarzenegger to office. (Schwarzenegger's office tells me he no longer works for the Governor.)
The argument for the initiative likely will be based on "fairness" and an attack on the unpopular electoral college. After all, if the Republican candidate wins 22 districts, shouldn't they get 22 votes? And heck, isn't the electoral college an institution that needs to go?
Not so fast.
First of all, only two states split their votes: Maine and Nebraska. Both are tiny and have never split their votes in modern elections. So it's silly to put California in the same boat, putting us at a major disadvantage with the nation's other states. (You need only look to see how Rudy Guiliani is campaigning in San Francisco for Republican delegate votes because of a similar district-by-district allocation by the GOP to award its convention delegates.)
Then there's the more practical aspects. Since only a few Congressional districts are competitive in presidential races, candidates would be wise to ignore the state as a whole, or just focus on the few swing districts. Either is bad news for the state.
Hertzberg calls it "an audacious power play packaged as a step forward for democratic fairness. It's the lotusland equivalent of Tom DeLay's 2003 midterm redistricting in Texas, except with a sweeter smell, a better disguise, and larger stakes."
This initiative already has raised eyebrows of national Democrats, and it's likely to be a high stakes, expensive affair -- perhaps with Schwarzenegger's backing (imagine what Arnold would be able to ask for if he could deliver the equivalent of a Pennsylvania for the Republican candidate of his choosing). In any case, keep your eye out and start chatting it up among Democratic activists. It might just determine who ends up in the White House.
Image courtesy New York Times.
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