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Sunday, August 12, 2007

California's Trojan Elephant

Jennifer Steinhauer reported yesterday in The New York Times that there has been
a recent move by the lawyer for the California Republican Party to ask voters in a ballot measure to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district. With numerous safe Republican districts around the state, this change could represent roughly 20 electoral votes for a Republican candidate who would otherwise presumably lose the entire state, which has been reliably Democrat in recent presidential elections.

“We think it is the most effective way of having California count,” said Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the ballot effort, the Presidential Election Reform Act. “Candidates love California in the spring when they come out to raise money. But after that, as long as California is not in play, it tends to be ignored.”

David Dayen, over at Calitics comments:
They're going to use a message of fairness and making California count. That's going to be attractive to a low-information voter, and millions will have to be spent to counter it…

Eckery's group is fundraising right now, and it will probably take a few million dollars to get the initiative on the June ballot, including about half a million for polling. That's a low bar; and that's why it is so crucial that we get the word out immediately about this effort to steal the vote. Building a war chest is less important than using some CDP money to define what this initiative would represent -- a piecemeal solution to a problem that would virtually guarantee a Republican successor to George Bush. This is not something to attack with nuance; the goal is to make it so unpopular that any effort to put it on the ballot would be a suicide mission.

I agree with Dayen that this latest effort of ethically and intellectually bankrupt sore loser Republicans to game the system in order to maintain control of the Presidency despite their catastrophic failures and unprecedented unpopularity must be fought loudly and, most of all, early, now rather than later.

It is easy to see that the Electoral College disenfranchises urban majorities in America and is crying out for reform. But it is just as obvious that the Republican efforts to commandeer common sense in the service of targeted reform would exacerbate the worst excesses of the current imbalance.

This effort must be judged through the lens of our recent experiences with the "soft coup" of the palpably illegal 2000 partisan Supreme Court Selection, Tom Delay's unprecedented redistricting of Texas, sweeping systematic traditional and digital disenfranchisement schemes by the GOP in Ohio and elsewhere in 2004, and so on. Electoral College reform of this kind would have to be nationalized to avoid pernicious local disenfranchisement for short-term partisan gains (for either major Party), and to avoid the inevitable spasm of opportunistic crazy-quilt countermeasures, local redistricting efforts, rule changes, court battles, and so on -- all of which would introduce ever greater confusion and cynicism into a system that is already teetering too close to the brink of failure.

It goes without saying these days that Republicans can only win when they cheat and when they lie about what they are doing. We need to get out in front of this, and we can't be polite about it this time around. There is too much at stake.


Lars said...

The Republican scheme in California is nothing more than a partisan solution to a non-partisan problem. The problem is that the country needs a direct, national popular vote for President. This is the only way to ensure that every vote is equal and that candidates will campaign across the country.

Allocating electoral votes by congressional districts does not accomplish these goals. The Republicans will simply take the 20 electoral votes from safe congressional district and still ignore California. Republicans are wrong to utilize the initiative in California just as the Democrats were wrong to try the same thing by legislation in North Carolina.

There is a nationwide movement to implement a national popular vote. There are identical bills in more than 40 states to accomplish it. This is the solution that should be supported.

Dale Carrico said...

For more information about the National Popular Vote Lars is talking about, check out:

The National Popular Vote Website
NPV News on FairVote
Common Cause
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators Endorsement of NPV