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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Partisan Republican Attempt to Alter California’s Electoral College Distribution

Guest Commentary by Bill Ritter

Following the 2000 presidential election in which Al Gore received more than 500,000 votes nationwide than George W. Bush there were calls to abandon the Electoral College system of electing a president. Nothing has been done on a national level to change that system, although I believe most citizens would agree with the “One man, one vote” concept of Democracy, in which every person’s vote is counted equally.

Currently there is an attempt in California by Republican lawyers and political operatives to change the way only California’s presidential electors are to be selected. They have begun to circulate petitions for an initiative entitled the "Presidential Election Reform Act" (PERA). PERA's sponsors -- the misleadingly-named "Californians for Equal Representation" -- hope to qualify it for the June 2008 primary ballot.

Current California election law and that of 48 other states dictates that the highest vote getter for the presidency wins all of those state’s electors. Here in California, this “winner takes all” rule would be changed to allow each congressional district to elect one presidential elector creating the situation in which nearly 20 out of 53 California congressional districts could be won by the Republican presidential candidate due to those district’s high Republican registration numbers and voting history and thereby awarded a Republican presidential elector. This would create separate “winner take all” elections in every California congressional district. But across America, for example in historically Republican majority states such as Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and most of the western states and all of the southern states including Florida would remain “winner take all” states, thereby disenfranchising their Democratic presidential voters and favoring Republican presidential candidates.

If we are to have authentic presidential election reform we need a national change affecting all states whereby every vote is counted in the same manner equally throughout America. That is the only way to ensure fairness to all.

An excellent and informative article on the subject is written by Mr. Vikram David Amar entitled “The So-Called Presidential Election Reform Act: A Clear Abuse of California’s Initiative Process.”

He writes:

Transparent Partisan Ploys Interfere With Legitimate Reform Efforts: This Isn't an Issue of National Electoral Reform, But of Turning a Blue State Partially Red

……if moving away from winner-take-all rules made policy sense for the country, surely blue states should not do so if red states are not doing so as well. It is neither fair nor sensible to think that California Democrats, who hold a majority in the state, should unilaterally give up their clout in electing a President if Republican majorities in other states are not doing the same thing in states they control. It is more than ironic that an organization that calls itself "Californians for Equal Representation" could support a scheme that would produce such partisan inequality.

One cardinal rule about Presidential electoral reform today ought to be that it must not predictably and intentionally disadvantage one party over the other. Sensible change in this area is hard enough to accomplish without wasting our time on obviously partisan ploys.

Real Reform Would Involve A Direct National Popular Election

Which brings me to the real way to make every vote count and encourage Presidential candidates to campaign in California - adopt the national popular election plan (and which is also being considered by legislators in California right now.) If the national popular vote winner were automatically made President, every voter's vote nationwide would count - and count for the same thing. (There's something Californians truly dedicated to "Equal Representation" should rally around.)

Mr. Amar’s entire article published in FindLaw—Legal News & Commentary, can be found at:

A related story by the Sacramento Bee can be found at: