- Policy Resources
- News & Analysis
- Your State
Right-wing Ballot Scheme to Manipulate Presidential Votes in California
J. Mijin Cha on August 2, 2007 - 8:20am
A new ballot measure in California would change the way that California's 55 presidential electoral votes would be allocated; not to make sure that every vote counted, but to make sure that any right-wing candidate for President could lop off a significant number of that state's electoral votes.
The measure is sponsored by Californians for Equal Representation, which sounds great but is actually a front for the law firm of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk. The firm is well known for creating front groups to introduce conservative ballot initiatives, including an anti-union initiative, and fighting local efforts to enact smoke-free bans in California in the early 1990s. Thomas Hiltachk himself filed the "Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006", which was just a poorly masked attempt to get rid of California's overtime rules, and he also happens to be Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's lawyer.
The "Presidential Election Reform Act" would award two electoral votes to the statewide winner and then distribute the rest, one by one, to the winner of each congressional district. If the measure was in place in 2004, Presidential Bush would have received around 20 of California's electoral votes- the equivalent to a Pennsylvania or Illinois- instead of the zero that he ended up receiving.
A Fairer Alternative - National Popular Vote: Just last year, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a measure that would actually reform the whole national electoral process. California's Assembly and Senate passed a measure to adopt National Popular Vote to guarantee that the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide, wins. Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure and pointed out that the state's electoral votes could be awarded to a candidate most Californians didn't favor. Now, his lawyer is pushing a bill that would do nothing to reform the national electoral process, but is designed solely to manipulate the California results themselves. States like Texas would likely continue to deliver all their electoral votes to the more conservative candidate, even as a large portion of California's votes would de diverted away from the more progressive candidate., even if most of California voted for the progressive running.
Any reform of the Presidential voting system should be a national one, which is why it's outrageous that Schwarzenegger vetoed the National Popular Vote measure, even as his lawyer is promoting a partisan California-only manipulation of the process. Under National Popular Vote (NPV), states would enter into a compact to give their votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, whether Republican or Democratic. The compact does not go into effect until states representing a majority of electoral votes have adopted the reform.
Benefits of NPV to Non-Swing States: NPV would benefit California just as it benefits every state that is not one of a handful of "swing states" that decides the outcome of presidential elections and receives disproportionate attention. In the last presidential election, Bush and Kerry made a combined 136 trips to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In contrast, 19 states received zero visits and many states like California saw not a dime spent in those states on advertising to reach their voters. With NPV, however, candidates would be forced to broaden their visits and outreach, and in turn, broaden the issues that concern different states.
This past legislative session, Maryland became the first state to pass national popular vote and have it signed by the Governor. The measure also passed both chambers in Hawaii and Illinois. The Governor of Hawaii vetoed it while the Illinois effort is still on the Governor's desk. National Popular Vote bills were introduced in 30 states and passed at least one chamber in eleven of them.