Tag Archives: electoral college

Time to Change Electoral College Vote to National Popular Vote

For the second time in 20 years the winner of the national popular vote for US President  will not become the President.  Instead the winner of the Electoral College Vote will. Hillary Clinton has  1.42 million more votes nationally than Donald Trump. Donald Trump will however under the US Constitution  be elected President by Electors  assigned by 306 Electoral Votes for Trump and  232 for Hillary Clinton with Michigan still finalizing their results  as of this writing. A vote of 270 electoral votes is needed to win.
An alternative to the Electoral College is states passing the National Popular Vote law.

 The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide (i.e., all 50 states and the District of Columbia). Written Explanation  

States that have passed the National Popular Vote include California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The status of all the states can be seen by clicking on this link.  State Status
One national organization working to pass the National Popular Vote is Common Cause.

“If you’re upset that the Electoral College swung this election, then the National Popular Vote compact is the most effective and practical way to change our system for the better. Please add your name today to tell lawmakers in your state to sign onto the National Popular Vote compact.

Representative Barbara Boxer has introduced a bill in Congress to amend the US Constitution to abolish the Electoral College. This is a much more difficult process that requires 2/3 of the members of both Houses of Congress to vote for it and then 3/4 of the states to pass it. Considering that Republicans control both the US House and Senate and a majority of state legislatures around the country this approach is likely not going anywhere at the moment.

Interestingly President Elect Donald Trump  reaffirmed his support for abolishing the Electoral College on 60 minutes this week but the next day praised the Electoral College. As usual it seems he is all over the place and one has no idea what he thinks.

The most practical approach at this time is for people to work to pass the National Popular Vote bill to create an interstate compact that uses the national popular vote to decide the outcome of the election. Check out what is happening in your state and urge your state legislators to act.

Turmoil in GOP Initiative Effort in California, Giuliani Fundraiser Sole Contributor

Good news for Democrats – the Los Angeles Times reports that the GOP initiative effort in California to change California’s winner take all primary to one giving electoral votes based on Congressional Districts is “in shambles”.

“Unable to raise sufficient money and angered over a lack of disclosure by its one large donor, veteran political law attorney Thomas Hiltachk, who drafted the measure, said he was resigning from the committee.

Hiltachk’s departure is a major blow to the operation because he organized other consultants who had tried to raise money and gather signatures. Campaign spokesman Kevin Eckery said he was ending his role as well.

There remained a chance that the measure could be revived, but only if a major donor were to come forward to fund the petition drive. But time is short to gather the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed by the end of November. Backers said Thursday that they believed the measure was all but dead, at least for the 2008 election.

The New York Times reports Hiltachk resigned in a dispute over a $175,000 contribution received from a group formed only one day before it made the contribution to the California group. The Missouri group called itself “Take Initiative America” but would not identify who its contributors were. Hiltachk was quoted as saying “I am not willing to proceed under such circumstances.”

The Mouth of the Potomac Blog of the NY Daily News got the scoop in the end. It turns out that the $175,000 came from one donor, Paul E Singer, who is a founding partner of a $7 billion hedge fund – Elliot Associates. And it just so happens that he is also a top fundraiser for none other than Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

The San Francisco Chronicle added

“The revelation about Singer was met with outrage by Democratic operatives who had fought the ballot measure and called it a “dirty trick” by Republicans aimed at changing the outcome of the 2008 election.

They said Singer’s admission confirmed what they believed all along – that the GOP presidential candidate’s backers believed he might have benefited from the effort.

“This puts this money-laundering operation right inside the Giuliani campaign … with Rudy’s top donor and his closest confidants,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and spokesman for Californians for Fair Election Reform, which fought the GOP-backed ballot measure. “Federal election law is clear. If you’re a presidential candidate, you or your agents can’t direct money to a campaign that impacts the presidential campaign … and there’s no better way to rig the campaign than to impact the electoral college system.”

It seems the $175,000 is the sole contribution received by the California group. It takes something like $2 million to pay for signature gathering to get on the California ballot. In Washington state it takes about $500,000. Any effort to resurrect the California effort would need a big infusion of money to make it by the end of the year.

Can Democrats Win the White House without Washington and Oregon?

Republicans, in fear of being sucked under by the anti-Bush whirlpool, are looking desperately for ways to win the White House in 2008.

Republicans in California think the answer is to change the rules for next year’s Presidential election. Their strategy is to change California’s statewide winner take all primary with its 55 electoral votes to one allocating the votes based on who wins individual Congressional District votes.

Except for Maine (4 electoral votes) and Nebraska (5 electoral votes) states currently allocate their electoral college votes by a winner take all process statewide. Each state is allocated 2 votes for their 2 Senators and 1 vote for each Representative.

Currently 19 of California’s Congressional Districts are held by Republicans. In 2004 John Kerry won the statewide vote over Bush by 54% to 44%. However Bush won majorities in 22 of California’s 53 Congressional Districts.

Changing how California allocates its electoral votes would be the equivalent to transferring the combined vote of Washington (11 electoral votes)and Oregon (7 electoral votes) to the Republican column. Remember Ohio’s 20 electoral votes – we’re talking about a sizable impact if the Republicans proposed change in California is successful.

According to the LA Times a California Republican group is pushing the “Presidential Election Reform Act Initiative” for the June 2008 California Primary ballot. If passed by voters it would change significantly change the 2008 Presidential election.

“We’ve hit the mother lode of political interest,” said Republican consultant Kevin Eckery, part of the group pushing the Presidential Election Reform Act Initiative.

The measure was written by attorney Thomas Hiltachk, whose Sacramento firm represents the California Republican Party. Also backing the initiative is campaign strategist Marty Wilson, a fundraiser last year for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and now for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Neither Schwarzenegger nor any of the presidential candidates has signed on to the effort. Nor is there confirmed financial backing; Eckery said the fundraising to begin this week is aimed at getting $300,000 to $500,000 for polling and other preliminary work before signature-gathering. Collecting the necessary 434,000 signatures could cost $2 million.

Proponents are optimistic that backers of the presidential candidates will ante up. Though there are federal limits to donations to candidates, California law places no bar on the amount donors can spend on initiatives.

Can California do this? Yes they can. Each individual state and not the Federal Constitution determines how electoral votes are determined. Hiltachk has filed the text of the Presidential Election Reform Initiative with the California Secretary of State on July 17, 2007. He has paid his $200 filing fee and is awaiting the assignment of a ballot tile and summary. He filed in the name of “Californians for Equal Representation” based in Sacramento, California.

Of course no similar effort is slated for decidedly Republican states like Texas which has 34 electoral votes. Altering the rules in specific Democratic states like California to benefit Republican Presidential ambitions is totally in character for Republicans and is a serious threat to Democrats in 2008.

You only need to look at two recent instances where Republicans used the legislative and electoral process to change rules and commonly accepted legal procedures to benefit Republicans. One was the Republican recall campaign of Democratic Governor Gray Davis in 2003 which resulted in Davis’s recall and the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor.

The New Yorker in an article entitled Votescam by Hendrick Hertzberg in fact reports that California Republican Hiltachk was involved in the recall effort that put Schwarzenegger into office and that he is “Governor Schwarzenegger’s personal lawyer for election matters.”

The other was the effort by Texas Republicans with the aid of Congressman Tom DeLay to redraw the Congressional District boundaries in Texas to gain Republican seats in Congress

Texas Republicans and Delay did their controversial redistricting action after they won control of the Texas Legislature in 2002. In 2004 the Congressional District numbers shifted dramatically. A 17/15 Democrat advantage changed to a 21/11 Republican advantage. In 2006 the Republicans still had a 19/13 advantage.

Distributing electoral votes to winners of Congressional Districts rather than winner take all state votes would seem at first look to be fair if every state had the same rules. But that would clearly not be the case if California alone shifted the way it proportions its electoral votes. The end result would be to shift electoral votes to the Republicans at the expense of the Democrats. Its like spotting the Republicans some 20 electoral votes before the counting even starts.

Would the proposal solve the problem of states clearly being Republican or Democratic and being ignored by the candidates because the outcome is not really in doubt? Actually it would probably make it even worse. You just need to look at the last Congressional campaign in 2006. National attention and money was focused into only 30 -40 battleground Congressional districts.

Would candidates really campaign all over Ohio for example? No – they would concentrate their resources in the much smaller geographical areas of contested battleground Congressional Districts up for grabs in Ohio. They would not be very smart if they spent their time in Congressional Districts that are clearly Republican or Democratic and unlikely to change.

Here in Washington State the biggest spending Congressional race was between Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert in the 8th C.D. Not much attention was paid to Congressman Jim McDermott’s race in Seattle. If electoral votes were allocated by Congressional District, Presidential candidates would go to Bellevue, not Seattle or Everett or Yakima.

Another alternative being considered by some states is a movement to elect the President by popular vote. Such a bill was before the Washington State Legislature this last session. As proposed the legislation would not go into effect until states with a majority of electoral votes (270) passes the legislation. Maryland is the first state to pass such legislation.

See also:
Newsweek “A Red Play for the Golden State”
Sacramento Bee “Electoral System Initiative worries Dems”