Tuesday, August 21, 2007

California Democrats file for national popular vote

You may have heard about the Republican attempt to steal the 2008 presidential election outright by passing a ballot initiative that would award California's 55 electoral votes to the winner of each of its 53 Congressional Districts, plus 2 for the statewide winner. Since California has 20 Congressional Districts that would likely vote for the GOP nominee, this basically has the impact of giving the Republicans an Ohio-sized chunk of California's electoral votes.

In the comments to the diary linked above, I mentioned that we would be well-armed and well-funded in our efforts to defeat this measure--and indeed, California Democrats have taken an important step toward real electoral reform by proposing The National Popular Vote initiative statute.

First, I should mention that there are promising poll numbers about the Republican coup attempt, but they reveal that educating voters about the actual impact of the initiative will be key to defeating it. Via Rasmussen:

a theoretical sense, 45% of voters nationwide think that’s a good idea. Thirty percent (30%) disagree while 25% are not sure. However, even that tepid level of support dissipates when voters learn that a change in California could significantly increase the number of Republican Electoral Votes. Once that is factored into the equation, support drops to 31% and opposition increases to 43%.

It’s interesting to note that Republican support for the measure barely increases when told of the potential benefit to their own party. That may be due to a sense of fairness or a nagging realization that the same thing could happen in other states where the GOP would lose votes. Forty-five percent (45%) favor the concept in theory and 48% favor it after learning how it would impact the results in California. Among Democrats and unaffiliated voters, support plunges dramatically once the electoral implications of a change in California are explained.

So, bottom line is: even with low-information about a proposal that seems more fair, support can't even break 50%, and traditionally in California, ballot initiatives have nowhere to go but down from their first poll numbers. It seems like even if the Republicans do spend millions to get their coup on the ballot, it's not likely to pass.

And that's without what California's Democrats have just done.

Democratic consultant Chris Lehane is filing for a ballot initiative that will compete with the Republican coup attempt by proposing the National Popular Vote amendment in California. For those that don't know what the National Popular Vote movement does: it is a law that guarantees that the electoral votes of a particular state will go to the candidate that wins the national popular vote, but only after states whose electoral votes exceed the 270 required for victory pass the law. In other words, if California passes the Lehane amendment in 2008, California's electoral votes would still go to the state winner because not enough states have passed the National Popular Vote law; but the moment that enough states have passed the law so that the total number of states sponsoring the law have electoral votes exceeding 270, then the law kicks in in those states, guaranteeing that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency.

The national popular vote has warmer support here in California. From the Rasmussen poll quoted earlier:

Overall, 54% of voters would like to get rid of the Electoral College and have the winner of the popular vote become President. Thirty percent (30%) disagree. Democrats strongly support this approach while Republicans are evenly divided. Women are more enthusiastic about it than men.

The Republican consultants are saying that if the national popular vote passes, what voters in Los Angeles or Santa Monica say won't have nearly as much impact. Of course, that argument is a stinking pile of horsecrap, because as it is right now, a voter in California, no matter who, has far less impact than a voter in Montana or Wyoming. A national popular vote would empower California voters, and make it worthwhile for both Democrats and Republican to come out here to campaign for votes, as opposed to being ignored because we're a "safe blue" state.

For continuing coverage, as well as other California political coverage, come check out calitics.com.

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