Monday, September 24, 2007

California Proposal for Allocation of Electoral Votes

In preparation for the 2008 Presidential election, a petition, the Presidential Reform Act, is being circulated in California that could change the manner in which the state’s electoral vote is apportioned. Instead of a “winner-take-all” apportionment, this petition is seeking to apportion California’s electoral votes in a manner that would divide them among the state’s Congressional districts and award the votes based on the candidate that won each such district. By apportioning the votes in this manner, all of California’s fifty-five electoral votes would not necessarily be cast for a single candidate.

According to some, this petition is being circulated by Republicans in the states in preparation for a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election in which the Republican candidate failed to win the popular vote but won via the electoral vote. With the current opposition to the ongoing war in Iraq and an economic slump with a Republican President, there is a feeling that the Republicans will have a difficult time winning the popular vote.

Under the current system, a loss of the popular vote in California would mean a loss of fifty-five electoral votes; under the plan being proposed by Republicans, it is expected that Republicans could gain approximately twenty of these votes, “the equivalent of winning the state of Ohio”. As seen in previous elections where Ohio’s electoral vote became so important, gaining these electoral votes could be sufficient to sway the victory away from a Democratic candidate and towards a Republican candidate.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, while not condemning the measure, has indicated that this reapportionment plan is a form of “dirty pool”. Others point to the fact that Republicans are not attempting to do similar reapportionments in states such as Texas, another state with a large number of electoral votes but seemingly supporting a Republican candidate and President.

It is expected that Republicans will not have trouble obtaining a sufficient number of signatures to have the measure placed on the June ballot. If this occurs, it is almost certain that Democrats will raise legal challenges to the measure. As one expert states, “this clearly violates Article II of the Constitution, which very explicitly requires that the electors for president be selected ‘in such manner as the Legislature’ of the state directs”; in the matter at hand, the change is being sought by the electors, not the Legislature.

With the Presidential election just over one year away, we have already begun to see concerns related to ensuring confidence in the voting process and the election outcome. In previous cases, the issues related primarily to the technology and rules regarding voter identification. In this case, we are seeing what appears to be a blatant attempt by Republicans to provide their candidate with an improved chance of becoming President. While it is arguable that the electoral vote does not necessarily represent the popular vote, this has been the method in place set by the Constitution, and methods for altering the process have also been delineated within the Constitution. By skirting these rules and defying the Constitutional provisions, attempts such as the Presidential Reform Act merely reinforce the opinion of many that there are problems with the current election process and a problem of “dirty politics”.

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