Should America’s biggest state California join the move to dismantle the electoral college system? In the article, California Initiative Proposal to Alter Electoral College, Ballot Access News writer and election expert Richard Winger talks about the possible ending of the US electoral college with the most populous state in the country seeking to change the way its 38 million citizens’ votes are counted for President. Right now California has a system where all of it’s 55 electoral college votes go to one candidate (usually the Democrats) but changing this rule would allow the votes to be split.
In theory, this change encourages Presidential campaigns to pay more attention to states like California, Texas, or any other state that has been ignored in the past because it was clear that one of the two major parties had no chance. This has not been without some pushback from dissenters as it would have major implications. From Ballot Access News:
Hal Nickle has filed a proposed statewide initiative measure. If it got on the ballot and passed, California would apportion electoral votes according to the share of the popular vote within California. If this measure had been in force in 2012, the California electoral vote would have been: Obama 34, Romney 20, Gary Johnson 1. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.
Also, you can see the from the proposed initiative itself, titled ‘Request for Title and Summary for Proposed Initiative’, this is a citizen supported proposal that needs popular support to even get on the ballot:
California is largely taken for granted by Presidential Candidates because of its “winner-take-all” system of awarding its electoral votes. In recent elections, Presidential candidates have spent more time trying to win the votes of just a few thousand voters in a couple of smaller states, while largely ignoring millions of voters in California. Moreover, the “winner take-all” system of awarding electoral votes does not reflect the vast diversity of our state and the regional differences of our citizenry and also impedes any credible third party or independent candidacy for President. Once California enacts the Make Our Vote Count Act, Presidential candidates will have an incentive to appeal to every voter and to address the unique problems faced by Californians.
This state-led effort to reform the Electoral College system follows actions by several other states but none would have more impact that giant California. One could see however, in the best possible scenario, that enough states sign on to this type of reform to open up the Presidential election system so that candidates campaign outside of the few ‘swing states’ and pay more attention to places like New York and Texas.
US Attorney General Eric Holder is warning that attempts by states to change the electoral college system’s vote allocations for Presidential elections would endanger democracy itself. From the article, “Eric Holder slams electoral vote tinkering“ by Josh Gerstein on Politico:
“Recent proposed changes in how electoral votes are apportioned in specific states are blatantly partisan, unfair, divisive, and not worthy of our nation,” Holder said in a speech Thursday night to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. “Let me be clear again: we will not sit by and allow the slow unraveling of an electoral system that so many sacrificed so much to construct.”
Late last year, Republicans in Pennsylvania re-proposed that the state drop its winner-take-all system for electoral votes in presidential elections and move towards one that would parcel out those votes based on the popular vote in the state. That could encourage presidential candidates to pay more attention to the Keystone state at a time when it seems to be drifting more and more firmly into the Democratic column in presidential elections.
Other states are acting on the electoral college system too according to this article in Democracy Chronicles titled “Virginia to Stop Move Toward Electoral College Reform“:
A plan to alter the winner-takes-all Electoral College rules in the state of Virginia is on the chopping block after two Republican state senators on a key committee said they would oppose it, according to The Associated Press. The proposed remake would have changed how electoral votes are tabulated by anchoring them to congressional districts, which are largely drawn to favor incumbents — the majority being Republicans, even though Democrats won the House popular vote in 2012.
Had the bill been passed ahead of last year’s presidential election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would have been declared winner in Virginia even though President Barack Obama won the popular vote by hundreds of thousands of actual voters. Similar bills are being considered in the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, AP noted, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is encouraging state lawmakers to take up the cause.