California Electoral College Reform
The move by California Republicans to join Maine and Nebraska in allocating the state’s Electoral College votes to the winners of each Congressional District rather than statewide is moving forward at a fast pace, with a new Field poll showing that it has a decent chance to pass.
The Field Poll found that 47 percent of registered voters back a change to California’s system for electoral votes, with 35 percent opposed. Republicans generally support the change more than Democrats.
When pollsters explained the political implication that Democratic presidential candidates might lose some electoral votes under a proportional system, the numbers changed: 49 percent supported the change and 42 percent opposed it. Opposition from Democrats and independent voters rose when the issue was put this way.
That the level of support went up (although, granted, within the margin of error) when the partisan implications were explained is somewhat odd. While California is a diverse state that’s more conservative than those who look only at L.A. and San Francisco think, it has still voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1992.
The state’s Democrats are countering with a move to join the National Popular Vote movement.
The national drive toward a popular vote would not scrap the electoral college system, but would require states to award their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the most actual votes nationally. It would take effect only if states representing a majority of the electoral votes agree to the change.
Although California is a Democratic state, Republicans hold 19 congressional seats, suggesting that the GOP presidential nominee could win at least 19 of the state’s electoral votes. A Field Poll released this week showed that the GOP-backed concept was supported by a ratio of 47% to 35%.
There is no definitive count of voter registration by party. Some states don’t ask party affiliation. But based on a recent Times/Bloomberg poll, 33% of voters nationally identified themselves as Democrats, 28% said they were Republicans, and the rest said they belonged to minor parties or declined to state.
Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the GOP measure, said the Democratic-backed initiative would leave Californians with little or no voice in U.S. politics. “If you ignore the congressional districts, there would be one big overwhelming national vote,” he said. “What matters in L.A. . . . won’t matter. It will be just one vote thrown into the mix.”
That depends on how one looks at it. While motivated strictly by partisan considerations, California Republicans have a point: Right now, the state is a cash cow for presidential candidates but it’s virtually ignored because it’s considered a Democratic lock. Giving 19 or so of California’s Electoral Votes to Republicans would, of course, be a huge boon for the GOP but it would also make campaigning in the state — at least in swing districts — more appealing.
On one hand, both the Democratic and Republican initiatives would make California less powerful as a state in choosing presidents. The Republican plan, at least, has the virtue of making Californians as people more important in the process. The Democratic plan would indeed just amalgamate California into the larger pot. Its gigantic population, though, would continue to have a huge influence in electing a president.