California Electoral College Split Intiative Dead?

The California ballot initiative which would allocate the country’s largest trove of Electoral College votes on a district-by-district basis (essentially handing Republicans 18ish free votes) is reportedly dead.

Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California’s 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday’s print editions, The Times’ Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

Here’s Morain’s piece, “GOP electoral initiative dealt major blows.”

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 set about trying to raise money and gather signatures for the initiative. 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. However, time is short to gather the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed by the end of November. And backers said Thursday that they believed the measure was all but dead, at least for the 2008 election.

“‘Shambles’ is the wrong word,” said strategist Marty Wilson, who curtailed his fundraising efforts weeks ago. “The campaign never got off the ground.”

While it may have been a good thing for California and Californians, the initiative’s chances of passing always struck me as slim. Why would a state that reliably votes Democrat in national elections turn around and give a sizable chunk of its Electoral votes to the opposition party?

FILED UNDER: General, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. floyd says:

    So once again there need be no campaign in California[the tail that wags the dog]. I don’t know of a solution since I support state’s rights; Perhaps a repeal of the 1980 campaign reform act?

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Same reason Texas might do it. While Texas has gone from “GOP need not apply” to “GOP only” on statewide votes, there are still a goodly number of democrats who are elected in particular congressional districts.

    But in presidential politics, Texas is like California. We are a source of money, but a “don’t care” when it comes to campaigning or ‘paying attention to our issues’.

    Not that I think Texas is likely to switch from winner take all, but the motivation to switch is there.

  3. whippoorwill says:

    So once again there need be no campaign in California[the tail that wags the dog]. I don’t know of a solution since I support state’s rights; Perhaps a repeal of the 1980 campaign reform act?

    Solution 1. Change the law nationally to partition electoral votes by who wins congressional districts.

    Solution 2. Better yet, change the constitution, eliminate the electoral college altogether, and elect presidents by popular vote.

  4. Not the senator says:

    I say go for:

    “Solution 2. Better yet, change the constitution, eliminate the electoral college altogether, and elect presidents by popular vote.”

    The unpopulated and small states already receive an unfair advantage in the Senate, to reinforce that advantage in the Electral College disenfranchises voters in the most populated states.

  5. floyd says:

    Not the senator;
    There-in lies the rub, some still support states rights.

  6. whippoorwill says:

    There-in lies the rub, some still support states rights.

    Does that include the right of Florida courts to handle the 2000 election dispute?

  7. floyd says:

    whippoorwill;
    Nope,different subject, doesn’t even qualify as tangental.

  8. whippoorwill says:

    Nope,different subject, doesn’t even qualify as tangental.

    I had a feeling you’d say that.

  9. Tano says:

    IT was my understanding that this referendum would have gone nowhere anyway, given that it is pretty clearly unconstitutional (as would be any national law that did the same in all states).

    The Constitution unambiguously gives the power to choose electors to whatever mechanism is approved by the respective state legislatures. California could pass a law to apportion electors by district (which they wont do, given that they are controlled by Dems), but such a change can not be instituted through a referendum.

  10. whippoorwill says:

    The Constitution unambiguously gives the power to choose electors to whatever mechanism is approved by the respective state legislatures. California could pass a law to apportion electors by district (which they wont do, given that they are controlled by Dems), but such a change can not be instituted through a referendum.

    This sounds like a correct analysis, Tano. What we have now are two small states, which I believe are Maine and Nebraska who have passed laws apportioning electors by district. Their impact is minimal on the overall integrity of a presidential election. But what about a large state that has one party running the state legislature and another party dominating congressional districts. Michigan would be an example as a blue state with republicans strong at the state level. What if even for a short time a republican was governor with both houses of the state legislature run by republicans [and they passed such an apportionment law}. All hell would break loose. And would the situation run afoul of other constitutional guarantees such as equal treatment under the law etc… Now that the cat’s out the bag on this idea, I bet we’re in for a major constitutional crisis in the future.

  11. James Joyner says:

    California could pass a law to apportion electors by district (which they wont do, given that they are controlled by Dems), but such a change can not be instituted through a referendum.

    But, presumably, the legislature could ratify a bill that was approved by referendum, rendering it constitutional.