August 23, 2007

Should California switch to giving its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each congressional district?

Stephen Bainbridge starts a discussion about the new proposal. This is a very complex problem for Californians to think through. There's the notion that all the states ought to change, but since that's not on the table, face the real issue: Is it good for California, on its own, to change?

Here you have the biggest state, but one party is so clearly going to win that it makes no sense for a presidential candidate to cater to it. Nor should either party pick its nominee based on what Californians will like. Isn't that bad for California? But since the majority is Democratic in California, and the Democratic candidate currently has a lock on all 55 electoral votes, why should that Democratic majority vote for a change that will only cede some of those votes to the Republican candidate? The proposal looks doomed.

But wait. Even if most voters who vote Democratic care mainly about the party's dominance at the national level, all you need is for some of the voters who vote Democratic to care more about the candidates' paying attention to California. Add those votes to those of the Republican minority, and you could get to a majority for change.

The strongest reason for having a winner-take-all approach in any given state is that it makes winning that state highly valuable and induces the candidates to fight hard over those few voters in the middle who have the power to throw the whole pile of electoral votes one way or the other. But if the balance in the state isn't close enough, the candidates won't fight over it, even if the number of votes is high. That's California.

And here we see why you're never going to get all the states to change together. The winner-take-all approach makes sense for some of the states. Awarding the electoral votes proportionally would make some states very unimportant and would undercut the huge power currently enjoyed by a few big states like Ohio and Florida.

ADDED: No sooner do I post this than I see "Giuliani says he can carry California."
“I'm the only Republican candidate that can carry on a campaign in every single state, and we can be competitive in every single state"...

“If one of the others is nominated, there'll be no campaign in California. California will be conceded to the Democrats as it has been since Ronald Reagan.” (Former President George H.W. Bush did in fact carry California in 1988.)
Well, perhaps I like California in its winner-take-all position. It may moderate the Republican Party. And the Democratic lock on the state has not always been there. Maybe things really aren't that dysfunctional -- at least from the perspective of someone who likes Giuliani. Which might mean that more Democrats now ought to shift over to wanting the change.

142 comments:

Tim said...

California the cheapest date for Democrat presidential nominees - the highest reward in electoral college votes for the least amount of attention. Democrat nominees don't want to spend any time or money in California campaigning (although they love Hollywood and Silicon Valley for their money and preening glitz, cutting edge techo or not...) when they have such hard times in the battleground swing-states. And because of that, California's congressional delegation will join with national Democrats to abort this idea.

hdhouse said...

as well it should Tim. Either we do that on a national basis or not...and particularly not piecemeal.

You know as well as I that this is just a GOP attempt to garner enough electoral votes to tip the predicted close election. This has, at its root, nothing whatsoever to do with attracting campaign stops and campaign spending. I see no similar effort in NY, the second biggest prize, because the proposal would be laughed out loud and the messenger probably shot on site.

Frankly I think it is a good idea and would support it - look at the House of Rep...we would have, effectively, a landslide for the democrats...but to go at it a pinch at a time distorts the process.

MadisonMan said...

I would say it should be all states or none, and the change should be in the Constitution. Sure, Democrats can write off California as a gimme...but can't Republicans do the same for many states? (Well, in the past at least). How many Republican Presidential candidates visit Kansas, or Arizona, or Oklahoma during the campaign?

Paul Zrimsek said...

If this were nothing more than a national GOP effort to grab some more electoral votes, you'd think they would be trying it in New York as well. Surely the most economical explanation for why this idea is only being tried in California is that it's too goofy for most other places?

Ann Althouse said...

I think that people are -- quite rightly -- averse to change. So many things are adapted within the existing system. If you change the rules, what will have to readjust? A whole new game will need to be learned. Someone will figure it out first, and strange things wiill happen.

Gahrie said...

hdhouse:

Sheesh...could you do a little research once in a while? This is a Democratic effort, not a Republican one. It is a national campaign that began in reaction to the fact that Pres. Bush won the electoral vote even though he lost the popular vote. it's an attempt to supercede the power of the Electoral College.

The proposed Republican change would award a state's electoral votes by congressional District rather than winner take all, which would have the effect of giving the Republicans almost half of California's electoral votes.

Roger said...

I dont see where this proposal is in the Democratic Party's interest..but its California and who knows what they think..With respect to a winner take all system (particularly the EC), I am aware of only two arguments in its favor: (1) it keeps small states relevant and (2) an electoral college system supposedly "magnifies" the result of close elections thereby providing the winner more of a mandate. Given the results of recent close elections, I think the second argument can be discarded altogether. Is anyone aware of any other arguments in favor a a winner take all system?

hdhouse said...

Sheeesh GHARIE....you do a little research ok?

"Instead of laboring in vain to turn California Red, a clever lawyer for the state Republican Party thought of a gimmicky shortcut. Thomas Hiltachk, who specializes in ballot referenda that try to fool people in the titles and fine print, is sponsoring a ballot initiative for the June 3, 2008, California primary (which now falls four months after the state's presidential primary). The Presidential Election Reform Act would award the state's electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district."

1. we are talking about California numbnuts.
2. California is the subject of the thread.
3. California.
4. CA

got it?

hdhouse said...

Roger:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


So what do you do with a state that also has a Senate election? How do you count that vote? Because it is statewide does it equal all the others or is it just one? Hmmm?

Gahrie said...

hdhouse:


Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

Gahrie said...

1) Just for the record there are two attempts to change the awarding of electoral votes in California. One would award all of california's votes to whoever wins the national popular vote. This is a Democratic effort. The other would award votes by congressional district, as Nebraska already does, and one other state, I believe Maine. This is the Republican effort.

2) The two electoral votes representing the Senate seats would still be awarded according to the state's popular vote.

3) Never post on Althouse before your first caffinated drink of the morning.

P. Rich said...

Two more-general questions I would have are:

What did the framers intend?

What means of electing a president and vice president best represents the will of the people, that is, all legal citizens who vote (which might not be the principal intent of the framers)?

I do not know the answer to the former, though the creation of electors was obviously deliberate.

As for the latter, current near-universal methods for appointing electors allow a candidate to be chosen president without receiving a majority of the popular vote, and the greatest contributor to this phenomenon is the large winner-takes-all states. I have some difficulty believing this is an optimal solution.

It might be worth noting that the method of choosing electors is left up to the individual states by the Constitution, so the notion of a state contemplating change to its method is entirely appropriate.

It might also be worth noting that we do not "vote for president". We vote for a presidential elector bloc, though this is generally not obvious in the voting process. And there is no constitutional requirement that there ever be such a vote.

Paddy O. said...

Couple of thoughts from a California voter.

I'm mostly against the idea. Not because of the idea itself but because of the timing. The California Republican Party is in my estimation horrendous. Embarrassing. For the past decade they have promoted some of the absolute worst local candidates.

Gray Davis was so entirely unpopular in every possible way and he still won, only to be recalled the next year. Californians liked the guy they eventually recalled more than the Republican.

The Republican who lost against the soon to be recalled Davis? Bill Simon, who now works for the Giuliani campaign. I have a strong visceral dislike for Bill Simon.

The Republicans here are committed to being a minority party and are about securing rights as a minority party. They signed onto the atrocious gerry-mandering of local districts that makes only 1 ever competitive.

The last candidates they pushed for Senator against Boxer and Feinstein ran no television ads at all, and seemed mostly about rewarding the candidates for loyal service rather than expecting a win. I've voted for Feinstein twice because of this. I disagree with her, but I respect her. I don't respect the party Republicans.

California is very Democratic in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area. It is very Republican outside of those places. A good state party could bolster the Redness of the state if they only had the slightest bit of capability.

So anything the state party favors I'm pretty much automatically against because it's most likely entirely wrongheaded. Whoever is in charge here is all to much like Theoden King of Rohan while Wormtongue was still giving advice.

Simon said...

No, I don't think it should. I find this a troubling move because I see it as "part of the underlying process of delegitimizing the electoral college as an institution" (regardless of the intentions of its authors). I see it as part of a process of transforming the Presidential election into a national election; you have to consider the rationale through which this will be sold: it will more closely tailor California's votes to California's voters. And in time, conjoined with the total failure of civics education in schools, in due course, people infected with this mindset will start to wonder: if it's a good thing to have the popular vote tally decide the result in individual states, why is it not a boon, a fortiori, to have the popular vote tally decide the overall result? Why not eliminate the electoral college altogether? It is an individual cog that by itself may be innocuous, but it's part of a process that will soften up public opinion for the inevitable assault on the electoral college itself (I should say "next" assault, of course, see Althouse, Electoral College Reform: Deja Vu, 95 Nw. U.L. Rev. 993 (2001)). It's the thin end of the wedge.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, there's a feedback loop that promises to make it worse. Splitting the California block vote increases the likelihood that the House contingency will come into play. And as I worried here, if the "House contingency [threatened] to routinely come into play (as the framers thought it would) ...[,] I see no reason to believe that the selfsame people who now jump up and down about how terrible the two-party system is will not start jumping up and down about how the fact that elections are being routinely decided by the House means that the Constitution is broken, and needs amendment. ... I fear that an attack on the leaf will in time become an attack on the branch which will in time become an attack on the trunk."

Simon said...

Gahrie - correct, there are two proposals, and both ought to be resisted, per my previous comment.

mcg said...

To the constitutional scholars out there: can someone tell me why the Democratic proposal to allocate CA's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote is even remotely constitutional? I mean, I know that states are given discretion in the allocation of electoral votes, but does that discretion extend to allowing those outside of the state to make the decision?

Roger said...

HD--I am not following your argument re senate elections, although it is Friday eve and my mind is elsewhere. I know what the constitution says about the EC the key phrase being IMO "as the legislature may direct...."

I remain in favor of the EC, but my point was that I am starting to run out of arguments in favor of it, and wondered if anyone was aware of any "theoretical" arguments for the EC.

Gahrie said...

Simon:

Your core arguement actually proves the opposite of your thesis.

The current system awards all of california's votes according to California's statewide popular vote. This promotes what neither of us wants, a national popular vote that eliminates the electoral college.

The proposed change would award the votes according to congressional districts, which would more closely mimic the current system using the Electoral Collge.

hdhouse said...

roger...

i wasn't very clear because i don't get it myself but the core of what i am saying is that if you do the electoral vote as directly comparable to the house of rep vote...1 elector = 1 house member..what do you do with the senator(s)? if there is a senate election in the state what of that 1 elector = 1 senator? and if there are none, what do you do or how do you determine the 2 senate electors?

I'm sure that the proponents have thought their way through this but i don't see it in the proposals and it could be a sticky one in a general election.

Ann Althouse said...

The Democratic proposal is incredibly stupid. How do you know what the national total is? Are you going to have recounts done in 50 states to get the number right for California?

Anyway, I wrote about that proposal back here, and I think it's unconstitutional.

It's a practical nightmare though.

hdhouse said...

gahrie...didn't mean to snap at you earlier. my apologies. the democrat proposal of tying the electoral votes to the national vote total is just plain stupid and an embarrassment to my party.

democrats can be just as dumb as republicans and in this case, even worse....

Simon is quite right in is observations. both should be buried 6 feet under.

Joseph Hovsep said...

"I see no similar effort in NY, the second biggest prize, because the proposal would be laughed out loud and the messenger probably shot on site."

There is no similar effort in NY because CA's liberal referenda rules are not available in NY. This is the kind of proposal that, with lots of money, can be promoted to sound very appealing to voters, and you only need half of the voters who show up for an obscure vote to agree.

The Exalted said...

this is an obvious GOP gimmick and ought to be given all of the little attention it deserves..

i've also seen some buzzz that it may be unconstitutional to dictate by referendum how CA assigns its electoral votes

Simon said...

Gahrie,
I have no idea how you get to that conclusion. The atomic state model, where states award their electors to the winner of the state vote, has prevailed virtually throughout the union since the very early 19th century - with the only exceptions of South Carolina and one other state (Georgia, IIRC), all states moved to this system very rapidly. How not changing a system with a pedigree reaching back that far into our history and which has been the barely-excepted rule virtually throughout the United States virtually throughout its history can possibly be a threat to the self-same system escapes me.

Ann hit the nail precisely on the head above - "[s]o many things are adapted within the existing system. If you change the rules, what will have to readjust? A whole new game will need to be learned. Someone will figure it out first, and strange things will happen." In my view, tradition "erect[s] a rebuttable presumption that grows stronger with the passage of time; even when the traditional solution is less than ideal, it at least has the virtue of being tried and tested, and its unintended consequences have already become apparent." "I believe that there is what you might call 'interstitial common law'; ... there are some questions are are debatable as a matter of text and original meaning but which are so totally settled as a matter of traditional usage that they are off the table." To displace a traditional practice that has accreted around the Constitution's text over two centuries requires more than just an idea. Burke was alarmed by "the total contempt which prevails [in France] ..., and may come to prevail with us, of all ancient institutions when set in opposition to a present sense of convenience or to the bent of a present inclination," and Oakeshott feared the "Rationalist," for whom "nothing is of value merely because it exists (and certainly not because it has existed for many generations), familiarity has no worth, and nothing is to be left standing for want of scrutiny," and to whom there's "no question either of retaining or improving such a tradition, for both these involve an attitude of submission. It must be destroyed[, a]nd to fill its place the Rationalist puts something of his own making -- an ideology, the formalized abridgment of the supposed substratum of rational truth contained in the tradition."

To justify changes of a kin with those the Californian rationalists and partisans have in mind, i.e. changes that displace longstanding traditions, the reformer must first identify clear and compelling problems with current practice and then link them to a solution that offers substantial improvement on current practice, one closely enough tailored as to seem unlikely to generate unforeseen and deleterious consequences (as Ann alluded to). Passing fads or momentary convenience - still less mere partisan gain is not sufficient to justify massive structural change, or even the risk of it.

Cedarford said...

California, Mass, Utah have the same problem that black voters do. If your vote is certain to go to one Party, you are not worth the efort, and neither side has any inducement to compete for your vote with offers and counteroffers.

Blacks who scratch their heads and wonder why both Parties obsess over one-upping their offers and attention on the needs of seniors, middle-class Hispanics, or small town Ohioans should understand one of these years ---loyalty doesn't get you as much as having your vote fought over!

I like the proposal for "solid color" major states because the other problem is the National Committees give House seats less money and attention in Presidential years, or when a "close election involving a Senator/Governor" is up. They give State Parties in close major swing states almost 50% of funds. "Locked Up States" get screwed on funds, They also "abandon" and sacrifice House seats in those writeoff States so they can focus more on "Golden boys and girls elsewhere",

And in off-year elections, shrug off close House seats if they don't affect the control of the House - if Massachusetts automatically goes Democratic, who cares if Reps could get 3 or so House seats if they work on it. And have a good shot at those 3 of Mass's 12 Electoral votes starting from an advantage of House incumbency.

Instead, the money gets poured into Florida...

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"Simon is quite right in his observations. both should be buried 6 feet under.

A broken watch is right twice a day, huh? ;)

Roger said...

HD--I got you--good point and it may be one of those things that the drafters of the referendum didnt think about. Clearly you are right. As stated, the referendum only talk about legislative districts and not the at large senators. Good catch.

Original Mike said...

Ann said: And the Democratic lock on the state has not always been there. Maybe things really aren't that dysfunctional.

People are very shortsighted. One of the wisest things the Founders did was to make it difficult to amend the Constitution.

hdhouse said...

Simon...my broken watch seems to miss the 2 times a day rule lately. But you are very right in your observation.

Roger, there has got to be more in the fine print...the senate issue is too obvious but wierder things do happen. I live in NY. Nothing can top this place.

Tully said...

We went into this over at Stubborn Facts almost exactly a year ago, in reponse to the first plan to trash the Electoral College in California and other states, the one that California Democrats put together.

The Constitution lets the states make their own decisions on how to award their electoral votes for good reason. Namely, because the people don't vote for President, the states do. That first plan is blatantly undemocratic. It would award the electoral votes of California to whomever won the national popular vote, regardless of who won California.

The current proposal, while IMHO a really bad idea for a large state like California, would at least be constitutional. It might make some sense for California in the current demographic structure, but as history has shown, that structure can and will change.

Maine and Nebraska already have a form of proportional award of their electoral votes, giving the Senate votes to the overall state popular winner and the House votes to the district winners. Being smaller states, that does not enhance their "sway" in the electoral process. The assumption in the new California proposal is that it would bring the state back into play, but it's an iffy assumption. What it certainly would do in the long run is somewhat boost the sway of smaller states that continued to follow the winner-take-all tradition.

hdhouse said...

Ann Althouse said...
Anyway, I wrote about that proposal back here, and I think it's unconstitutional. It's a practical nightmare though. "

But play it out. Suppose it is adopted. Of course there would be an immediate legal challenge but on what grounds? Until the election the effect and therefore the standing would be hypothetical...would it not? How could someone get into Federal Court and battle this out until an election..and then there would be the constant appeal process to the SC...even with a fast track process the election could hinge on the courts (again) compounding the mess.

Gad

Too many jims said...

Prof Althouse said . . .
The Democratic proposal is incredibly stupid. . .
Anyway, I wrote about that proposal back here, and I think it's unconstitutional.


While I agree that the Democratic proposal is incredibly stupid and unwieldy, I am curious why you would say it is unconstitutional. Art. II Sec. 1 says (in relevant part): "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors . . ." I assume the obstacle is not that it would be adopted via a plebiscite. Is there some case law that limits the discretion of the Legislature of a state in directing the allocation of its electors?

kettle said...

I really don't think that the majority of people in California or in other states give a damn about whether or not the candidates 'fight hard' for their votes in their particular state. The perception that their vote is perceptively registering, and that they are participating in their government is almost certainly more relevant. In light of that I think that neither the electoral college, or a collection of jerrymandered districts, each with their own smaller quota of electoral college votes, makes much sense. Dividing the votes up according to returns seems like a much more satisfactory and justifiable solution to the current travesty.

Internet Ronin said...

The GOP and the Democrats cooperated in gerrymandering California's congressional districts so well that only two out of 53 are remotely competitive, and that is only because the threat of scandal taints one incumbent and another won in 2006 because of scandal tainting another.

There are no genuinely marginal districts and no amount of money spent in the state, or attention paid to the state, will substantially change the voting patterns within each congressinal district. Thus, if electoral votes are apportioned by the winner within a CD, the best the GOP can hope for, in an average election, is 20 votes while the worst the Democrats will do is 33 votes.

If the GOP spent massive amounts of money in what are in total the most expensive media markets in the United States, they could have a remote chance of winning the 2 at-large electoral votes. But they won't waste that kind of money looking for 2 electoral votes when they can spend it in any number of smaller states and get at least 3 per state. If that initiative actually passed and became law, the Democrats would not be so stupid as to waste a dime or ten minutes campaigning here.

The initiative is a waste of time and resources.

Tully said...

There is no law that limits the legislature's discretion in how they award their electoral votes, but there is law that prohibits collusion between states that alters the relationship of the states in relation to the national government. Namely, Art. 1, sec. 10, Clause 3:

"No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

This (the Insterstate Compact plan, not the current Maine/Nebraska style one) would seem to be the type of "Agreement or Compact" banned. Namely, one that fundamentally alters the relationship between the states and federal government. The compact proposed is specifically keyed to collusion between states in implementing it.

Tully said...

And there's always the practical aspect--recounts.

If you think Florida 2000 was bad, imagine the recounting and investigation of EVERY remotely close district in the United States in EVERY remotely close presidential election. EVERY TIME.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I agree with Internet Ronin. The argument that candidates would pay more attention to California if this proposal passes does not hold up. They would pay as much attention as they would to any other state that could offer them plus or minus three electoral votes.

Roger said...

here's the website for California Initiates--1250 seems to be the one. Political parties nominate a slate of electors for each district and two at large which presumably accounts for the Senator "slots." Website: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_j.htm#1250

Trivial aside: Years ago when I was stationed in KY, the KY ballot had you voting for electors by name during the general election. Presidential Candidate names didnt appear on the ballot.

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"[Ann said she thinks it's unconstitutional and a practical nightmare.] But play it out. Suppose it is adopted. Of course there would be an immediate legal challenge but on what grounds? Until the election the effect and therefore the standing would be hypothetical...would it not? How could someone get into Federal Court and battle this out until an election."

Well, two points. First, you seem to be assuming that if something is unconstitutional, it can and will be challenged in court, but that isn't necessarily the case. Even setting aside the political questions doctrine, on a more practical level, people have made serious arguments that FISA, for example, or the war powers act, are unconstitutional, but they are insulated against review because (inter alia) it's almost impossible to imagine a litigant having standing (although Orin Kerr has suggested that that may now have changed). And secondly, as to standing, an injury doesn't have to have taken place for it to convey standing: under Lujan, the injury-in-fact prong is satisfied if the litigant has a "concrete and particularized" injury that is "actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical" (emphasis added).

Paddy O. said...

First, you seem to be assuming that if something is unconstitutional, it can and will be challenged in court, but that isn't necessarily the case.

This is California. It's necessarily the case. I think it's become custom to go ahead and get the court cases started before the actual election in case a referendum wins. In California it's automatically assumed unconstitutional unless proven otherwise. Personally I think they should just cut out the middle man of voters and take each to the court so they can tell us what we think is right.

Instead of voting on election day polling places could serve pie. I think that would increase the get out the vote efforts with absolutely little change in the ultimate results of any election.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Speaking as a Californian and a Republican, I'm torn on the idea.

While my district and the majority of districts in CA vote Republican we are routinely outvoted by the more populated counties and districts. http://i48.photobucket.com/albums/f213/Lugnut67/RedBlueUSA.jpg

In effect our votes don't count. It would be great to know that if they changed it to a more representative by district apportionment of the electoral votes then at least we would have a voice on a District level

ON THE OTHER HAND: the reason we have the Electoral College is so that the smaller less populated states like Wyoming, Montana, New Hampshire are not swamped by a popular vote system whereby only the most populated states like California and New York would carry every election.

The situation in the State of Ca is similar to having a popular election where the number of votes count and all Districts are rolled into the Bay Area and LA.

I fear that while we in the Red Districts would like this change, it is a foot in the door to destroy the Electoral College system. So as much as I would like to FINALLY have my vote and my District count, I think this is a very bad idea.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Sorry, my link doesn't work.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/vote2004/countymap.htm

Here is a better one

Fen said...

but one party is so clearly going to win that it makes no sense for a presidential candidate to cater to it.

Right, but when a state splits its EC, there's still less incentive to campaign there. Why spend money on Colorado instead of Florida when you're guaranteed to get 40-60% of its EC either way?

Pal2Pal said...

As a Southern California resident, I can tell you that this measure is quite popular in my neck of the woods. We are tired of being held hostage to the inner city and Hollywood weirdos of Los Angeles and the loonys of San Francisco/Marin County. It is frustrating to have the 4 big counties of So. Cal be predominately Republican and also with a large population of military and retired military constantly at the mercy of the Code Pink crowd of northern Calif.

Take a look at 2004. Riverside County 58% to 41% for Bush, San Diego County 53% to 46% Bush, San Bernardino County 55% to 43% Bush, and Orange County 60% to 39% Bush. We are disenfranchised because of Los Angeles with 63% to 35% Kerry and San Francisco 83% to 15% Kerry. The interests of San Francisco could not be further from the interests of San Diego or my county of Riverside.

Internet Ronin said...

P2P: Numbers like you quote could be cited for almost every state in the nation. In Oregon and Washington for example, the Portland and Seattle metro areas vote so heavily Democratic that they more than offset the generally Republican majority in the rest of each state. Las Vegas probably outvotes the rest of Nevada. New York City has usually been the tail wagging the dog known as New York state for most of the past 150 years (if not since the inception of the Republic). If you don't like being outvoted, you have three choices:

1) Move to a Republican state (one where the Democrats are undoubtedly tired of being outvoted by the Republicans).
2) Get active and campaign in heavily Democratic areas and help change the vote totals).
3) Adjust to the fact that you live in a relatively solid Democratic state at the moment.

DBQ: My numbers above were a bit off: the maximum a GOP nominee can hope to get in this state is probably 23 votes by Congressional District. Bush won 22 of those CD's last time and Kerry won 31 of them. Just because so many of the voters are located in Los Angeles County doesn't mean they don't have as much of a right to cast a ballot as you do.

Maxine Weiss said...

The timing is odd.

Why wasn't anyone talking about throwing out the Electoral Collage when Clinton was President?

Let's all start counting votes, and keep counting till the one you like wins!

hdhouse said...

let's ask Diebold to decide....they seem pretty good at it.

Internet Ronin said...

let's ask Diebold to decide....they seem pretty good at it.

So it seems ;-) IIRC, according to California's Secretary of State, their machines are so easy to hack that just about anyone could do it, so they and a few others have been banned from use in the state.

Original Mike said...

Let's all start counting votes, and keep counting till the one you like wins!

That's how they elect Governors in Washington state.

Cedarford said...

Original Mike said...
Ann said: And the Democratic lock on the state has not always been there. Maybe things really aren't that dysfunctional.

People are very shortsighted. One of the wisest things the Founders did was to make it difficult to amend the Constitution.


Not really. Amending is now so difficult that we have to settle for what was a fine 18th Century national operating manual now badly out of date with the times and reliant on lawyers dressed in robes to "interpret" around obsolete sections.

The last substantial Amendment was abolition of the Poll Tax in 1962. Since then, the rise of special interest groups has made it impossible to pass major Amendments like ERA, term limits for Fed Judges, putting abortion back to the States, the States wanting to specify where the Federal Gov't encroachment in the name of the Commerce Clause ends.

Other nations regularly revise and update their Constitutions - every 30-50 years.

Americans - especially a section of the population that "venerates" the Constitution and boasts that our health care is the best in the world, our schools are, our workers who can "outwork and out-compete anybody in any industry"? With "the worlds best scientists, leaders, teachers, engineers" - have had a rude awakening in many of those areas. Not to mention boasts of how our legal system is "the envy of the world" are laughed at and our vaunted "innovativeness" has been eclipsed in the last 10-15 years by 15 other nations in per capita patents granted, with Japan now ahead of us in overall patents the past two years.

We best abandon our smugness and complacency or we might end up where past "world's best nation at everything" ended up - Argentina after the 20s, England in the 1950s-1980 timeframe.

XWL said...

Hmmm, a similar initiative in Colorado, one that could have split votes in a state that usually votes Republican (and did in was described by MSNBC's Tom Curry in 2004 as, "one of the most intriguing proposed changes in American presidential politics since women were given the right to vote."

Jump ahead a few years and in an editorial yesterday the International Herald Tribune says of a very similar initiative for California, "If the initiative passes, it would do serious damage to American democracy."

Given that abolishing the Electoral College completely is a pet progressive project, you'd think this initiative would be considered a more easily attainable first step in that direction (As goes Cali, so goes the nation, right?).

I think this can be sold to California voters on a few basic points, fairness, it should increase voter participation, it would force candidates from both parties to spend all that cash they raise in California back in California, and it would create a strong disincentive for gerrymandering.

Me, I'm sold simply on tilting the national electoral equation in favor of Republicans, but I don't try and hide my partisanship.

Interesting to watch all sorts of supposedly neutral observers in the media line up against the same kind of initiative they've had the hots for when it was in a GOP leaning state.

And it's unprecedented for a ballot initiative that hasn't even made it through the petition process to be attacked nationally before (and these early attacks are likely to cause a backlash against outsider meddling).

This initiative has the Dems very scared. Nothing wrong with that.

Pal2Pal said...

Internet Ronin: I agree on your 3 points, but when I first came to California, in 1967, I didn't think of it as a Democrat state. I lived in San Diego county and it was solid Republican, I was young and apolitical. Then we had the Reagan era as Governor. And let's face it, San Francisco wasn't like it is now. My Mother was a Berkley graduate and grew up just a few blocks from the campus, even attended University high school. During the 60s and 70s, she was ashamed to tell people she was a Berkeley grad when the students there seemed to lose their collective minds. My Grandfather was very active in Bay area politics and very very Republican. Hollywood was dominated by WWII war heroes not socialists and pop tarts. San Francisco was not the pink capitol of the world, it was a city where women still wore hats and gloves when they went to town, appreciated their military and was considered one of the premier cities in the world. Now it is a laughing stock.

Then we got the kooky dem Jerry Brown (even though Prop 13 passed by the people under his mantle and gave us one of the largest tax breaks ever), followed by Deukmejian who was more moderate or at least less kooky, followed by Republican Wilson for 8 years and then the disaster of Dem Davis and the backlash which brought us Arnold.

The state should be split into Northern CA and Southern CA. Think about it, San Diego, the home of the Navy 7th fleet and Camp Pendelton Marine Training Base vs. San Francisco who doesn't want Navy ships in their ports or the Blue Angels in their air space.

Larry said...

Seems kind of simple to me.

The goal has for a long time to stamp out the last vestiges of the notion that the United States is a Union of States.

Awarding the California electoral votes to the national "popular" winner means that a few large cities (or the machines therein) will directly control the executive branch.

Jeremy said...

I'm down for awarding the Vice Presidency to the runner-up. Can we get that back in play?

MadisonMan said...

The state should be split into Northern CA and Southern CA.

Where will SoCal get its water? Don't even think about the Great Lakes.

Simon said...

Pal2Pal said...
"The state should be split into Northern CA and Southern CA. Think about it, San Diego, the home of the Navy 7th fleet and Camp Pendelton Marine Training Base vs. San Francisco who doesn't want Navy ships in their ports or the Blue Angels in their air space."

That's actually a pretty good idea. It would also solve the Ninth Circuit problem - you abolish the 9th cir entirely, eliminating the existing judgeships, and create a 12th circuit encompassing NV, AZ, HI and SoCal, and a 14th circuit encompassing NorCal, OR, WA, ID, MT and AK.

Revenant said...

I would like to see all the states award their electoral votes proportionally rather than winner-take-all. That's closer to direct democracy. So, yes, I think California should do it that way. It doesn't have a chance of happening, but I'll be supporting it.

Yes, the Republicans are just doing this to try to scare up some more electoral votes. But even if I didn't want them to win, the fact that they're doing it for votes doesn't make it a bad idea.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Why wasn't anyone talking about throwing out the Electoral Collage when Clinton was President?

They were certainly talking about it when Gore lost to Bush in 2000. I know quite a few people who were dismayed the popular vote gave way to the EC. Evidently that was their first experience with how our presidential elections work.

The last time Indiana went Democratic was for LBJ. I have several Democratic friends who insist that their vote is essentially worthless since Indiana goes GOP in presidential elections despite half the districts being Democratic (Blue Dog variety as opposed to the Kucinich-Kennedy progressives). I can see their point as I can also see P2P’s conundrum above. In 2000, 57% of Hoosiers went Bush and in 2004 60% went to Bush so essentially the Dems may as well stay home in November because they don’t even come close to making a difference. I personally don’t see an issue with electoral votes being cast by districts.

Joe said...

California could be split very neatly at the northern border of San Luis Obispo, Kern and San Bernardino counties, though based on demographics, the border should arguably be further north, say Fresno, Madera and Mono counties.

As for presidential elections, I've long liked the idea of the winner of each congressional district getting a delegate and then two delegates going to the state wide winner.

(I'm also for heavily modifying the 17th amendment and getting rid of direct election of senators, which would do more for getting rid of senatorial corruption than anything.)

Pal2Pal said...

Madisonman: They'd get their water where they get it now, the Colorado River.

Simon said...

Actually, on further reflection, the very best solution would be to split the state not north/south, but east/west - you could chop of what's presently boundary of the northern district and call that (among other things) West California, and the balance can be California. That'd also bring Idaho and Montana into the orbit of the mooted 12th circuit without disrupting geographic continuity (imagine the joy in those states of being liberated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the San Francisco Values Circuit).

Original Mike said...

Jeremy said: I'm down for awarding the Vice Presidency to the runner-up. Can we get that back in play?

In this political climate, the President wouldn't last six months. It would be more like the Klingon Empire (where its your duty to assassinate your superior officer)

Original Mike said...

Hoosier Daddy said: I personally don’t see an issue with electoral votes being cast by districts.

The one Ann mentioned is a big one; the large number of recount fights that would surely ensue. Frankly, I'm willing to give up a little direct democracy to keep the tanks from rolling down Pennsylvania Ave in a sucession fight.

Original Mike said...

Actually, on further reflection, the very best solution would be to split the state not north/south, but east/west

Give the San Andreas time. It'll happen.

Simon said...

Mike - according to Ray Randolph, Robert Bork used to say that during all the turbulence in 60s America swirling around UC Berkeley,
the greatest hope for higher education in America was the San Andreas fault. I prefer to think that while it's settled that no state can leave, there's no authoritative holding that the rest of us can't throw one out. ;)

Internet Ronin said...

You are right, Simon: the political divide in California is increasingly one of a coastal/interior nature as opposed to the widely assumed north/south split. Splitting it north/south at the Kern County/SLO/San Bernardino northern borders would only enhance Los Angeles's influence. At present, it is about 28% of the population but would compose about 48% of a state of Southern California. Its lopsided Democratic majorities would trump the more Republican counties (two of which, Orange and San Diego are trending less Republican).

Demographic change is inevitable, the zenith of Los Angeles's influence over the state is already more than 10 years behind it. (San Francisco's zenith was probably over 100 years ago and it accounts for less than a complete congressional district today.) The big winners at the next census will be interior counties: Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and San Joaquin. Altogether, they stand to gain the equivalent of a congressional district at minimum after the next census (barring any changes in the numbers of seats allocated to California). LA will continue to decline in importance as the population grows (and grows faster) elsewhere.

The Drill SGT said...

Pal2Pal ... a couple of notes as a guy who was born in Chico and raised in Oroville, and Sacramento with a BS from UCD and MBA from UCLA/UCI
It is frustrating to have the 4 big counties of So. Cal be predominately Republican and also with a large population of military and retired military constantly at the mercy of the Code Pink crowd of northern Calif
don't lump real northern Ca folks in with the Bay area.

Madisonman: They'd get their water where they get it now, the Colorado River.

funny, I must have imagined those big California aqeducts carrying Sacramento river water to LA.

LOL, when I was growing up we considered anything from Stockton South to be southern California, afterall the folks below, either had no water or their rivers ran North into the Bay.

Now of course they have all the water and the rivers (aeducts all run South. Isn't democracy and Federal water projects wonderful?

The Drill SGT said...

Pal2Pal ... a couple of notes as a guy who was born in Chico and raised in Oroville, and Sacramento with a BS from UCD and MBA from UCLA/UCI
It is frustrating to have the 4 big counties of So. Cal be predominately Republican and also with a large population of military and retired military constantly at the mercy of the Code Pink crowd of northern Calif
don't lump real northern Ca folks in with the Bay area.

Madisonman: They'd get their water where they get it now, the Colorado River.

funny, I must have imagined those big California aqeducts carrying Sacramento river water to LA.

LOL, when I was growing up we considered anything from Stockton South to be southern California, afterall the folks below, either had no water or their rivers ran North into the Bay.

Now of course they have all the water and the rivers (aeducts all run South. Isn't democracy and Federal water projects wonderful?

rcocean said...

California should be split. If projections are correct it might have 50 million people by 2020.

The real split is between the coast and the rest of the state. So here's my suggestion:

1) SoCal - All counties south of Fresno and San Luis Obpisbo.

2) Berkley Land - The Bay Area, plus Monterey, Big Sur and the coast down to San Luis Obpisbo.

3) Normal America Land - The rest of the state.

Or you could just make the SF Bay area, SoCal, and the interventing coast one state, and rest of the state another.

Crazy that by 2020; 50 million people will have 2 Senators while New England will have 12. I know we have Feinstein and Boxer. But goofballs like Kennedy, Kerry, and Leahy would not last one term in California.

The Drill SGT said...

oh, and the real real estate rule of the West isn't location, location, location. it's water, water water.

those that wants it, and those that gots it.

most all fights in the West are ultimately about water rights. :)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Just because so many of the voters are located in Los Angeles County doesn't mean they don't have as much of a right to cast a ballot as you do.

Internet Ronin, I have never said that they don't have as much right to cast a ballot as I do. P2P and I are on the same page on this. When every vote we cast in our geographic area is worthless because highly populated areas that have no connection to our needs or even concern themselves with our needs, it is very discouraging to partcipate in the process.

But not on this The state should be split into Northern CA and Southern CA. Think about it, San Diego, the home of the Navy 7th fleet and Camp Pendelton Marine Training Base vs. San Francisco who doesn't want Navy ships in their ports or the Blue Angels in their air space.

Please oh please don't leave us lumped in with San Francisco...I beg you. We would rather lop off everything south of Yuba City or Sacramento. We have tried to disengage ourselves from the rest of Ca in the past and it would be great if we could do it again. http://www.jeffersonstate.com/

As to where the water, timber and minerals come from for the rest of the state, it is from the State of Jefferson.

Original Mike said...

California should be split. If projections are correct it might have 50 million people by 2020.

This does seem to make some sense. It fixes the problem these proposals seek to address without mucking with the Constitution.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Hey Drill Sarge. You are from my old stomping grounds. /wave from even further Northern California.

Seriously....State of Jefferson, think about it.

Luckyoldson said...

The only way this would work is if EVERY STATE does the same...and I still don't think people will buy into it.

The only reason it's even coming up now is that the Republicans are toast and they know it.

SUDDENLY...we need to address the inadequacies of the electoral system. (Geee, I sure don't remember any of this coming from the right side of the aisle...
after Gore won the popular vote...)

The right is desperate...as well they should be.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The one Ann mentioned is a big one; the large number of recount fights that would surely ensue.

Well one of the reasons for that is the fu**ed up ballot system already in place. I'm not that old but I don't ever remember a re-count in any presidential election other than 2000 where a bunch of seasoned citizens couldn't figure out a ballot less complicated than a bingo card.

Are we now looking at doing re-counts at every presidential election? Can they really be any worse than the hanging/dimpled/pregnant chad debacle in Florida? Unless you're talking about differences of a few hundred votes, I recounts should be severely limited otherwise it starts looking simply like a case of sour grapes.

The more I look at the concept of the electoral college, the less arguments I can make in its favor and this is coming from a conservative living in a red state. I can sympathize with a GOPer living in Massachusetts or California. May as well stay home and fold underwear in November.

John Stodder said...

I think this can be sold to California voters on a few basic points, fairness, it should increase voter participation, it would force candidates from both parties to spend all that cash they raise in California back in California, and it would create a strong disincentive for gerrymandering.

If I thought this would really end the atrocious gerrymandering in California, I'd be all for it. But it won't. The tacticians of both parties would figure out a way to make even this idea an incumbent-protection scam.

In California, you have Democrats who stand for nothing but maintaining their power and growing the size and influence of government, and Republicans who stand for too much, willing to die like lemmings for a set of fringe beliefs that have been repeatedly rejected.

If ever a state needed a strong "centrist" party, it would be California. But the party pros for the Dems and Reeps would murder such a thing in the cradle.

Dieter said...

I have an even better idea for California:  Aztlán.

Original Mike said...

I'm not that old but I don't ever remember a re-count in any presidential election other than 2000 where a bunch of seasoned citizens couldn't figure out a ballot less complicated than a bingo card.

If I hadn't been able to figure out the ballot, I sure wouldn't have wanted to tell the whole country, but some people are apparently beyond embarrassment.

Original Mike said...

Hoosier asked: Are we now looking at doing re-counts at every presidential election?

I am afraid a line has been crossed and there's no going back.

Revenant said...

Give the San Andreas time. It'll happen.

Yeah. One day The Big One will hit, and everything east of the San Andreas Fault will fall into the Atlantic Ocean. :)

Luckyoldson said...

Why not use Oregon's method and let people mail in their ballots?

Or, better yet, how about voting from Thursday through Saturday?

Or, hey...keep the polls open until 9:00 PM

Simon said...

Luckyoldson said...
"The only way this would work is if EVERY STATE does the same."

To make that assertion, you have to have made an unspoken assessment of what "it" is - that is, to say what you said, one has to define the goal that "this" "work[s]" towards in order to asses whether it would or wouldn't "work" to achieve it. So what's the goal you're imputing into the question?

"SUDDENLY...we need to address the inadequacies of the electoral system."

I don't think there are any noticeable inadequacies in the present Presidential election system. Just because it doesn't always produce a result I like doesn't mean that the system doesn't work.

Luckyoldson said...

tim,
You have something against "Hollywood and Silicon Valley...and cutting edge techo??"

If so...how's the cave?

Original Mike said...

Rev! I read a SF story to that effect once.

Luckyoldson said...

Simon says: "To make that assertion, you have to have made an unspoken assessment of what "it" is..."

Well, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough for you, but I was responding to the title of the thread:

"Should California switch to giving its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each congressional district?"

Then you say: "I don't think there are any noticeable inadequacies in the present Presidential election system."

Well, then why are we discussing this specific topic?

*I certainly enjoy a good argument or debate, but you're pushing the envelope here.

Pal2Pal said...

I live in what is called the Inland Empire. We are approx. 50 miles north of San Diego. Two of our cities in 2002 were rated the fastest growing cities in the U.S. This area is called high desert. I recently sold my house and moved to a new one 2 blocks away and ended up in a new Congressional District (49th Darrell Issa) that covers areas in both Riverside and San Diego counties. 2 blocks away, I was in Mary Bono's district with headquarters in Palm Springs (45th). Beginning in 2000-2001, the building boom in the Inland Empire was extreme. With the cost of an average 1400-1800 sq. ft. housing tract house in LA/San Diego/Orange at $600,000 or better, people flocked to the Inland Empire where they could buy 3000 sq. ft. homes for under $200,000. Now, of course, LA, Orange County and San Diego County are in the million dollar range and we are in the 550-800,000 range for tract homes. Most of my neighbors commute up to 75 miles one way each day to work, but it was the only way most of them could even qualify to buy, especially those in the military.

We have one benefit that those in other areas and in Sacramento want to take away and that is the Indian reservations. We have lots of them and they are all running casinos. Of course, the politicians want to tax them out of existence, but we who live here know that their contributions to the community, especially to the schools far outweighs the taxes that would get spread throughout the state. Our community colleges really benefit, but so do the secondary schools and that helps keep our property taxes down. Not to mention the large number of people they employ. We would be drowning in costs to support illegals if it weren't for the large contributions made for community services the casinos finance.

John Stodder said...

I was not aware of the tax revenue support the Indian casinos make to the IE. Fascinating.

What Riverside/San Berdoo need are major employers so that some of those 75-mile commutes can be diverted locally. I think it's an American tragedy. You can't afford a decent home for your family unless you live in that area, but then you have to take a job whose commute all but guarantees you'll never see your kids.

SteveR said...

This is a moving target, by the time any change is made and the consequences realized, any number of factors could make the motivation moot

Rather than blaming the system, change the way you do business.

Too many jims said...

XWL said...
it would create a strong disincentive for gerrymandering.


My reaction was just the opposite. I think this proposal creates a massive incentive for gerrymandering. As John Stodder suggested, gerrymandering currently is largely an incumbent protection mechanism.

This proposal would create an incentive for Dems (assuming they controlled the California assembly and Governors office) to gerrymander in a way that would give some of "their" districts less security, some of the "republican" districts more security thereby creating more of "their" districts.

Assuming that electoral success of congressional candidates correlates with votes for Presidential candidates of the same party, the proposal would create an incentive for Dems (again assuming they control the legislature and the Gov) to create as many districts as possible that give them an advantage, even if that advantage is even by 1 vote. Could they create 53 such districts? Probably not. Could they create more than 34? I bet they could. Could they convince democratic incumbents to tolerate smaller electoral victories? To a point.

For instance, if you look at election results from 2006 for the 13 southernmost districts in CA (districts 40-41 & 43-53 [I did not include District 42 as it was a Republican incumbent running unopposed]) you will see that Republicans received about 57% of the vote and Dems received about 43% (I did not include 3rd party and independents). In those 13 districts, Republicans won 9 seats and Dems won 4. The Dem who won with the lowest percentage was 62%. If they could convince the Dems to tolerate a winning percentage of, say, 58% and they could move voters around to create a few "republican" districts with percentages of 80% republicans, they could probably eliminate several of the 9 Republican representatives.

blake said...

John,

Actually, all it will take is another earthquake like '94, and the real estate prices will be back within reason. (Actually, the way the market is going, it may happen anyway. RE prices here are extreme when we're on an uptick, but they do crash and settle for a while at a more reasonable level.)

Roger said...

I rather like LOS proposals for voting. What is wrong with an open voting period? (although it might be tough on poll workers who are already in short supply). I have voted by mail for 30 years--Its the easiest way IMO. There really is nothing sacrosanct about an arbitrary period of time--esp given today's complexities of life.

blake said...

Hey, you guys aren't really going far enough with the breaking up of California--and the east coast.

Break 'em all up. 250 states. No state with more than 2 million people.

Yeah, that makes some geographically tiny areas, like turning L.A. County into six states. But that's a good thing. 'course, you'd need some serious Federalism revivification.

But seriously, when was the last time anyone felt like the government--even their state government--truly represented them?

Hell, I've never felt represented even in my city!

blake said...

roger,

Cheating becomes more of a problem, I think, with a longer voting period.

By the way, the electoral college also makes cheating harder. In a straight vote system, every dead or otherwise illegal voter counts with every legitimate one.

Paddy O. said...

In California, you have Democrats who stand for nothing but maintaining their power and growing the size and influence of government, and Republicans who stand for too much, willing to die like lemmings for a set of fringe beliefs that have been repeatedly rejected.

Spot on.

Which is why it took a recall election in which both parties were bypassed, to get a governor that matches the California mindset.

And it's not just fringe politics. Republicans have those but also the same grasp and hold on power and party favoritism. There's just no other way to explain Dick Mountjoy's non-campaign.

Pal2Pal said...

John Stodder: I'm not sure it is tax revenue out of the casinos as much as straight contributions. For instance, at Mt. San Jacinto Comunnity College, one of the casinos all but finances the athletic program. My son is a baseball coach there and the team volunteers to work the parking lot of the casino when they have concerts or other special events and the casino donates X amount of dollars to the team for field improvement and equipment for each person who shows up. They were able to completely refurbish their baseball field with new bleachers, all new sod, and tons of new equipment. That is just one example, but I know that our local high school, which looks more like a college campus, gets all kinds of donations for things like computer labs and science as well as for their athletic programs.

Luckyoldson said...

paddy,
"In California, you have Democrats who stand for nothing but maintaining their power and growing the size and influence of government, and Republicans who stand for too much, willing to die like lemmings for a set of fringe beliefs that have been repeatedly rejected."

Uh, I think you're actually referring to America...not just California.

Politics are politics and politicians are politicians...regardless of the geographical area.

I've lived all over the country and because of various jobs, traveled in almost every state...and I hear exactly the same thing everywhere.

Of course, when election time comes, most vote their own "favorites" right back into office again.

ricpic said...

Hysterical. The Republicans aren't moderate enough for the enlightened class. Or should I call them the enlightened caste? Hysterical because the Republicans are already the me too socialism light alternative to the socialism heavy Dems. What do they have to do to be more "moderate," fall on their knees before a statue of FDR?

Luckyoldson said...

John Stodder,
There really isn't the kind of industry one would expect, even in San Diego. Tourism, service and biotech rules and many of the companies have fewer employees than one would imagine.

Buying real estate, waiting for appreciation (equity is secondary), then selling off at a profit is the main source of dough out here.

Simon said...

Luckyoldson said...
"Simon says: 'To make that assertion, you have to have made an unspoken assessment of what "it" is...' Well, I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough for you, but I was responding to the title of the thread: 'Should California switch to giving its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each congressional district?'"

You're missing the point. If anything, that digs you in deeper: if you're response to the question "Should California switch to giving its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each congressional district" is "The only way this would work is if EVERY STATE does the same," that response is utterly incoherent, because what every other state does is irrelevant to what California does. Now, your point does make sense if you interpose some goal that has nothing to do with the allocation of California's electoral cotes - for example, if you assert that the "goal" is to more closely aligning the outcome with the national popular vote, you can assess whether this scheme helps that goal and conclude (for example) that no, this scheme won't serve that goal unless every other state adopts the same plan. But if that's what you're saying, you have to recognize that you're imposing a totally foreign goal on the plan and evaluating whether it helps YOUR imputed goal, not whether it helps its stated goals. And if you're going to do that, you ought to say up front what your goal is.

hdhouse said...

Two Many Jims brings up an interesting point with gerrymandering.

So my feeble brain can do the math, let's say 1M per representative. In say 20 districts the vote is 55-45 republican over dem. But if the controlling party were smart it could take the 11 million votes and create 11 or so 100% safe districts and 9 100% safe dem districts...but it also could create 3 safe districts and 17 in play with democrat majorities.

Hmmmm...so if the california referendum passes and the districts can be redrawn...sounds like a banana republic to me.

Luckyoldson said...

Simon,
I'm merely saying that if California does it, the rest of the country should do it, to...for no other reason than to even the playing field. I live in California and yes, it is certainly a Democratic state, but here in San Diego Clinton was the first Democrat to carry the city since Johnson.

Personally, I think the electoral college is antiquated, and that we should have a flt out popular vote format, but that's the system we have.

Matthew said...

I love all this fighting over who gets to play tyrant, when the obvious, simple, just, and frankly American solution is right in front of you: take power out of Washington, D.C. and return it to the people. The more decisions that are made locally, the less important national elections become.

Matthew said...

If you have a flat out popular vote you are undoing the Great Compromise. Legally speaking, it would be the greatest argument for secession since before the Civil War.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Legally speaking, it would be the greatest argument for secession since before the Civil War.

Thank you. I blogged on this some time back on my inactive neglected blog.
http://dustbun.blogspot.com/2006/05/electoral-college-prevents-civil-war.html

"If we only counted the “popular vote” then every National Election would be decided by California, New York and a handful of other heavily populated States. How discouraging would that be for the rest of us who may live in the less populated areas? Talk about your vote not counting. What would be the incentive to even belong to the United States much less vote? When we lose control of our own lives, and decisions are made for us by strangers in New York or Los Angeles, who wouldn’t want to rebel or secede from that tyranny?"

Eli Blake said...

This idea (by CD) has been around for a long time. Maine and Nebraska already do it (though it has yet to make a difference in either state, as Maine has only voted for Democrats since implementing the law and Nebraska only for Republicans.)

This should not be a partisan issue though-- if we do it for one state, perhaps we should push for it in every state.

One other lesson for Republicans offered by the Golden State-- California moved sharply to the left after the GOP pushed through prop 187, an anti-immigrant proposition. They won that battle but lost the war. That is because so many families have members on both sides of the border (for example, my cousin is married to a Latin American man and her kids-- born in America and American citizens, regularly travel across the border to see their grandparents. This is true in many extended families-- very important in the Hispanic community). It took a swing vote, one which had been trending Republican and made them solidly Democratic. Hence the sharp turn of the state to the left since then.

The lesson obviously was not learned outside of CA because Republicans seem to be in the process of repeating their mistake on the national level as they race to see who can bash immigrants faster. They don't get the fact that immigrants have family who are American citizens, and who can and do vote.

In contrast to 2004, when Hispanics went 40% for George W. Bush, by 2006, Republicans got only half that much. Their immigrant-bashing may excite people who are probably going to vote Republican anyway, but the cost is that they've driven millions of (ironically socially conservative) voters straight to the Democratic party.

It's certainly happening here in Arizona-- a bunch of immigrant bashing proposals have been successful here but the voters they target-- Hispanics-- have moved sharply to the Democrats and were instrumental last year in Democrats picking up two congressional seats here plus seven in the state legislature.

Paddy O. said...

Uh, I think you're actually referring to America...not just California.

Politics are politics and politicians are politicians...regardless of the geographical area.


Of course, to a greater or lesser degree. CA is the greater degree of that, given the agreed upon gerrymandering (at least it's fought over elsewhere), and every big election of the last 7 years.

All state parties have ups and downs. But it's California who voted for a Democrat for governor, over the Republican, only to then a year later kick out the Democrat and put in a Republican. The Republican the state wanted would have never won a primary and would have never gotten through the state party. The CA Republicans have chosen who might be the very worst possible candidates to run for Senator. I dislike both our Senators and generally vote Republican but not even I could vote for those who the state party pushed through.

Other states seem to have at least a bit of a fight in their state parties. I'm not looking for perfect I'm looking for barely competent. That CA is considered reliably Blue isn't because of the demographics of the state but because the state party is so entirely awful in every regard.

Not "I'm a liberal and of course Republicans are awful" but "I might vote for GWB again and I think the state party is awful" sort of awful.

Without good opponents the state Democrats fall into their own worst tendencies. But I blame the Republicans.

If the GOP wants CA electoral votes, they should reform the state party and earn them.

Luckyoldson said...

Paddy says: "If the GOP wants CA electoral votes, they should reform the state party and earn them."

Maybe.

But if they voted more in the direction of the important social issues here they might do better, too.

XWL said...

Thinking about the splitting up of California (as mentioned a few times in these comments), here's a scheme that would turn one huge California into five smaller states (though three would still be in the top 15, population wise)

The names of these states would be, Lower Cascadia, Hill and Dale, Groovy, Lotus Land, and Reagan.

It could work, I tell you (maybe not with those specific names, though).

Internet Ronin said...

HD House:

They did that already, except the incumbents of both parties got together and created their own districts. Thus, 51 of 53 congressional seats are guaranteed safe D(33) or R(20). To paraphrase Edwin Edwards, if one of those 53 were caught in bed with a live boy or dead girl, it probably would NOT matter. 78 or 79 of 80 state Assembly seats are safe D(48) or R(32), and 39 of 40 State Senate seats are safe D(25) or R(15). Even the 4 or 5 supposedly competitive districts really are'nt under normal circumstances. Legislative elections don't mean a thing and basically haven't for over 20 years. True, Californians can vote for whoever they want, but their votes don't matter because the incumbents pre-selected their voters.

Pal2Pal said...

Eli Blake: Perhaps if you would be more truthful and call it what it is - ILLEGAL immigration. There is no complaint that I've heard about immigrants and immigration. Caps on immigration tell the states what they can expect, which then helps states and counties and cities plan their future budgets for schools, health care and other community services. When you begin to get thousands and now millions of illegals, the drain on these same states, counties and cities is massive.

In my area, you are barely employable if you don't speak Spanish, so legal Americans who speak English can't get a job. Our emergency rooms are full of those getting free Medical services while those who are legal citizens can't afford to pay for health care and are not eligible for Medical. A friend of mine, a single Mom with 4 children, had her car totaled by an illegal with no insurance or driver's license and she is just out of luck. She has no transportation now and had no help with the medical bills incurred either.

This is not about immigration or immigrants, it is about illegals.

blake said...

Eli,

Proposition 187 wasn't "pushed through" by Republicans. It was voted in by not-quite 60% of the voters, and more Hispanics than not voted for it.

Also, as a guy who ran the numbers a zillion times, the balance of California's political parties hasn't changed much from 1990 to 2002 or so (when I stopped counting).

A propos of nothing, the last time I ran counts on L.A County it was 55% Dem to, meh, about 40-42% Rep. This suggests to me that Reps in L.A. don't even bother to vote, or that they vote Dem. (Which may be because, as has been pointed out, the GOP in CA is a sad joke.)

Orange County's numbers are similar, but reversed. San Diego's a bit more balanced, IIRC, while San Francisco is a lot less. But L.A. County holds about 25% of the voting population in California.

Internet Ronin said...

Sorry to hear about your friend, P2P. Sounds like she wasn't carrying uninsured motorist coverage herself. It is one of the least expensive parts of auto insurance coverage. Although not required by law, it has been considered a genuine necessity in California for decades now (and not just because of illegals, either).

ricpic said...

What do you think Americanized so many of the immigrants who came here in the great wave at the turn of the century, 19th to 20th? The freeze on immigration enacted in 1924. No more back and forth to the mother country. No more constant stream of new aliens diluting the will to Americanize. The realization that if they didn't Americanize they would seriously marginalize themselves. Let's do it again. Freeze immigration now!

Dieter said...

Give Mexico back the conquered lands gained in your illegal war of 1845. It is a simple matter of justice.

You might keep the States of Washington and Oregon. Great Britain ultimately ceded you that territory. On the other hand, are you sure you really want to bother with an outlet on the Pacific?

Consider the advantages of returning to Mexico what is rightfully its own:

    1.   Instead of the division between Mexicans and Americans, you would all be Mexicans in the West.
    2.   The United States would be a more manageable, coherent country.
    3.   The United States would have fewer interests to defend in the Pacific region, so the world would be less threatened with war between, for example, the US and China over some stupid thing like Taiwan.
    4.   Think about Federales patrolling Hollywood.  Even more amusingly, you would also have Federales in San Francisco.
    5.   Arnold Schwarzenegger could run for President of Mexico.

The disadvantage:

          The song, Fifty Nifty United States would no longer rhyme.

Simon said...

Dieter said...
"Give Mexico back the conquered lands gained in your illegal war of 1845. It is a simple matter of justice."

Sure. As soon as the Mexicans give back the lands conquered in the illegal colonization by Spain in the 16th Century. It is a simple matter of justice.

Jeremy said...

XWL

There was a lot of talk about that kinda thing around here back when Northern Santa Barbara wanted to split off into Mission County.
I like your map but think Lotus Land and Hill&Dale need to swap Monterey for Kern.

rcocean said...

We didn't "steal" California, we paid Mexico $15 million in Yankee Gold for it. In any case, Mexico stole it from the Spainards, who in turn stole from the Indians, so they don't have much of a case.


But I'd be perfectly willing to give SoCal back to Mexico as long as in Boxer and McCain go with it.

As for Prop 187, its amazing how people continue to lie about this, again again. Pete Wilson has did a talk on C-span which laid out the case that Prop 187 did not turn California into a blue state. Immigration legal and illegal did that.

Revenant said...

This proposal would create an incentive for Dems (assuming they controlled the California assembly and Governors office) to gerrymander in a way that would give some of "their" districts less security, some of the "republican" districts more security thereby creating more of "their" districts.

I seriously doubt they would do that.

First of all, in that scenario they put multiple Congressional seats at risk in exchange for a marginal increase in the chances of electing a President of their party. Congress, as an institution, has vastly more power than the President -- they control the money and they initiate all changes to the law. Sacrificing a degree of control of Congress in exchange for a slight increase in the chances of controlling the Presidency is a lousy trade.

Secondly, even IF it was good for the party to trade Congressional seats for the White House, it isn't good for the people sitting in those seats. Look at it on an individual level. We have 53 Represenatives. I'm guessing that every single one of them, if asked "Would you rather (A) lose the next election, but see your party's President elected, or (B) win the next election, but at the cost of your party losing the White House", going to immediately and enthusiastically yell "B!!!!".

The districts are drawn up by state-level government. None of these people is ever going to be President, but many of them have a shot at Congress. Think of it this way: you ask a bunch of middle managers to draw up a plan for human resources. Is their plan going to protect the job security of the CEO... or of middle management?

Revenant said...

Give Mexico back the conquered lands gained in your illegal war of 1845. It is a simple matter of justice.

Even if we assume that the 1845 war was any more "illegal" than the wars of conquest that established Mexico -- and, before it, the Aztec and other mesoamerican empires -- there wouldn't be any point in giving California to Mexico. They'd just fuck California up, too, and the rest of America would still be up to its neck in illegal immigrants.

California, like the other American states, is rich because of its social and intellectual capital, not because of its value as real estate. Mexico doesn't need more land -- it needs a clue.

MadisonMan said...

Math should be used to solve the gerrymandering mess. Why not require the area divided by the perimeter of all congressional districts to be within 5% of the minimum value possible for equal representation?

Pass it by referendum in California and see how it works!

Internet Ronin said...

RE: California "turning" into a Blue state: It has been a relatively "blue state" for 40+ years. Since the implementation of "one man one vote" (after Reynolds v. Sims in 1964) in 1966, the GOP has controlled the State Assembly for four of the past 41 years while the Democrats have controlled it the other 37. The Democrats have controlled the State Senate for the entire 41 years, and constituted a large majority of the Congressional delegation for all 41 years as well. About 10% more registered voters have consistently identified themselves as Democrats than Republicans (although both are growing less than those who "Decline to State").

Because the GOP named a Californian to the national ticket in 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984, the state has appeared to be competitive. Without a Californian on the ticket, the D's have won 5 of 7. (One could argue George HW Bush carried California only because he was elected to Ronald Reagan's third term ;-)

The statistics for US Senators similarly tilts largely Democratic, and has for almost 50 years, so I question Wilson's statement that immigration is the cause.

Simon said...

MadisonMan - after all, one of the virtues of the federal system is, as Justice Brandeis memorably put it, is "that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

Tully said...

I'm merely saying that if California does it, the rest of the country should do it, to...for no other reason than to even the playing field.

I believe the other states would object. If California wants to reduce their own electoral sway in presidential elections, that's their business. But arguing that everyone else has to do what California does just to be fair to California is, to be polite, disingenuous steer manure.

Why that constitutional amendment mandating that other states do the same would never pass I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Simon: First, the Mexicans have to return those lands to Spain. THEN Spain can give them back to the Indians. And we're keeping Texas regardless.

Fen said...

Aren't the nationalists funny?

"Your conquest of our lands was unjust and illegal, but it was just and fair when we gained our lands by conquest..."

They always seem to draw the historical line right after their own ascendency.

/hmmm, "nationalist" is not a very precise word... lil help?

Revenant said...

But arguing that everyone else has to do what California does just to be fair to California is, to be polite, disingenuous steer manure.

I think the argument is that the other states have to do it in order to be fair to red-state Democrats, who are in the same position as Californian Republicans. The argument is, basically, that it is unfair to be fair to California Republicans unless you are fair to Texan Democrats at the same time. That seems a little bit silly, especially since nothing is stopping red state Democrats from pushing the same sort of reform.

Splitting up California's electoral votes wouldn't be "unfair" to anyone within the state itself.

Too many jims said...

Revenant said...
I'm guessing that every single one of them, if asked "Would you rather (A) lose the next election, but see your party's President elected, or (B) win the next election, but at the cost of your party losing the White House", going to immediately and enthusiastically yell "B!!!!".


I suspect you are quite right. But what I said was that Dems could make these districts less secure. Instead of winning with 62, 65 or 67% of the vote, can you make the candidate comfortable winning with, for example, "only" 56% of the vote. The other side of this is that Dems could rig the Republican districts so that instead of winning with 65% of the vote, they would win by a much higher percent. The idea would be for the Dems to reduce (to the lowest comfortable level) their average winning margin while increasing the Republicans winning margin in the districts that they are left with.

This is precisely what Texas republicans did. In 2002, Texas Republicans won 15 congressional seats. On average (mean), Republicans received 74.3% and the median was 72.88%. Conversely, Texas Democrats in 2002 won 17 seats receiving an average of 71.75% with a median of 64.67%.(The dem mean is skewed because 3 dems ran completely unopposed)

In 2006, Texas Republicans won 19 seats with on average 64.66% and median of 61.76%. Dems in that cycle won 13 seats with a mean of 70.26% and a median of 68%.

Revenant said...

can you make the candidate comfortable winning with, for example, "only" 56% of the vote

The thing is, they can't engineer those percentages in advance.

Let's say they got 68% in the last election. Someone says, well, lets re-gerrymander it, knock that down to 58% next time around.

The Rep has to ask himself -- well, what if something happens to cost me votes? A sex scandal, or maybe a law I voted for turns into a disaster, or some deep-pockets Republican in my district decides to run against me. Normally that might knock me down from 68% to 55% -- but now it's going to knock me down to 47%, and I'm going to lose.

Why give up ANY of your job security just so Hillary Clinton has a slightly better chance of becoming President? What are the odds that she's going to do you -- one out of *hundreds* of Democratic Representatives, and in a blue state to boot -- any favors? Slim to none.

Hell, Democrats could already dominate *every* seat in California if they were willing to accept an average of a 10% margin of victory. They're not willing to do that, because elections aren't predictable enough for 10% to be a safe margin.

John Lynch said...

NO. In order to win the election, the winning candidate MUST have a majority of the electoral votes. This idea makes third- parties much more viable, since they only have to win a district to get a vote. That makes it much harder to get a majority in the college.

If no candidate gets a majority, the election is decided by the US House of Representatives. Each STATE delegation gets one vote. That means Montana has a vote, Wyoming has a vote... see where this is going? Small states would have an enormous role in choosing the President. And the candidate with the most votes could lose... even more easily.

This would lead to more Presidents chosen by plurality, even very small percentages of the popular vote could win the election if the Congressional delegations of enough small states went along. This is not democratic.

BAD idea. A national popular vote is a MUCH better idea than this. This is a guaranteed Constitutional crises.

Simon said...

John Lynch said...
"... This is a guaranteed Constitutional crises."

This is a perfect exemplification of the concern raised in my 8:46 AM comment yesterday. Third parties will lead to fragmentation in the electoral college, which will lead to more plurality Presidents and elections being decided by the House. Which would be perfectly legitimate and unexceptionable, but for the fact that people who think like John will declare the normal operation of the system a "guaranteed Constitutional cris[i]s." It's not a Constitutional crisis, it's the Constitution working just fine, the way it was designed to work, the way it's always worked. The "crisis" only arises if one doesn't accept the legitimacy of the Constitution, as John (whose breathless recitation of very ordinary and well-known features of the Constitutional landscape doesn't seem to bespeak deep familiarity with it) appears not to.

hdhouse said...

ahh but Simon, before you leap all over John, let's play "what if".

So all states adopt the california proposal and they are free to do so obviously. If we get by the obvious appeal of gerrymandering the districts to death, it would result in something much closer to a national vote/everyone equal than at present...435 times better perhaps....but if the "what if" tosses the election into the house of representatives to decide and that may bring about the crisis as "electors" are free to cast their votes as they see fit (although it rarely happens)... so on the initial ballot it could be 24 to 24 to 2....the 2 having then much more power than either 24...

Would we not slip then into something of a parliamentary form? where coalitions produce a not voted for majority?..but the points made about vote counting...that the entire matter would or could hinge upon intrastate district by district challenges...

How also would this idea square with Ross Perot's up to 19% showing but 0 electoral votes. Would we not be creating something of a mass "at large" voting system?

I defer to you but my opinion is when you start plowing this ground all manner of stuff turns up and the abitrator is going to be the courts not the house of representatives as the constitution intended.

Simon said...

Harry,
I think John's objection is to the very notion of the House contingency, rather than concerns that it'd break down in practical operation. If I'm understanding your hypothetical, you're suggesting that there would be a crisis if members of the House function as faithless electors. But I'm not sure how one can have faithless electors when those electors aren't pledged - members of the House have no obligation -- let me rephrase that, no institutional obligation (conceivably they might have a partisan obligation, and perhaps there'd be circumstances in which some other obligation might arise extraneous to their institutional identity) -- that I can think of to vote for any particular candidate. Or are you suggesting that in a landscape where every state assigns electors based on the outcome in particular districts, a member of Congress would be bound to vote for whichever candidate their district's elector

I don't know if this would produce the parliamentary system that you're alluding to, but in practical operation, I suppose it might. Still: it's worth keeping in mind the hoary old point that many of the framers expected the college to deadlock and thus the House to routinely decide elections, so I have a hard time understanding how the correct operation of a process explicitly laid out in the Constitution and whose use was anticipated by those who wrote the process could possibly be a "Constitutional crisis" in and of itself. This isn't to say that its operation (and particularly its malfunction) can't lead to a Constitutional crisis -- for example, when the 1800 election went into the House, the House deadlocked and the prospect of Adams' term expiring without the election having been resolved - and thus, who would be President until the mess was sorted out if that day arrived - started to get perilously close. That was legitimately a Constitutional crisis. But that kind of crisis can happen even without the House contingency (for example, if somehow the 2000 election had been thrown into the House after Bush v. Gore and the House remained in deadlock until January 20th, that would arguably represent a crisis), and in any event, that supports the argument that the system has the potential to create a crisis, not (as I read John's comment) that the system is itself a crisis.

I'd add, in relation to the parliamentary form -- I talked about tradition upthread, about this idea of interstitial common law, of certainly practices accreting around the text - a lot of the familiar operations of government come to us by longstanding tradition, not because they are mandated by the text. I think we can all imagine different ways of government operating which would be very different to what we're used to, yet would still be within the text. The example I like to use to illustrate the point is that the text only requires that there be a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court - it doesn't say that the Chief Justice has to be a discrete office. Nothing in the text prevents having a law somewhat similar to 28 USC 45, saying that the Chief Justice is simply the most senior Justice on the court. So if you'd enacted that in 2001, when Rehnquist died, Justice Stevens would automatically have become the Chief Justice, and Bush would simply have nominated the junior justice. That's a very different system to the one we're used to, but it's within the letter of the text, and it may even be a good one. It's not our system - the practices and traditions that have accreted around the text give it form and content. But still, as a matter of raw constitutional power, theoretically it could happen without it being a crisis and without changing the constitution any. Likewise, the routine settling of elections by the House would not be our system, and it would give rise to (as Ann put it) "[a] whole new game will need to be learned[, s]omeone will figure it out first, and strange things wiill happen." It's not a prospect I relish, but it wouldn't be a Constitutional crisis.

My fear, though, is that people like John will refuse to accept the legitimacy of the new form, and will demand not a return to the old system, but that we abandon the old system entirely. In other words, a constitutional crisis will be manufactured to support a constitutional amendment.

Lastly, I think the courts would probably remain about as involved as they are now - or at least, they would remain on their present trajectory of involvement, if you see what I mean, insofar as candidates will probably continue to litigate about recounts and so forth, but I think courts will generally remain on the threshold. They'll be involved in deciding issues before the electoral college meets, but really, once the college meets it's hard to see where the courts can (or would) be interposed. Of course, you can never quite predict these things, which is a good reason to be very cautious of such momentous changes.

Simon said...

Sorry, that first paragraph should have concluded, "are you suggesting that in a landscape where every state assigns electors based on the outcome in particular districts, a member of Congress would be bound to vote for whichever candidate their district's elector was pledged to?"

John Lynch said...

I'm fine with either the current system OR a flat popular vote. I'd take a House decision if that's what was Constitutionally mandated by the results of an election. But I lived through 2000, and I know that such bizarre occurances are corrosive to people's faith in the process. Why not avoid that? Especially since it would start becoming the norm rather quickly once small parties started emerging?

John Lynch said...

And I was strongly hinting that you'd be giving an advantage to conservative, if not always Republican, candidates by giving small states like Wyoming so much power. Just because I am conservative doesn't mean I think this is democratic. Presidents aren't meant to be chosen by state delegations in Congress. That's not the system we're used to, and I don't think the results would be better than the current one.

This idea got put on the ballot in Colorado, which is why I thought long and hard about it. I don't think my conclusion is that far- fetched given the performance of Ross Perot, and I do think that the first House election since the early days of the Republic would be a crisis. Besides the possibility of ties, what if an individual state's delegation deadlocks? It's a mess best avoided.

Matthew said...

Our system isn't supposed to be democratic. That's why we're called a constitutional republic, and at the beginning only land-owning white males could vote, and they couldn't even directly elect Senators. Senate filibusters, the electoral college, etc., are all designed so that a small minority can throw a wrench into the whole system. And that's the point. It's harder to trample on the rights of the people when you need more than 60% of the votes.

Revenant said...

BAD idea. A national popular vote is a MUCH better idea than this. This is a guaranteed Constitutional crises.

Your scenario makes no sense. There would no reason to vote for a third-party candidate in your district -- he's got no chance of winning the Presidency.

Furthermore, you'd still need to get a majority in your district. Notice how there are virtually no third-party Congressmen? That's because third-party candidates can't even win a Congressional district.

Plus, of course, there would be no "Constitutional crisis" even if third-party voters did prevent a majority -- the Constitution clearly spells out the rules to be followed.

Revenant said...

It's harder to trample on the rights of the people when you need more than 60% of the votes.

That's true, but it has nothing to do with the electoral college system. Just because the EC makes it possible to win in the face of majority opposition doesn't make it a check on the tyranny of the majority.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

John Lynch said...
"I lived through 2000, and I know that such bizarre occurances are corrosive to people's faith in the process."

We kind of agree and disagree. I disagree to the extent that reference to the 2000 election would seem to dispell the suggestion that the people will reject the system when shaken awake. As Ann pointed out:

"After the 2000 election, one heard surprisingly little expression of alarm or outrage that the electoral vote allocation caused the loser of the popular vote to win. Though Al Gore usually inserted the fact of his popular victory in his various public statements, he used it as a background justification for pursuing the Florida recount. Clearly, the foreground principle was counting every vote in Florida, not counting every vote in the nation equally. Longley and Braun asserted that people voting for a President think they are voting in a single national election and that the actual plan used should reflect what people believe they are doing. But the aftermath of the 2000 election demonstrated just how well people understood that they were voting in fifty-one concurrent elections that would be aggregated according to an eighteenth-century scheme. The nation understood three hundred votes in Florida to be more significant than a half-million votes nationwide. Appeals to principle stressed not that existing rules of allocating voting power were wrong, but that the rules needed to be scrupulously followed. The two sides had plenty of disagreement over exactly what the specific rules for counting votes in Florida were, and everyone recognized that the machinery for casting votes needed fixing, but there was widespread acceptance of the structure of the electoral college and even the House contingency, which people presumed would operate in a purely partisan manner."

Althouse, Electoral College Reform: Déjà vu, 95 Nw. U. L. Rev 993, 1011-2 (2001) (emphasis in original). On the other hand, I agree with you to the extent that I would worry that there is the potential for the regular invocation of the House contingency to be weaponized by the losing side. Al Gore's strategy in 2000 was to work within the system, and by the time he realized he was going to lose using this approach, it was too late for him to credibly reject the process. In the future, a losing party might take a different route and mount a frontal assault on the process, claiming popular mandate. One can very easily imagine this playing out in 2008 if Hillary eeks out a popular vote win yet loses in the electoral college - I can very easily imagine the same liberals who have howled that Bush has violated the Constitution turning around and bawling that they're the legitimate winners and demanding their candidate be recognized a President, Constitution be damed. And in the longer term, I agree that the existing structure is best preserved by keeping the contingency a rarely-invoked one.

John Lynch said...
"Presidents aren't meant to be chosen by state delegations in Congress. That's not the system we're used to...."

They are - and it is - when and if the electoral college deadlocks.

hdhouse said...

Simon, I don't use the word or phrase constitutional crisis which seems to crop up all the time on the scrawl on cnn. but i do think that if the issues that potential could arise are first resorted to resolution in the courts rather than in the college and perhaps the house a crisis in fact could unfold.

my major fear is that with a new state methodology there is no time to work out the "what ifs" and in a state like california and with its appelate court, all manner of ups and downs could occur. given california's litigation over a pindrop history it is assuredly on its way to the courts after the first ballot is cast.

your points are well taken as always. my main point is another katherine harris will be lurking in the woodpile and the closeness of a split california vote could yield all manner of mischief.

Wade Garrett said...

Ann,

If California changes, then every state should be forced to change. The Democrats would pick up 20-something votes in every election if California and Florida voted proportionately. Even if its up to the states, that doesn't mean its fair, or that its good for the country. If every vote counted, then the candidates would ignore the small states and focus entirely on the larger states, which is exactly the sort of thing the Founders created the electoral college to prevent.

Ann Althouse said...

"If California changes, then every state should be forced to change."

"Should"? What does that refer to? Your hopes? Or is there some political reality you perceive? Explain.