GOP "Dirty Tricks" Posted by: Dale Franks
on Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Aaaaah! It's good to have the New York Times' opinion pages back again! They never disappoint. Like today's Bob Herbert column. Once again America's most boring columnist is railing at the "Dirty Tricks" the GOP is attempting in California, trying to steal yet another—the third, by Bob's count—presidential election.
Like crack addicts confronting the irresistible vial, the evil geniuses of the G.O.P. can’t seem to help themselves. This time — with an eye toward seizing the White House again next year, even if they lose the popular vote — they’re trying to rewrite the rules for the distribution of electoral votes in California.
Under current law, all of California’s 55 electoral votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote statewide. This “winner take all” system is the norm in the U.S. It’s in place in all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, which have just four and five electoral votes, respectively.
Now comes a move, from lawyers with close ties to the Republican Party, to scrap the current system in California and replace it with one that would divide up the electoral votes in a way that would likely give 20 or more of them to the candidate who loses the popular vote in the state.
Democrats fear, correctly, that this maneuver could checkmate even their best efforts to win back the White House next year.
I really like the bit about how the plan "would divide up the electoral votes in a way that would likely give 20 or more of them to the candidate who loses the popular vote in the state."
Yeah. OK. But wouldn't they go to the candidate who wins the popular vote in that district? Why is Bob Herbert trying to silence the voters in 40% of California's electoral districts?
Now, don't get me wrong. I think the plan is a bad idea, too. But I think it's a bad idea because, like the switch to direct election of US Senators, it moves us farther away from the republican ideal, and ever closer to direct democracy.
Democracy, as it's form gets purer, tends to bring out the worst in the electorate. As James Madison, inThe Federalist #10, so cogently observed two centuries ago:
A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
The point of the electoral college is to preserve the voice of states in the selection of the president, rather than having the presidential election devolve into a democratic popularity contest. Indeed, there's no Constitutional requirement for states to even allow a popular election for president. The state legislature, for example, can choose to select the electors themselves, or delegate it to local Kiwanis clubs, or anything else they desire.
The thing that's odd about this column of Mr. Herbert's is that, for the most part, the post-2000 progressive desire has been to do exactly what GOP lawyers are trying to do in California: make the electoral vote more commensurate with the popular vote. Or, even better, eliminate the electoral college completely. And they wish to do this because the electoral college is explicitly anti-majoritarian, hence, anti-democratic.
Which makes Mr. Herbert's closing pasage seem a little...odd.
What the Democrats need to do now is make sure that California voters understand that they are the latest targeted pawns in the G.O.P.’s longstanding efforts to undermine not just the Democrats but democracy itself.
Uh-huh. I see.
So, now that it looks like an electoral college reform might really hurt Democrats, all the sudden the electoral college is a cornerstone of democracy, because changing it might result in 22 more electoral votes going to Republicans.
Oh, and speaking of democracy, what, exactly, is the "dirty trick" being perpetrated here? It's not like back-room deals are being cut, in order to present the voters of California with a fait accompli. Quite the opposite.
The backers of this idea are attempting to get the electoral college reform plan in front of California's voters via the ballot proposition process. Every voter in California would be allowed to evaluate the plan personally, and vote yea or nay on a statewide ballot proposition. If a majority of the voters approve it, it will become law.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but allowing the electorate at large to vote for or against this proposition sounds...I dunno..democratic to me.
So, let's see if I have Mr. Herbert's main points straight here. It is a danger to democracy to allow the state's voters to vote on, and possibly approve, a plan that would make the state's electoral vote count reflect more closely the actual votes cast for president in California.
Well. That's an...interesting interpretation of democracy.
Splitting up the electoral votes might make sense if there was no gerrymandering. That way candidates could appeal on a more national level and would contest each state more. But then why not just have a popular vote?
Doesn’t the current system give disproportionate power to %50+1. Seems like it magnifies populism to me. To me, the important part is that each state gets to decide what is best for them. This is an area that is clearly left up to the individual state. I like Maine’s approach, one for each district, then the remainder to the winner of the popular vote. It does give some bonus to the popular award winner while giving incentive to vote in an otherwise lopsided race.
Btw, I am partial to the idea in part because I think it is the best chance of a third party ever getting an electoral vote. Another thing of note, I really don’t care about being courted by politicians, so other people’s views may differ greatly from mine.
As a Californian, normally I’d cry foul to such highjinks. However, we cannot seem to get redistricting going in this state. Something like 5% of legislative seats changed hands last election, ridiculous. Virtually all seats are safe. Even the few R’s are complicit, as they have relatively safe seats. As it now stands, our elections are exercises that mean nothing. This would certainly change that.
"The U.S. Constitution prohibits a ballot measure that would trump a state legislature’s chosen method of appointing electors. In Article II, Section 1, the Constitution declares that electors shall be appointed by states ’in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.’ That’s legislature. California’s could scrap its current winner-take-all approach and adopt a district-by-district system for allocating electors (as only Maine and Nebraska currently do). But the voters—whom the initiative supporters have turned to because they don’t have the support of the Democratic-controlled legislature—cannot do this on their own." From Slate By Doug Kendall Posted Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, at 7:34 AM ET
Well, sorry, but he’s wrong. The ballot initiative process is approved by the legislature as a valid method of changing California Law. therefore, the legislature has—intentionally or not—given their approval for Californians to use the ballot initiative to change the states laws.
I guess the 500K-3M votes that were cast by felons, non-residents, double/multiple votes, and illegal aliens (estimated 500,000 in 2000) don’t count even though every indication pointed to Democratic complicity.