No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

SF Chronicle – We’re for Democraticy, not democracy

by @ 11:56 on August 20, 2007. Filed under Idiotorial of the Day, Politics - National.

Thanks to the fine folks at Free Republic, I’ve expanded my search for stupid idiotorials. The San Francisco Chronicle obliged with a missive (mis)titled “In defense of 55 electoral votes”. How is this idiotorial wrong? Let’s count the ways…

AMERICANS DON’T like the Electoral College. It’s unwieldy, it seems anti-democratic and it has given rise to one of the more despicable facts of modern presidential campaigning: rather than addressing the concerns of the entire country, major-party candidates choose to do most of their post-primary campaigning in just a few battleground states – Ohio and Florida happen to be the most popular ones right now. So, in the face of a proposed California ballot measure that means to erode it, allow us to explain why the Electoral College system is worth defending – at least until someone comes up with a nonpartisan, effective means of abolishing it.

It’s meant to be unwieldy. Indeed, it’s meant to preserve, after a fashion, the last bit of rights the states have over the federal government. I’m sure that, especially now, Plastic Pelosi’s hometown paper would love the British system of the party that runs the legislative automatically running the executive. Oh, and if anything, that’s less-democratic (small “d”) than what we have now.

I’ll wait until a bit later to take a whack at their “defense”, but I will note right now that a ballot initiative is of questionable constitutionality. The US Constitution specifically gives the various state legislatures sole determination of how to allocate the electors. It could easily be argued that a change in the allocation via California’s ballot initiative, which does not involve the Legislature at all, would be explicitly unconstitutional.

The ballot measure, known right now only as No. 07-0032, was filed by Thomas W. Hiltachk, managing partner of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk. This is the law firm for the California Republican Party. The measure would do away with the custom of awarding all of California’s 55 electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote. Instead, 2 electoral votes would be given to the statewide winner and the rest would be given to whoever won in each of 53 congressional districts. Because 19 of California’s 53 districts are represented by Republicans, and 22 districts voted for President Bush in 2004, this initiative would probably offer around 20 electoral votes to a Republican in the 2008 presidential election.

But, but, but I thought the Chronicle wanted democracy. Two states (Maine and Nebraska) already allocate their electors this way.

“What can be more fair than this?” said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for Californians for Equal Representation, which is the nominal entity sponsoring the initiative. “Everyone’s voice is going to be heard. It could even help third-party candidates, like the Green Party, in a place like San Francisco.”

It definitely would boost turnout in various portions of California. Of course, most of them would be Pubbies that would finally have a reason to vote, and the rest would be the Naderites.

Also, placing a good number of formerly-safe ‘Rat votes into the mix will get the candidates into California. Then again, that’s not the Chronicle’s goal; it is to get DhimmiRATs elected no matter what.

Please. This is nothing but dirty politics. Nor are snatch-and-grab initiatives just like this one the sole province of Republican interests. In 2004, Colorado voters rejected a similar initiative that would’ve benefited the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry. (President Bush beat Kerry 52 to 42 percent, but had the initiative passed, Kerry would’ve gotten 4 electoral votes to Bush’s 5.)…

STOP THE TAPE! Giving 100% of one state’s electoral vote to somebody who garners a plurality is the very definition of dirty politics. As an aside, the emphasis was in the original. Roll tape.

…Colorado voters, who initially supported the measure, realized a couple of things that Californians must come to recognize should No. 07-0032 make it onto our June 3 ballot:

— Splitting the number of electoral votes a candidate can win from any one state is highly unlikely to motivate them to spend more time here,…

STOP THE TAPE!!! When was the last time a Presidential candidate really invested time in California? The ‘Rats currently considers those 55 almost as safe as New York’s, while the wiser Pubbies have completely ignored California since 1988. The only thing that might change that calculus under the current system is if the Pubbie hails from California, and neither half of the ‘Rat ticket is from west of the Rockies. Put at least some of those votes in play, and attention will necessarily follow.


— Measures such as this are useless and, usually, highly partisan, unless the entire country adopts them.

Which explains why Nebraska and Maine do this already </sarcasm>.

That’s why any credible measure to reform the Electoral College – and there have been hundreds of them, nearly all as flawed as the existing system – must be launched on a national level, preferably by a disinterested party.

Acutally, it can’t, at least without Congressional approval. Those schemes would involve either interstate compacts or a Constitutional amendment, and both have to go through Congress.

For instance, the efforts of John Koza – a genetic programming professor at Stanford University – to circumvent the Electoral College in favor of having each state ensure its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote merit attention. This isn’t because his idea is perfect (it’s certainly not). But what’s worth noting are the facts that he spearheaded a national movement (his group, National Popular Vote, has found 364 sponsors for bills in 47 states) and that Koza has fought hard to appeal to both political parties. (He’s been a Democratic elector, but he’s enthusiastically sought out Republican bill sponsors.) Koza understands that democracy can only work if everyone agrees to play by the same rules – and at the same time.

I do believe I whacked this before.

Would that the sponsors of No. 07-0032 felt the same way. To qualify for the June 3 primary ballot – a ballot that is expected to have low turnout, now that the Legislature has moved the presidential primary portion to Feb. 5 – they must collect more than 400,000 valid signatures. (Eckery said that, to be safe, they’ll need to collect a figure in the range of 700,000.) If the California Republican Party jumps in with money and support, California voters must consider who this measure will truly benefit – we promise that it’s not them.

As a change via ballot initiative would inevitably be tied up in the courts and likely struck down, I agree. However, if the California Legislature were to adopt that plan, I would be in favor.

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