Thursday, June 1, 2006

California's Electoral Votes

There is a bill going through the California state legislature that, if passed, would give California's electoral votes to the presidential nominee who wins the national popular vote. This was a little puzzling to me at first, but it's starting to sink in.

From the LA Times:
As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means that Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states -- mostly in the upper Midwest --that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact, under which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdiction but nationwide. Proponents argue that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

The bill is part of a three-month-old movement driven by a Bay Area lawyer and Stanford University computer science professor. The same 888-word bill is now pending in four other states and expected to be introduced in every state by January 2007, its sponsors say. The legislation would not go into effect until enough states pass such laws to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes -- a minimum of 13 states, depending upon population.

“This is a bill that would allow California to be able to play a role in presidential elections,” said Barry Fadem, the Lafayette lawyer spearheading the drive. Now, because the state is largely ignored, he said, “A vote in California is not equal to a vote in Ohio and everyone would concede that.”

The bill, by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg, cleared the Assembly 49-31 with a single Republican vote from Republican Assemblyman Rick Keene. To become law it must be passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Fadem said he was surprised by the partisan divide in the Assembly vote. In the New York legislature Republicans introduced the bill, he said, and they support it in Illinois, Missouri and Colorado. ...

“Small states suffer here,” said Republican Assemblyman Michael Villines. “Yes, California is a big state. But I don’t want a candidate to go to 10, 12 big urban centers, win a majority and walk away with the presidency.”

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