August 22, 2007

Californians Willing To Forego Winner-Take-All

A proposed referendum to replace the current winner-take-all system in California for presidential elections has a strong plurality in favor, according to a Field poll. Voters asked whether they support allocating Electoral College votes on a proportional basis agreed 47%-35% that the current system should be jettisoned -- and Democrats were as likely to support it as oppose it. (via Memeorandum)

At Heading Right, I look at the two ways in which Field pollsters posed this question. The results will surprise readers who might have assumed that heavily-Democratic California would consider this proposition. California may benefit from this new allocation -- and it may be the next political wave that starts at the Golden State's shore.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (21)

Posted by bulbasaur | August 22, 2007 8:33 AM

I can't believe this.

The response of democrats to this poll defies the laws of physics. Has to be a hidden glitch in this poll, weighting, non-response, something.

Posted by Neo | August 22, 2007 8:53 AM

The most postive aspect to going proportional is that the candidates will actually come to California.

With the state solid enough to go majority Democrat, and the 55 electoral votes firmly in Democratic hands, noone including Democrats will spent any amount of time in the state campaigning for President.

Posted by RKV | August 22, 2007 9:02 AM

Red California/Blue California is a real division, that us natives have known about for a long time. Once the majority of blue staters (Frisco and LA) get the mailer from the California Democratic Party telling them to vote no on this, it will fail. Too bad.

Posted by Mikey NTH | August 22, 2007 9:06 AM

So California is committed to this? I'm sure the Democrats must be upset as this will take electoral college votes out of their column and put them in the Republican column. This will make it harder for any Democrat to win the White House and will force the Democratic candidate to spend time and money fighting to keep too many California electoral votes from straying, money and time that could be spent elsewhere.

Posted by Jeremy Abrams | August 22, 2007 9:10 AM

A great idea, because it will save the Electoral College. And what is so great about the Electoral College? It serves as a circuit breaker on electoral fraud, limited the effect of the fraud to only the state where it occurs.

If presidential elections were determined by the popular vote alone, the maunfacturing of fake votes in any one location could tilt the entire election. This in turn would also greatly raise the motivation to perform the fraud in the first place.

Indeed, if fraudsters could no longer even flip a state, but only a few electoral votes within that state, the motivation would be that much smaller.

Posted by Cicero | August 22, 2007 9:21 AM

I think this plan should more accurately be called district allocation instead of proportional allocation. True proportional allocation would involve the vote of the state as a whole, whereas this plan gives out the electoral college votes based on how each district turns, with only 2 "at-large".

This would then turn more attention to state legislative races, since it is the state legislature that determines the shape of the congressional districts every 10 years. This would lead, I think, to even more egregious gerrymandering than we have yet seen in modern times.


Posted by Dennis Clark | August 22, 2007 9:29 AM

Should CA voters take this road then it must follow that ALL Votes be counted; to include the absentee votes of the military. They are often left out as "haveing no bearing on the election's outcome." However a few thousands of votes could have bearing on the outcome of a divided electorial vote.

Posted by RKV | August 22, 2007 9:36 AM

It beggars the mind to consider how we might get "more egregious gerrymandering" than we have now. I live in California's 23rd Congressional District. It traces the coastline from Monterey County south to Ventura County. Although it is 200 miles long, its width ranges from five miles to 100 yards - built to carefully avoid Republican neighborhoods. When discussing the 2001 creation of this district Governor Schwarzenegger said it looked like it was drawn by “a drunk with an Etch-a-Sketch.”

Posted by sestamibi | August 22, 2007 10:49 AM

As a Republican, I should support this in California for self-serving reasons, but there are several things wrong with it.

First, it would subject the presidential election process to the same forces of gerrymandering affecting each party's numbers in Congress.

Second, it would skew the process to the extent that more Red/Blue states adopt the scheme.

Third, it is of questionable legality, as the Constitution very explicitly states that electors shall be chosen in such manner as the legislature shall direct.

Fourth, as RKV points out above, once the Dems start their attack on it it will be moot anyway.

Posted by Bender | August 22, 2007 11:43 AM

As it currently stands, California is far too large and, thus, it destablizes as very good system. No single state should have so much weight in deciding anything. Either go to a proportional system, or modified proportional system, or the rest of the country needs to partition California into two or more parts.

Posted by MZoom | August 22, 2007 11:47 AM

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by all this. The poll may be reflecting a political reality that came to light with the election of Arnold -- that the CA middle is increasingly liberal republican. Moderate on social issues (read abortion) and fiscally conservative (taxes, spending). The CA middle is also a tough on crime crowd.

If you think about it, this group hasn't had much in the way of representation (given the extreme nature of both state parties) but they've had a big impact on the state in recent elections. Arnold has won two elections in convincing fashion. The majority of statewide propositions since 2000 have broken towards the republican position. These results don't happen without the middle. This group may see the measure as a way of gaining a bigger voice. I wouldn't dismiss this so easily.

Posted by RKV | August 22, 2007 12:38 PM

I wonder if sestamibi is really a Democrat? I certainly disagree with his points and he doesn't get my conclusion right, either. My point was that we are gerrymandered to an extreme degree already - it literally cannot get worse. As to red and blue states skewing the electoral process if this is widely adopted, I assert the net effect would be just the opposite. AND we still get to keep the benefits of the electoral college system - and yes there is a huge benefit to that type of system. It removes incentives to cheat because the benefit of cheating is limited.

I would love for this reform to pass in California, I was only suggesting the partisan Democrats will resist it because it is clearly not in their interest. If as MZoom suggests there is a large reservoir of socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters out there I think it would give them heart to take on the socialists who run the state DemocRATic Party.

And yes, I think California should be broken up into about 6 to 12 states. We could use the Senators and we are certainly being taxed by the Feds more than they are spending in the state.

Posted by JEM | August 22, 2007 12:50 PM

The fact is that California is geographically a lot of red, with a few densely-populated clusters of very deep blue mostly on the coast, and a lot of pastel scattered in between.

I think you'd see California Republicans and a lot of independents backing this measure strongly, because the Democrat power structure has basically disenfranchised everyone else and the state GOP doesn't know how to find its keister with both hands and a flashlight.

As for what it means for candidates: the Bay Area and that crumbling, overrun Third World mess called Greater Los Angeles will go Democrat. But most of the rest of the state would be up for grabs. And that's more electoral votes than many states.

The question is this: are the backers going to find enough money to counteract the inevitable avalanche of opposition dollars from all the usual Democrat/union/Soros/etc. suspects? Because if it looks like this has a chance of winning, it's going to get very nasty.

Posted by bulbasaur | August 22, 2007 1:04 PM

JEM I agree with you. This is gonna be a battle to the death. It would virtually guarantee no democrat would ever again see the inside of the oval office, whether from the chair, or from the intern's perspective.

Posted by Kyle Haight | August 22, 2007 1:37 PM

While the short-term impact of this proposal would certainly benefit the Republican party, I still think even GOP supporters should oppose this. You can't consider just the short-term impact. This is the entry point of a wedge directed against the Electoral College as such. This won't stop at California. Sure, the GOP benefits from this, but what happens when the same proposal passes in Texas, Florida and Ohio?

If we're opposed to the Electoral College, we should get rid of it simultaneously across the entire nation. Eliminating it state-by-state is just another form of gerrymandering for political advantage. Would you be so excited if the state considering this were Texas instead of California?

As far as I can tell, the main reason to 'like' this proposal is that it has the concrete effect of making it easier for the GOP to gain and retain the White House. I thought the leftists were supposed to be the ones who would do anything in pursuit of power.

Posted by RKV | August 22, 2007 2:01 PM

Kyle, "Winner take all" is not prescribed by the US Constitution - Nebraska and Maine already do it this way. And it preserves the one of the essential features of the electoral college in that it continues to limit the benefits of voting fraud.

No Kyle, this is nowhere near a wedge directed against the electoral college. That would take a constitutional amendment, unless done in stealth as the proposal to give California's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote does.

Posted by Sara | August 22, 2007 2:27 PM

I live in a very large county in So. Cal., Riverside. It went 58% to 41% for Bush in 2004 and is always in the red category for statewide reps. My own Congressional rep, Darrell Issa, was the driving force behind the recall of Davis that put Arnold into office on his first go-round for Governor. In 2002, we had two cities that were vying for the fastest growing cities in the country. Yet we are saddled with the likes of Boxer and Feinstein because the population centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco/Marin county cancel out our votes year after year. Our neighboring county to the south, San Diego, also went for Bush in 2004 52.6% to 46.4%. And our neighboring county to the East, San Bernardino, also went for Bush 55% to 43%. Orange County went for Bush 59.7% to 39%. It all gets canceled by Los Angeles who went for Kerry 63% to 35%. In other words, the majority of So. Cal voters have no voice when it comes to national or statewide politics. I think this measure is a good one and would be strongly supported around So. Cal.

Posted by unclesmrgol | August 22, 2007 2:36 PM


It's fair to apportion the votes, regardless of state.


This is a really interesting subject. Wiki Twelfth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
and wiki faithless_Electors and wiki United_States_Electoral_College.

In particular, look for the word Minnesota under Faithless Electors and note what Minnesota did as a result of John Edward's name being misspelled by one of its electors in the 2004 election. I suspect that Minnesota's response is unconstitutional, since it compels a certain vote from a federal officer and mandates the result of what is a federal process. The Constitution states that electors are selected in a manner chosen by the legislatures of the several states, not that these legislatures have any say in how the vote is conducted. Similar wording appears in section 3 (since superceded by the 17th Amendment), concerning the election of Senators; it is obvious in both cases that the Framers intended the elected officers to exercise independent judgement.

Posted by RKV | August 22, 2007 3:43 PM

If I understand this correctly, the net effect would be to link the Presidency to the elections in the House of Representatives (as a practical matter). Think about the mathematics. 435 House seats plus 100 Senatorial seats equals the number of electors in the Electoral College (oops, plus 3 for DC for a total of 538). Assuming that all electors are "faithful" of course the 2004 Presidential election the results would have been GWB winning 294-243-1(other) instead of 286-252. Popular votes for 2004 were 50.7% for GWB and 48.3% for JFK.

As another example 1992 would have been 325-212-1 for WJBC over GHWB (electoral college was 370-168)and popular vote percentages were 43% for WJBC, GHWB 37% and HRP 19%. Perot still would not have got any electors, since he had no Congressional seats won by his party.

Posted by Joshua | August 22, 2007 10:15 PM

RKV (and all): Another idiosyncrasy of this system, if taken nationwide, is that it would theoretically be possible, albeit extremely unlikely, to lose the electoral vote despite winning the popular vote in all fifty states and DC.

Winning a state guarantees you three EVs for that state: the two corresponding to that state's Senate seats, and at least one congrsssional district in that state. Multiplied by 51, that equals 153 - a huge headstart, but well short of the 270 needed to win the White House. You'd still have to win 117 more individual congressional districts to clinch. Your opponent, meanwhile, would have to win 270 districts scattered across the country - a tall order to be sure, but definitely doable.

Posted by Joshua | August 22, 2007 10:27 PM

RKV (and all): Another idiosyncrasy of this system, if taken nationwide, is that it would theoretically be possible, albeit extremely unlikely, to lose the electoral vote despite winning the popular vote in all fifty states and DC.

Winning a state guarantees you three EVs for that state: the two corresponding to that state's Senate seats, and at least one congrsssional district in that state. Multiplied by 51, that equals 153 - a huge headstart, but well short of the 270 needed to win the White House. You'd still have to win 117 more individual congressional districts to clinch. Your opponent, meanwhile, would have to win 270 districts scattered across the country - a tall order to be sure, but definitely doable.

Post a comment