Commentary: Presidential Power Play

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 9, 2007

Under California’s winner take all rules, the candidate for president who wins a majority of votes statewide collects all 55 of the state’s electoral college votes.

Because California tends to lean Democrat, it’s assumed all 55 will go to the Democratic candidate in 2008. But the proposed initiative changes that rule. It would divide up California’s electoral votes based on which candidate received a majority in each of the state’s congressional districts.

Because 20 or so California congressional districts lean Republican, under the initiative, the Republican candidate would likely pick up 20 of the state’s electoral votes. In a tight race nationally, 20 votes are more than enough to decide the presidency.

Frankly, it may make sense to divide electoral votes based on tallies in congressional districts – but to be fair, it has to be applied across the nation, in Republican leaning Texas as well as Democratic leaning California. To do it just in California rigs the election in favor of the Republican. That’s not fair. It’s a cynical partisan ploy, and if it works, it will throw the nation into a constitutional crisis – weakening the legitimacy of our elected leaders and of our democracy itself.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.