The California Republican Party has surreptitiously filed
paperwork with the state Attorney General�s office in Sacramento to amend how
the state awards its 55 Electoral College votes in future presidential
The initiative would change the current law allowing the
popular voting tally winner taking all of the delegates to apportioning the
count to where the party winner from each of the congressional districts gets
to choose their own delegate. That individual then actually selects this
nation�s chief executive in a move that could have a monumental impact on the 2008
election and beyond if approved by the voters.
The attorney general�s office now has to review the wording
of the proposed initiative from a group calling itself �Californians for Equal
Representation,� with an address listed in that state�s capital city. If
approved, the organization must then obtain the necessary minimum 434,000
signatures from registered voters at an estimated cost of at least $2 million
to place it on the June 2008 primary election ballot. If it passes it would
directly influence who wins next year�s November general election.
The front man for the initiative, temporarily filed as
07-0032 while under review, is an individual named Thomas W. Hiltachk, who
submitted the paperwork. He states in the petition that California�s current electoral
�winner-take-all� system of giving all 55 of its electoral votes to the
candidate who gets the most popular votes in the general election �impedes
credible third party or independent candidacies for president,� and �does not
reflect the vast diversity of our state and the regional differences of our
The proposal also alleges �California is largely taken for
granted by presidential candidates because of its winner-take-all system,� and
those candidates �have spent more time trying to win votes in smaller states
with just a few electoral votes while largely ignoring voters in California
with over ten times the number of electoral votes.�
The backers claim that if the electoral votes were
apportioned then �presidential candidates would have an incentive to campaign
in California and to address the unique problems faced by Californians. Many
geographic areas of the state would be as important to a candidate�s chance for
victory as many of the smaller states.�
But wait. All is not as magnanimous as it may seem by this
proposal and who is actually behind it when they claim it would ostensibly help
out those minor party candidates seeking to win the White House.
Hiltachk may have ulterior motives for sponsoring a major
change in how Californians would select a president and giving assistance to
the losing party in the contest, presumably to be a Republican based on the
results of the last four elections, a chance to win 15 to 20 electoral votes
and potentially affect the national results if it�s a close race like the 2000
contest. That election dispute over the ballot count in Florida ended up being
decided by the U.S. Supreme Court since then candidate George W. Bush didn�t
already have a potential extra dozen-plus electors to ensure his side had
already won, which this proposal would have provided.
It turns out the address for the organization behind this
proposal is also the offices for the law firm of Bell, McAndrews, Hiltachk
& Davidian, of which this initiative sponsor is a partner, and their main
client appears to be the Republican Party. Their website also states Hiltachk
is the personal lawyer on election matters for California Governor Arnold
So any such passage of this initiative would obviously only
boost the Republican Party�s presidential candidate in 2008 and beyond since
the last Republican candidate to actually win the Golden State was George H.W.
Bush in 1988. And that state has no major third party presence that could
benefit an independent, if one chose to run.
California was for many decades considered to be a solid
guarantee for the Republicans with the state going the GOP way in every
election between 1952 and 1988, with the sole exception of 1964�s Lyndon
Johnson landslide over Barry Goldwater which came less than a year after the
assassination of John Kennedy. Favorite sons Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan
carried the state in 1960, 1968, 1972, 1980 and 1984, with Gerald Ford even
winning there in 1976 despite losing the national contest to Jimmy Carter.
But the demographics of the state have changed over the past
two decades with a massive wave of immigrants and registered Democrats now
vastly outnumbering those designating themselves as Republicans. The Democrats
have won every national contest in the Golden State since 1992.
America�s presidential elections are actually decided by the
538 Electoral College electors, who are designated by the individual states�
voters when they go to the polls every fourth November. All the states, plus
the District of Columbia, have a winner take all awarding of their assigned
number of electors, with the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska which designates
several of their respective electors are to be assigned to the party who wins
the congressional district counts in each state.
But Maine only has four electoral votes while Nebraska gets
five, and neither state has had a split vote in any of the last five elections.
But most experts agree that California would be different.
Such a radical proposal worries the Democrats so much that
this potential scenario could override the voter�s intent that a similar
proposal being debated last week in the North Carolina Legislature over its 15
electoral votes, which have gone Republican every election since 1980, to allow
Democrats be potentially be awarded several of those delegates in a similar
manner was scuttled even after having been tentatively approved.
The national organization, under Democratic Party Chairman
Howard Dean, intervened in the matter and told the locals to drop such plans
since they are concerned about how such a move would emboldened the Republicans
in the Golden State and elsewhere to rearrange the rules for their own benefit
The Democrats obviously realized that obtaining a possible
two or three delegates in the Tar Heel State while losing a potential 15 plus
in the largest state in the nation, using the same reasoning, would set a bad
precedent and encourage other states to consider the same action.
A different proposal in Colorado in 2004 called Amendment 36
that would have awarded electors based on a candidate�s percentage of received
votes was turned down by the voters by a two to one margin.
California�s 55 electoral votes, 20.5 percent of the 270
total needed to win the presidency, is any candidate�s top priority. Yet
winning there didn�t do any good for Democrats John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore
in 2000 as both lost to Bush. Yet Hiltachk has a point that the major
candidates could actually spend more time campaigning in California if the state
is actually in play.
But the biggest losers of this proposal would be all of the
minor party and independent candidates seeking their long-shot bid to win the
Despite Ross Perot�s splashy runs in 1992 and 1996, under
the Reform Party banner with 19 percent and six percent of the vote
respectively, he actually got zero electoral votes both times.
The last time a third party candidate received any electoral
votes was in 1968 when George Wallace won 45 votes, all from the south in a
three way race between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.
The only other races in the 20th Century where third party
candidates got electoral votes in significant numbers to potentially affect the
election was in 1948 when Harry Truman won in a four-way race and, in 1912,
when Woodrow Wilson came out triumphant after former President Theodore
Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose Party ticket which cost Republican incumbent
William Howard Taft a chance at a second term.
this California proposal is passed and is then adopted by other states, the
Electoral College System that was created by the Framers could become
drastically altered if delegates are apportioned on the basis of winning
congressional districts, as is done in the parliamentary system of government
seen in the countries of Europe. It could make each state�s political party
leadership potential presidential kingmakers when designating who gets to be an
electoral delegate if a race is close and leave such an election in doubt weeks
or months after the voters had gone to the polls.