Elections & Voting
GOP secretly behind proposal to change California electoral disbursement solely to benefit its 2008 presidential candidate
By Terry Heath
Online Journal Guest Writer

Aug 31, 2007, 02:37

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 elections.

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 citizenry.�

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 Schwarzenegger.

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 in response.

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 White House.

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.

If 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.

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