When All Else Fails, Change the Rules

Republicans must be *really* worried about their prospects of retaining the White House in 2008: California Electoral Vote Split Proposed

In a nutshell, instead of all of California's votes going to the statewide winner, the proposal would change things such that the statewide winner gets awarded two votes, and the other votes would each be determined by the candidate receiving the most votes within each congressional district. Given the way California's districts are assigned, that probably guarantees Republicans an additional 19 or 20 electoral votes that they have very little chance of winning under the statewide system.

The motive is obvious. It's calculated move on the part of Republicans to alter the electoral math in their favor. It's an appalling powergrab, dressed up in 'power-to-the-people' clothing.

However, I am compelled to examine the principles at stake... not merely in terms of its immediate practical political impact, but also more generally speaking, as a matter of principle... Might such an approach actually be better for democracy, in general? Should electoral votes be assigned on the district level, rather than on the state level? What are the implications of some states going that way and others going winner-take-all?

Well, if applied equally, across the board... such that states of every size, red and blue alike, were required to split their votes by district... Republicans that live in 'blue' states and Democrats that live in 'red' states might feel less disenfranchised if they had some chance of altering the outcome of the election based on their vote. However, it should be noted that many voters still live in congressional districts dominated by the other party, and for those people, the disenfranchisement either remains the same (if the district is dominated by the same party that dominates the state) or else is simply reversed (if the district is dominated by the party that is the minority of the state as a whole.) It should be apparent that moving the locus of disenfranchisement to smaller and smaller geographical units does not inherently solve the problem.

Moreover, a blanket nationwide switch is not likely to happen all at once. Since states get to decide the dispensation of their own votes, a blanket solution isn't going to emerge overnight. And the prospect of a situation in which big 'blue' states are forced to hand out their votes piecemeal whereas big 'red' states continue to give their votes in a monolithic block to their favored candidate isn't a fair solution at all. It's gaming the system for partisan advantage.

Furthermore, even if every state simultaneously implemented the new vote-allocation-per-district system... that still wouldn't guarantee fairness. It might even be *worse*, inasmuch as state boundaries exist for largely historic reasons whereas voting districts are drawn expressly for reasons of representation (in principle) and vote allocation (in practice). Anyone who honestly believes that such considerations will be always handled in a fair and nonpartisan method hasn't been paying attention. If we think politics are ugly and partisan now, think how much worse it could get if the lines start getting redrawn any time there's an election at stake.

I am guessing (and very much hoping, of course) that this won't gain much traction in California, but as the article mentions, the mere possibility of it going to ballot means that Democrats might have to spend valuable resources campaigning against such a move. Not encouraging at all.

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