This Would Spell Disaster

If anything is a sign that Republicans are desperate, this is it.

The ballot initiative, if passed, would split California, a state that Democrats have won in all four of the last four Presidential cycles, into 53 electoral contests, with the majority winner for the state taking the final 2 electoral votes. This is a potential disaster for the Democrats in ’08 should it pass.

In 2004, had this rule been in place, President Bush would not have had to make Kenneth Blackwell, former Secretary of State in Ohio, carry his water. The 20 odd districts he would have taken in California would have given him the election alone.

I am no fan of the Electoral College. Honestly, while this would be a step closer to a direct election, until the issue of smaller states with disproportionate EC power is addressed, this move would cripple any future Democratic Presidential candidate.

Back in 2000, I did some math that compared the single vote power to Electoral College vote for every state in the union. States that have 6-10 electoral votes faired pretty well, with just about a 1:1 average. States with 11-20 electoral votes saw the power of their vote drop to about .9:1, or each voter was worth about 10% less than the average voter in a state with 3-5 Electoral votes. When you go to states like Texas and California the ratio is more like .75:1. This means that it takes 4 voters in California to achieve the same electoral vote power that it would take 3 in Montana or North Dakota.

Right now, even though states like Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Idaho have some of the lowest populations per square mile, if not per state in the Union, they have a great deal of power because of their electoral college distribution. For instance, Wyoming has less that 500,000 people, but it still has 2 Senators and a Representative, giving it 3 Electoral College votes. 500,000 people is fewer than in TN-09. Were Tennessee to do the same thing with it’s electoral votes, we might be able to give one to a Democratic nominee, but not three. Wyoming can.

Think about it this way. In Electoral College math, Wyoming has 1 vote per165,000 people. California has one for every 664,000. Tennessee has one for every 545,000. So in effect, Wyoming has 4 times the EC power per vote than California, and 3.3 times the power per EC vote than Tennessee. Splitting up California actually makes the problem worse by decreasing the power of each of the 53 districts to 689,000 per. The final two being winner take all…2.

If Republicans really want a fair fight in ’08 they would start a Constitutional Amendment repealing the Electoral College. Unfortunately, over the past 8 years it has taken cheap stunts like this to get a Republican elected President. I guess you do what you know. Sure the Electoral College is a messed up way to elect a President, but California baby, this ain’t the way to fix it.

0 thoughts

  1. The math you use, while technically correct, is irrelevant in the real world. As far as presidential candidates are concerned, the only thing that matters is whether a state is battleground state or not. Wyoming, Tennessee, California, etc. are all ignored because they are safe states. New Hampshire is a small state, but candidates campaign there because it’s a small state. Texas and New York are ignored despite their size.

    One solution which you mention would be to eliminate the Electoral College. There is another plan being pursued across the country. That is to change the way the Electoral College operates so that it is an accurate reflection of the national popular vote. I read about this group, national popular vote, in the NY Times. Their plan, in more than 40 states, can be implemented on a state-by-state basis. Check out their website (

  2. Unfortunately, more and more states are proposing splitting their EC vote among the districts, with the winner of the state getting the final two. In states like CA and NY the effect would further cripple Democratic chances of winning a national election.

    I like the National Popular Vote idea though I feel that state based movements have little chance of success. There have been no Constitutional amendments passed that started in the states. For this reason alone, it seems unlikely that such a movement would be successful.

    I’m less interested in fairness, and more interested in making sure “my” candidate doesn’t get his ass kicked due to some new math cooked up by some douchebag whose party hasn’t won the state in a Presidential election in 16 years. This would be the case in CA. By Splitting the vote there, Democratic candidates lose 20 EC votes, making the possibility of winning nationally unlikely.

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