This summer, a group of California lawyers filed a ballot initiative that would apportion the state’s presidential electors on a district-by-district, rather than statewide, basis. The ballot initiative “would rig elections in a way that would make it difficult for a Democrat to be elected president, no matter how the popular vote comes out.” The New York Times notes:
The net result of the California initiative would be that if the Democratic candidate wins in that state next year, which is very likely, the Republican candidate might still walk away with 20 or more of the state’s electoral votes. The initiative, backed by a shadowy group called Californians for Equal Representation, is being promoted as an effort to more accurately reflect the choices of the state’s voters, and to force candidates to pay more attention to California, which is usually not in play in presidential elections. It is actually a power grab on behalf of Republicans. [...]
If California abandons its winner-take-all rule while red states like Texas do not, it will be hard for a Democratic nominee to assemble an Electoral College majority, even if he or she wins a sizable majority of the popular vote. That appears to be just what the backers of the California idea have in mind.
As more evidence of the initiative’s partisan motives, today the AP reports that the law firm behind the ballot initiative, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP, has strong ties to a major donor of the 2004 PAC, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:
Charles H. Bell and Thomas Hiltachk’s law firm banked nearly $65,000 in fees from a California-based political committee funded almost solely by Bob J. Perry that targeted Democrats in 2006. Perry, a major Republican donor, contributed nearly $4.5 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that made unsubstantiated but damaging attacks on Kerry three years ago.
Bell is also the General Counsel for the California Republican Party and the Vice President of the Federalist Society’s free speech and election law practice group. Thomas Hiltachk serves as legal counsel to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), who has so far given the proposal “a chilly reception.”
There’s no doubt that the Electoral College needs reform. But as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) put it: “We are all for reforming the Electoral College but that must be done in ALL of the states, not just California.”
UPDATE: Calitics points out that “Bell keeps a life-sized cardboard image of President Bush in his office.”