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“Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district.”

This week’s New Yorker has a sobering piece that explains why, if this initiative passes in California, we have a greater chance of seeing a Republican back in the White House in 2009.

According to Hertzberg, because of the way the votes would break out, instead of the usual method of awarding ALL electoral votes to the winner (presumably a Democrat), about 20 of California’s hefty 55 electoral votes would go to Republicans. Now if this were the way it was everywhere, then we might see results that everyone would feel good about. But if California Republicans sneak this in before November 2008, then this still basically 50/50 nation might see Republicans once again using electoral manipulations to stay in office. And we would have been caught sleeping.

Why might we get caught? Because the initiative will be voted on June 3, 2008, on California’s traditional Primary Day. BUT California has joined many states in moving up their Presidential Primary to February 5 – so unless the importance of this is made clear to Californians, not that many people will vote on June 3. Except Republicans wised up to the meaning of this. And the initiative will pass. Especially if they also manage to pair it with some emotional issue like gay marriage guaranteed to get a stampede of Republicans to the polls. And you might be surprised…but there are a bunch of those proposed as possible initiatives.

The ironic thing is that the electoral vote Initiative No. 07-0032 is being sponsored by a group calling themselves “Californians for Equal Representation”, but the address of the group is that of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, the Republican party’s law firm. According to Hertzberg, these guys specialize in naming things the opposite of what they are – like the Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006 that “in the fine print, would have made it impossible ever to raise (state minimum wage) again except by a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature, while, for good measure, eliminating overtime for millions of workers.” Nice.

Once again, if Initiative No. 07-0032 were a nationwide initiative and we uniformly shifted the method of allocating electoral votes, that would be something seriously worth considering. Definitely worthy of national debate. But this slick maneuver by the Republicans is nothing but a ploy to stack the deck against Democrats. And it will be sold as a good thing for democracy. But I hope everyone will make it clear to California what this is really about – a power grab pure and simple. And we can’t let them get away with it. Not again!

“California Initiative No. 07-0032 is an audacious power play packaged as a step forward for democratic fairness. It’s the lotusland equivalent of Tom DeLay’s 2003 midterm redistricting in Texas, except with a sweeter smell, a better disguise, and larger stakes. And the only way Californians will reject it is if they have a chance to think about it first.”

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If you want to read the entire piece:

Votescam by Hendrik Hertzberg