|PO Box 128, Sacramento, CA 95812
Voice for Democracy
Newsletter of Californians for Electoral Reform
The Electoral College: A New Approach to an Old Problem
note: On September 30, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2948, which would
have made California the first state to approve an interstate compact that
would insure that the winner of the national popular vote becomes
President. CfER supported this bill. Its sponsor, Assembly Member Tom
Umberg (D-69), said, “To paraphrase the Governor, ‘We’ll be back’,
and will take the issue to the people by initiative if necessary.”
the most populous state in the nation, has an economy ranked sixth in the
dominate in high technology, biotech and agriculture, and are at the
forefront of both culture and academic life.
But when it comes to presidential politics, California is decidedly
a second-class state.
Despite having 55 electoral votes, it plays no meaningful role in
electing the President. Campaigns don't poll here, candidates don't
campaign here, and our voters and the issues that matter to them are all
but ignored as part of the presidential election process.
both Democratic and Republican candidates are quick to use California as a
convenient ATM to replenish their campaign coffers, they know that
California is not a battleground state. Democrats can safely take
California’s block of electoral votes for granted, and therefore choose
not to advertise or campaign here.
Republicans do not believe they have a chance of winning in
California, and therefore consider any time or resources spent campaigning
here to be wasted.
not alone in suffering the disenfranchising effects of the obsolete
Electoral College system.
It squelches democracy in large and small states alike.
It has reduced our presidential election system to one in which the
majority of our citizens are spectators rather than participants, and have
almost no role to play in selecting our nation's leader.
people are under the false impression that small states benefit from the
While they do get more electoral votes per capita than large states
(because all states are guaranteed at least two Senators and one
Representative in the House), that subsidy is not enough to make
candidates care about them.
In fact, except for New Hampshire, a battleground state, small
states were among the biggest losers in terms of candidate attention in
effects of the Electoral College on our democracy are alarming. Eleven
states (Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Nevada, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado, and Florida) accounted for 92% of all
candidate visits and 96% of all TV expenditures in 2004. But the 25 states
getting the least attention received just three visits from all candidates
combined and under $400,000 in campaign advertising -- negligible for a
states did not see a single TV ad from the presidential campaigns, and 28
states went without a single visit from one of the four major candidates
during the peak campaign period.
In presidential political campaigns, that's the equivalent of an
obscene hand gesture.
only positive thing to be said about the Electoral College is that it is
fair in how it metes out its unfairness.
In the same way that W.C. Fields said, "I am free of all
prejudice. I hate everyone equally", the Electoral College is
bipartisan in how it ignores both Republicans and Democrats across the
of course, if they live in a swing state.
effects on voters of being shut out of the process are equally worrisome.
Voter turnout was dramatically lower in states that were not contested
versus states that were in play, with battleground states having at least
7% higher turnout among all voters and 17% higher turnout for voters under
30. And who doubts that the policies that the winner will ultimately
advance upon taking office will tend to favor those states where all of
the campaign promises were made.
there is reason to hope that we can finally adopt a rational and
democratic model for electing our president.
A coalition called National
Popular Vote has an innovative approach to this age-old problem. By
recognizing that the Constitution already gives states the right to choose
how to cast their Electoral College votes, this new approach simply has
these states cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national
Once states with a majority in the Electoral College choose to use
this new model, the winner of the national popular vote is guaranteed to
win the election.
no state wants to make such a change on its own, but the National Popular
Vote plan wouldn’t take effect until enough states have agreed to use it
that it will be decisive, because they comprise a majority of the
It does this by having states join an interstate compact, a
constitutionally protected way for states to work together. With
legislation having been recently introduced in six states, including
California, this new plan both makes sense and is building momentum. And
it's about time.
Dickinson, Executive Vice President
To join CfER, or renew your membership, please visit