Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DING DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD....The GOP-backed initiative to award California's electoral votes by congressional district, ensuring that the Republican candidate for president would get 20-25 California electoral votes in 2008 instead of the zero they'd get under the current winner-take-all system, has failed:

Republican backers of the measure, which could have tilted the presidential contest toward the GOP nominee by changing how California awards electoral votes, conceded that they were unable to raise sufficient funds.

Sacramento consultant Dave Gilliard, the campaign manager, said that even if a financial angel were to shower the campaign with $1 million, there was not enough time to qualify the measure for June.

....Although confident they could have defeated it, Democrats said they were relieved that the measure would not appear in June.

"This effort to rig the presidential elections demonstrates that the Republicans . . . recognize that they will be a minority party if they lose the White House and will do everything they can to hold on to power," said Democrat Chris Lehane, who helped organize the opposition.

And there's even better news: the initiative is probably dead for the November ballot as well, and even if it qualifies it's likely that it won't affect the 2008 election anyway. Huzzah!

Kevin Drum 12:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Thanks Kevin, nothing like giving the lizard brains bulletin board material before the game is officially whistled over.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 7, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

What crappy writing in the article. Can you explain whether the deadline has passed or not? The article says it was last week, but then it also has a quote from the organizer saying that even if they had the money, there wouldn't be enough time left -- implying that there's some time left. Which is it -- is the witch merely dead, or really most sincerely dead?

Posted by: Glenn on December 7, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Given the definite Dem majority amongst the voters of CA, this proposition would've worked only if the 'publicans had sneaked it past the majority. Given the hue and cry on the left, the death and subsequent resurrection, and now apparently another death, I think enough Dem voters have heard of it.

Not to mention all the "dirty tricks" employed in signature gathering...

Posted by: Amit Joshi on December 7, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

(Channeling that bully kid on the Simpsons whose name I can't remember): HA HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Posted by: shortstop on December 7, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Now if the Dems could kick-start this same initiative in Republican strongholds (Texas anyone?) just to keep a balance.

Posted by: ckelly on December 7, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

There exists a legitimate movement to bypass the atrocity called the Electoral College.
It's too bad the Democrats never try to match the sleazy stunts the Republicans pull off so well.

Posted by: Mike on December 7, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Not seeing how the initiative could apply to the same election (Nov 08) as when it was passed, unless it was applied retroactively. (I guess the Roberts Supreme Court could make sure that happened).

But the GOP is unwise to open this can of worms. They know that we'd be happy to abolish the electoral college entirely. The farm welfare winguts in flyover country are grossly over-represented.

Posted by: HeavyJ on December 7, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why do you say the initiative is probably dead for November. They need 200,000 additional signatures by the beginning of February. Far from dead, I'm guessing that in all probability they will make it (though I don't want them to, of course).

There's surely going to be some moneybags Republican who'll give them the money to fund the carney crews from Utah who are collecting signatures. And don't forget, Darryl Issa's using the list of the Davis recall petition signers to solicit Dirty Trick signatures.

Please let us know why you're pretty confident this sucker's dead for November.

Posted by: PeterB on December 7, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

And they'll be back at it for 2012, with a better tooled campaign, featuring slicker, more thoroughly focus-tested catch phrases. Why are the Democrats always on the defensive when it comes to things like this? Why is it the Democrats can only be aroused to static, defensive actions?

Posted by: Martin Gale on December 7, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the Repubs could actually try to come up with a compelling candidate that could WIN California (as has been done in the past). But then they'd have to, real quick, pass another initiative to take it back to "winner take all."

Posted by: Art Smith on December 7, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is good for the country (as long as the Democrats nominate a liberal), because it will help a liberal get elected.

But it isn't really good for California, because once again, we will be nothing more than an ATM machine and politicians will screw us when it comes to national policy.

The truth is, we need to do something to put California in play. Policymakers cater to the swing states, and make California taxpayers pay for all the goodies.

Posted by: Dilan Esper on December 7, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn, the original initiative was withdrawn on November 27 (the deadline would have been on or about Dec. 1).

A new version of the same initiative is circulating with a deadline of February 4. I believe this is the one they're saying ran out of money.

Details on California initiative petitions can be found at this website.

Posted by: aphrael on December 7, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Whether it is dead or not it is time to vigorously pursue those people that tricked citizens into signing the petition telling the citizens it was for some cancer research or some such malarky. Don't the Democrats hold the Atty General's office. This is fundamental electoral fairness. You cannot have measures on the ballot when any portion of the electorate that were responsible for putting the measure on the ballot in the first place thought they were signing a petition for something completely different. There is plain intent to defraud. Election fraud. Prosecute them. Let the little guys know that if they cannot do the time, they should not do the crime.

This cannot be let go. They will be back for more. Make sure their manpower is thoroughly apprised of the ramifications of their actions.

Posted by: coltergeist on December 7, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Let's start the same thing in Texas.I'm not from Texas but what the hell I will sign anyway,Nothing wrong with that is there.

Posted by: john john on December 7, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

It is dead because its backing came from Gulliani - America's Pimp - whose campaign is likewise dead.

Posted by: An Anonymous American Patriot on December 7, 2007 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding of constitutional law concerning the issue of a state's electoral votes and redistricting is that such issues are the sole purview of state legislatures.

Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution so states that:

"Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector." (Emphasis mine.)

The only two states that presently allow for electoral votes to be split are Maine and Nebraska, and both those were approved by their respective state legislatures. so this initiative is literally uncharted legal territory.

While an argument could be made that the California Legislature potentially divested itself of its authority when in 1911 it enacted, and Gov. Hiram Johnson signed, the laws that allow for initiative, referendum and recall, it remains to be determined in federal court whether the right to determine the manner in which electors are chosen can be passed by a direct vote of the people.

Therefore, I would expect that any attempt to place this rather dubious measure on the ballot would thus be met by a vigorous challenge by opponents in federal court. If case studies about the role of states in federal elections are any indication, this GOP attempt to bypass the California Legislature would be deemed by those courts to be unconstitutional.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 8, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK



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