CA GOP stays neutral on new electoral-college initiative

CA GOP stays neutral on new electoral-college initiative


My Vote CountsAn initiative seeking to get on California’s November ballot likely would add 20 or more Electoral College votes to the Republican candidate’s tally in the 2016 presidential election. That’s more Electoral College votes than the battleground state of Ohio by itself — or the battleground states of Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire combined.

But California Republican Party officials are neutral on the initiative, saying it needs to be presented to its Initiative Committee before they can consider it. State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte has actually supported a competing national electoral reform effort that passed the California Legislature in 2011, despite Republican opposition, and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Sound of crickets

“It sort of explains the crickets I hear when I try and talk about it there with the Republican Party,” said Doug Nickle, president of Make California Count, in reference to Brulte. “But I don’t know if he’s representative of the whole Republican Party.”

The Make Our Vote Count Act would apportion California’s Electoral College votes based on the percentage of popular votes the presidential candidates receive in California.

Currently California, like 47 other states, is winner take all. It has given all 55 of its Electoral College votes – 20 percent of the 270 votes needed to win the presidency – to the Democratic candidate in the last six presidential elections.

In the last two presidential elections, Republican candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain each received 37 percent of California’s popular vote. As a result,  each would have received 20 of California’s 55 Electoral College votes had the Make Our Vote Count Act been in effect. President Obama’s electoral vote tally would have dropped to 35 from 55.

In the last five presidential elections, the Republican candidates have received an average of 39.4 percent of California’s popular vote, equating to 22 Electoral College votes on average.

Extra 20-22 electoral votes for Republican

That would not have changed the outcome of any of those elections. But providing the Republican candidate with an extra 20-22 Electoral College votes in a close 2016 election could put him or her over the top.

Nickle discussed his initiative on March 23 with KNEWS talk show host Elise Richmond and her husband, Bob, on her Conservatively Speaking show.

“Quite frankly, right now there’s not a great deal of difference between establishment Democrats or establishment Republicans,” said Nickle. “The fact that they are establishment means that they tend to like the status quo. And that they have these backroom agreements about picking their own winners and losers to preserve their own little fiefdoms. The losers are ultimately we the voters.

“We want to reform the Electoral College to promote fairness, empower and enfranchise all the voters, increase turnout and essentially represent the will of we the people. Because for so long we have accepted that we are not even doing an exercise in democracy when we go to the ballot box. In the last election, 40 percent of the electorate didn’t even have its voice represented. That’s equivalent to not even showing up. The reality right now is that you can ‘call’ California. And that’s not democracy.”

Brulte ‘not hot’ on initiative

Bob Richmond asked Nickle about Brulte’s response to the initiative.

“I kind of assumed, unfortunately perhaps naively, that he would understand that this is something that is a powerful effort for Republicans, but certainly the voters in general,” said Nickle. “I won’t speak for him. I can only tell you that he wasn’t particularly hot on the idea. And it took me a long time to figure out that he has to stay neutral on the issue. And I didn’t understand what he meant by being neutral. Because as a party leader it seems like neutrality is probably the last thing that would be the hallmark. …”

Elise Richmond interjected with a laugh, “You’d think, wouldn’t ya?”

“I would think,” responded Nickle. “But again, I’m not a party guy, so I don’t know how that works.”

Must go to GOP committee first

California Republican Party Communications Director Mark Standriff said in a phone interview, “We don’t have a position on the initiative because I don’t believe it’s ever come up. For the party to have a position on it, it has to go through the initiative committee. During the last couple of years nothing has made it through committee. So there’s no official position on it whatsoever. The party remains neutral on it.

“Typically, these kind of things when they start gathering signatures will make a formal request to our initiative committee. They haven’t even asked to take the matter up. They can either recommend to support it, oppose it, or take no position. Then it goes to the general session during our convention. The next one wouldn’t be until September in Los Angeles. It would be premature for any of us to say whether or not the majority of our delegates would vote to support or oppose.”

Bob Richmond criticized Brulte for writing the forward to a book put out by a competing electoral reform movement, the National Popular Vote bill. Its aim is to give all of California’s Electoral College votes (along with those in a consortium of states totaling at least 270 Electoral College votes) to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States.

“That’s one of the bad things, that we have a chairman of the California Republic Party who is a paid lobbyist for National Popular Vote,” said Richmond. “And because of that he is excluding this petition from the rest of the state, and pretty much delaying it, boycotting and saying he has to stay neutral. When he should be the one who is leading the charge for this petition. But because of his acceptance of money, he can’t do that.”

Standriff responded that Richmond is incorrect about Brulte being a lobbyist for National Popular Vote. “I don’t believe he’s ever been a lobbyist ever,” he said.

Brulte backs competing reform effort

Brulte’s forward to the book, and the National Popular Vote website, make similar arguments to those made by Nickle: that they want to put California in play in the national election, rather than simply being a glorified ATM machine for advertising dollars that are mostly spent in battleground states.

“California voters recently joined other states in stripping the state legislature of its power to draw legislative and congressional districts and allowing a citizen’s commission to redraw these lines,” wrote Brulte. “Voters did this in part because they knew that with politicians creating safe legislative seats, competition would be diminished, and as a result politicians of both major parties could ignore their communities with impunity.

“Unfortunately, our nation’s Electoral College provides on the national level what many citizens are trying to eliminate on our state level. Most states in the union are not in play in presidential elections. … For example, in 2008, after both parties chose their presidential candidates, all 300 of the campaign events with major-party nominees took place in just 19 states. And from September 24, two days before the first general election debate until election day, 99.74% of all advertising took place in just 18 states. While this might be great for the states involved, the rest of the nation suffers as candidates of both major political parties ignore them during the general election.

“The National Popular Vote provides the necessary incentives to encourage presidential candidates of both major parties to campaign in every state in the union. This is better than the current approach for electing the President. It is better for the candidates, it is better for the citizens of the individual states, and it is better for the nation as a whole.”

Democrats and Brulte agree

Similar arguments were made by Democratic legislators in support of AB 459, authored by then-Assemblyman (and current state Sen.) Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. Republicans were mostly opposed, although the only one to speak against it was then-state Sen. (and current U.S. Rep.) Doug La Malfa.

“I believe this is going to be a magnet for voter fraud in California and the U.S.,” said La Malfa on the Senate floor July 14, 2011. “I think this is dangerous. It flies in the face of 220 years of election law in the United States for deciding a president. There’s really nothing to be gained for California. California will still be a blue state. To think that we’re going to see more [campaign] resources and effort in California, which will still just be an ATM state for presidential candidates, I think is a misguided way of thinking.”

Nickle also argued against it in his radio interview.

“ ‘National popular vote’ sounds really nice and democratic, right? One man, one vote,” he said. “But it’s really not. It’s in fact far more exclusionary. And it’s essentially what we have with winner take all in California. Here in California, you could have 50.1 percent of the population vote and 100 percent of the Electoral College vote go to that candidate. That’s actually what the national popular vote folks are asking for. So in reality they are excluding 49.9 percent of the population potentially.

“Where that becomes even more dicey, a national popular vote would turn battleground states into battleground cities. It would go to the major metropolitan areas that have the highest concentration of wealth. And pretty soon you have cities buying elections. Where their vote breaks down is the fact that whereas we want an inclusive democracy that allows for a third-party candidate, if you start adding in a third or fourth candidate under the national popular vote, you start diluting the percentage that it would take. And you could very easily start whittling down the election for our president to thresholds below 25 percent of the actual voters.

“That can’t happen under proportional allocation, but it sure could under popular vote. I have a healthy bias for my issue. But the reality is that what they are promoting is actually not democratic.”

State stays winner-take-all for now

Although Hill’s national popular vote bill was passed by the state Legislature, California will remain a winner-take-all state until enough other states join the national popular vote pact to put the total over 270 Electoral College votes. It’s currently halfway there with nine states and the District of Columbia totaling 136 Electoral College votes signed on.

California’s participation in that pact likely would be overridden if the Make Our Vote Count initiative reaches the ballot and is approved by voters. Nickle’s organization is seeking donations to gather about 830,000 signatures by the end of this month to ensure that at least 505,000 are valid.

“We need all the help we can get,” said Nickle. “The world is run by the people who show up.”


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  1. Deserttrek
    Deserttrek 3 April, 2014, 14:42

    again we see the imbeded elites telling the rest of us to sit down shut up and we don’t understand. traitors every one of them

    Reply this comment
  2. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 10:36

    In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in the last 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

    Reply this comment
  3. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 10:55

    National Popular Vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.

    Nickle’s proposed proportional method could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

    If the whole-number proportional approach, the only proportional option available to an individual state on its own, had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote.

    A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the popular vote and would not make every voter equal.

    For states seeking to exercise their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution to choose a method of allocating electoral votes that best serves their state’s interest and that of the national interest, Nickle’s alternative falls far short of the National Popular Vote plan.

    Reply this comment
  4. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 11:47

    In California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don’t campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don’t control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn’t have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

    In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

    Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

    With National Popular Vote, every voter would be equal. Candidates would reallocate their time, the money they raise, and their ad buys to no longer ignore 80% of the states and voters.

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

    16% of Americans live in rural areas.

    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    Any candidate who ignored, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote.

    If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    A nationwide presidential campaign, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

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  5. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 13:27

    RE: LaMalfa’s comments
    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
    The Founders were dead for decades before state winner-take-all laws became prevalent.

    Under National Popular Vote, candidates could no longer treat California as just an ATM.

    In 2008, in California, only $28,288 (0.02%) was spent on post-convention ads, while $151,127,483 (17.76%) of all donations were raised here. California had no post-convention campaign events.

    In 2008, in Ohio, $16,845,415 (10.44%) was spent on post-convention ads, while only $15,984,435 (1.88%) of all donations were raised in Ohio. Ohio (with only 20 electoral votes) was lavishly wooed with 62 of the total 300 post-convention campaign events in the whole country.

    If every voter mattered throughout the United States, as it would under a national popular vote, candidates would reallocate their time and the money they raise.


    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

    The closest popular-vote election count over the last 130+ years of American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election–and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

    Which system offers vote suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?

    Reply this comment
  6. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 13:38

    Of course ‘National Popular Vote’ is really nice and democratic. It is “One man, one vote.”

    It ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Under National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

    With National Popular Vote, every popular vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast.

    Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every voter is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

    When and where voters matter, then so do the issues they care about most.

    & & &

    National Popular Vote is not at all like current state winner-take-all laws.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate. In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

    And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don’t matter to candidates. Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

    & & & &

    Nickle’s system, of whole-number dividing electoral votes proportionally, would not accurately reflect the statewide popular vote and would not make every voter equal. The state’s electoral vote would have to be rounded off to the nearest whole number.

    Reply this comment
  7. toto
    toto 4 April, 2014, 14:30

    Let’s be clear. The few Republicans on record who want to split state electoral votes in states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections, have not introduced legislation or initiatives to split electoral votes in states that recently voted Republican in presidential elections.

    Obvious unprincipled partisan attempts, like Nickle’s initiative, make the case for the National Popular Vote plan all the stronger. The National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, is needed now more than ever.

    More than 2,110 state legislators (in 50 states) have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the National Popular Vote bill. The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, and large states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 10 jurisdictions with 136 electoral votes – 50.4% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. If Governor Cuomo signs the bill on his desk in New York, it will be at 165 electoral votes – 61%.

    Reply this comment
  8. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 6 April, 2014, 08:42

    So this is where the 2 party=1 party system has left us: endless gaming of the system to try and get our ‘team’ in power, as if it would make any difference.

    The Constitution is a very distant memory at this point (EXCEPT for the Commerce Clause-that one little shred of the Constitution is very alive and well), we have no rights and citizenship means nothing.

    If we could somehow start again, fighting off the ravenous hordes of special interests armed with their lawyers, guns and money, we would have to build a classical Swiss governing system. Hell, lets just take the entire CH constitution and adopt it in its entirety. Total absolute local control. A ceremonial presidency that rotates among legislators and has NO executive power. Voters have TOTAL control on every issue. All federal power devolves to the states. That would be a start.

    Reply this comment
  9. John Kreber
    John Kreber 6 April, 2014, 12:26

    The FBI seems to be helping out the GOP, without all political insider junk.

    Reply this comment

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