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The Electoral College in California
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Slate has an article today talking about a ballot initiative in California to do away with the winner-take-all version of the Electoral College in their state, and allocate votes based on the ratio of the popular vote. So out of their 55 Electoral College votes, one candidate might get 35, while the other gets 20, and the number of votes is based on the popular vote.

The author, Doug Kendall, says:

It's easy to see the allure for Republicans of this voter referendum, which has a predictably misleading name, the Presidential Election Reform Act.

Yeah, the allure is fairness and common sense.

As several commentators have pointed out, including Jamin Raskin in Slate, this is all about political gamesmanship.

That's what it's all about, huh? I have no doubt that some high-level Republican strategists are salivating at the idea of splitting California's votes, but might there possibly be people who live in California, you know, regular citizens, who want their vote to count toward the national tally, and not be made obsolete by a winner-take-all mechanism?

He spends most of the article explaining why the ballot initiative is unconstitutional, because when it comes to the Electoral College, only the legislature can change anything. Whoop-dee-do. I guess we'll see how the vote goes there, and whether or not it stands up in court...but it should stand up.

Here's Kendall's justification, based on the writings of James Madison:

There are solid policy reasons to respect the framers' choice to keep the designation of electoral votes in the hands of lawmakers. In his canonical "Federalist 10" essay, James Madison warned of factions: groups of citizens united by "some common impulse of passion" that is adverse to "the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." Madison then explained that factions are better thwarted by a representative democracy (where elected representatives enact legislation on behalf of voters) than by a direct or pure democracy (where voters themselves make laws).

Yeah, I agree 100%. But there's that part about the decisions of the mob being "adverse to the rights of other citizens" or the "interests of the community". He's talking about the tyranny of the majority. If 90% of the people in the country wanted to pass a law that violated any individual citizen's basic rights, e.g. slavery, then it would be a bad law. I have no problem with ballot initiatives forming laws, which are then subject to review by another body (e.g. the Supreme Court) to determine whether the law is adverse to individual rights or liberties.

But this law isn't. It's the Electoral College in its current form that is adverse to the rights of citizens. This ballot initiative would actually imbue individual citizens with more power.

I haven't heard a single good argument against it, based on principle. The reason Democrats don't like it is because of strategy, not principle, and it's lily-livered to try to hide behind the Founding Fathers for justification. What's needed is not criticism of California for attempting this, but praise, and pressure put on other large states like Texas and Florida to follow suit.

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