American Samizdat

Sunday, December 02, 2007. *

From the Independent by Way of Mark Crispin Miller:

There is a real risk they could succeed. They are close to getting the number of signatures they need to secure a referendum in June. (The Los Angeles Downtown News claims to have witnessed signature-gatherers offering homeless people food in return for signing.) The turnout for the referendum is expected to be extremely low, because the state-wide primaries usually held on that date have been moved forward to February. So the Republicans only have to activate a small part of their base to push it through – and they have the cash to do it. California dreamin', on such a winter's day.

The Democrats in response shouldn't be trapped in the conservative position of defending the indefensible electoral college. There is an alternative way to reform it – one that would be fair to all parties. It used to be thought it was all but impossible to ditch the system because it would require a constitutional amendment, which needs the approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress, plus three-quarters of state legislatures.

But then constitutional scholars realised there was another way. The Constitution only requires that each state must "appoint" its presidential electors "in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct". That leaves a glimmer of hope. The Campaign for a National Popular Vote is campaigning for every state simply to commit its delegates to the electoral college to vote 100 per cent for the candidate who wins the popular vote. This would render the electoral college a forgotten technicality. It's very revealing that when the California state senate voted to introduce this genuinely democratic system last year, the Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, with the support of his party.

It shows that the Republicans' rhetoric of wanting "fairness" and "equal representation" in California is a honeyed lie. They want a system that retains their power, even if it subverts the will of the people. It risks becoming Florida Part II: just when you thought it was safe to go back into the polling booth... Fasten your seatbelts – it's going to be a bumpy election.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 6:04 PM
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