California to give presidential electoral votes to popular-vote winner?
posted at 7:00 pm on September 22, 2006 by Allahpundit
Call it “the Gore rule.” Also call it stupid. Blue states shouldn’t be signing away their prerogative to vote blue unless and until (a) they’ve gotten swing states to follow suit, or (b) they’re sure enough that American demography is trending Democratic long-term (which may well be the case given the increasing Hispanic population) that they’re willing to risk bad short-term results to exploit that. After all, the electoral/popular split in 2000 isn’t a uniquely left-wing pitfall; Bush would have been on the short end of it in ’04 if 60,000 votes in Ohio had gone the other way. If this goes through, Cali will be staring down the barrel of a scenario in ’08 where the GOP banks 55 electoral votes even though the state’s voters will have broken hard for Hillary. Which is why, I’m sure, if they can’t bring a few other states on board in the next 15 months or so, they’ll simply repeal this little experiment before the election.
What incentive do swing states have to adopt this scheme, anyway? They’re the belles of the ball during the campaign season. A few hundred Florida voters decided the election six years ago. Forfeiting their electoral votes to the popular vote would reduce their political capital considerably. I can’t see many red states going along either. The small ones need the electoral college to make them relevant and the big ones like Texas have too much state pride to contract out their decision to the population at large.
If the big blues want the popular vote to decide who’s president, there’s an easy solution — let them attract more residents. The way California’s going, once Bush rams home that amnesty plan they’ll have about 500 electoral votes. By 2020, the national campaign trail will run from San Diego to L.A. to San Francisco and back again.
Since we’re talking civics, here’s some red meat from Ace proposing that Supreme Court decisions be overrideable by 3/5ths of both houses of Congress. He thinks the amendment process is unduly onerous when it comes to overruling the ipse dixits of five unelected judges, particularly when judicial review isn’t explicitly endorsed by the Constitution. I think at the very least his proposal should require 2/3rds of both houses, the same as it takes to override a presidential veto. His answer to that is that the veto is a constitutionally enumerated power whereas judicial review is not. True, but judicial review affects constitutional law; the veto affects mere statutory law. Under Ace’s scheme, it’d be harder for Congress to pass an ordinary act than to change the meaning of constitutional clauses.
All we’re haggling over here is numbers, though. 3/5ths, 2/3rds, some fraction of states: everyone agrees that it should take something “extra” to override a Supreme Court decision. The only issue is how much extra. The numbers don’t much matter: they had 66 votes in the Senate to pass a flag-burning amendment that was basically symbolic and wouldn’t have affected anyone’s freedom of speech beyond its own exceedingly narrow scope, and they still couldn’t get the 67th vote. Why? Because most people regard the Constitution as so sacrosanct that it’s considered almost a form of desecration to want to amend it. Whatever number you settle on, that quasi-religious feeling is your main obstacle to reform, not the numbers.
And there’s today’s civics lesson. The perfect fun, breezy topic for a Friday night.
Update: Turns out the California bill has a sort of built-in repeal measure:
The proposed interstate compact implements nationwide popular election of the President by having states agree to jointly award all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The proposed interstate compact would not take effect until identical legislation is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes (that is, 270 of the 538 electoral votes). Thus, the compact would only take effect when it can guarantee an Electoral College majority to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
That makes more sense, but since most of the participants in this compact are likely to be solid blue states, why form a bloc at all? You’re only putting safe Democratic electoral votes in jeopardy.