22 September 2006

Some crackpot in California has convinced the legislature to pass a law that, if signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, might significantly alter future Presidential elections. Basically, the legislature will give California's electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular national vote. (They can do this because the constitution explicitly gives state legislatures the power to direct the selection of electors.) The bill's supporters are apparently liberals, and I don't think they realize that if their bill had been in place in 2004, and Kerry had narrowly won Ohio, California would have ensured that Bush would get the Presidency anyway.

The crackpot was correct in targeting California first; as of now, candidates only have the incentive to win 50% of California's votes, and Democrats have been able to do that easily in recent years. Now, candidates will want to campaign as hard as possible for every vote (although candidates will, of course, weigh the marginal costs of going for votes in California versus other states). He should go to Texas next. If he keeps targeting blue states, it will be something that absolutely hurts Democrats.

Swing states are the big losers. The big reason this reform might succeed is that, while there are too many small states who want to keep their disproportionate influence in the electoral college, there are a lot of people who live in big blue and red states who would prefer their votes to count.

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