This is one straight out of Karl Rove's political playbook. A group of Republican political operatives and their powerful special interests have hatched a desperate scheme to rig California's electoral process to their advantage. They're proposing a statewide ballot initiative to change how California casts its electoral votes for President. They've cleverly labeled it the "Presidential Election Reform Act," which would sound credible if it weren't so cynical.
But make no mistake, this wolf-in-sheep's-clothing has nothing to do with reform or protecting voters' interests or preserving the integrity of our Constitution. It's an audacious power grab by the GOP as it spirals into irrelevance leading up to the 2008 Presidential race.
The Republican Party is in complete disarray. Wracked by scandal and corruption, the GOP has apparently concluded that it has little chance of appealing to voters on the merits. President Bush's poll numbers are melting faster than an Alaskan glacier and a recent nationwide poll showed that two-thirds of young voters surveyed believe that Democrats do a better job than Republicans of representing their interests.
Add to that reports of the state Republican Party's serious financial woes and the resignation in June of its embattled chief operating officer and it's easy to see why state GOP leaders figured it was time for a little election reform.
There's no question that our nation deserves a meaningful discussion about improving the way in which we elect our chief executive officer. The 2000 Presidential election showed us that our current system is far from perfect. But that's not what this is about and it's not what the GOP has in mind.
No, this Karl Rovian scheme is a slick GOP effort to steal as many as 24 of California's 55 electoral votes and deliver them to their party's 2008 Presidential nominee. Under our current system, whatever candidate wins the majority vote in California gets all of the state's electoral votes. Republicans, out-of-step with California's progressive values and unwilling to change their message, haven't had much success.
Unfortunately, the "solution" the GOP is proposing for divvying up California's electoral votes based on Congressional districts would be even less fair than the system we've got now. An analysis by the respected election reform organization FairVote concluded that the GOP reform scheme fails to "promote majority rule, greater competitiveness, or voter equality" and would, in fact, "dramatically increase incentives for partisan machinations."
With all of the serious issues we are facing in this state, from health care to education to our crumbling infrastructure, is this really the issue that Republican leaders believe California should be focusing on? More likely, it's the one that fits their national agenda for keeping us in Iraq indefinitely, ignoring global warming and giving tax breaks to the rich while burdening future generations with unprecedented debt.
The apparent strategy of the GOP operatives who are advancing this initiative further reveals their sinister and cynical intent. They are looking to place it on the June 2008 ballot and exploit low voter turnout to sneak it through. Beating back this GOP power grab will take an aggressive education effort. As a recent New York Times editorial concluded, "If voters understand that the initiative is essentially an elaborate dirty trick posing as reform, they are likely to vote against it."
Let's make the Republicans come to their senses and drop this scheme altogether. Republicans may be understandably frustrated that they cannot get their hands on California's rich pool of electoral votes and that the GOP's values, policies and conduct at the national level don't resonate with the majority of Californians. Rather than trying to bamboozle voters, they should focus their attention instead on cleaning up their act and updating their message.