Tag Archives: National Popular Vote

Echoes Of Failure: Feedback

I received a lot of feedback on my piece about the disappointing California election results and I want to thank everyone who participated.  A few points:

• The CDP has a version of Neighbor-to-Neighbor called Neighborhood Leader.  The program asks for a commitment from the activist to talk with 25 friends on multiple occasions throughout the year.  I don’t have metrics on it, which would be nice to know, but my suspicion is it needs to be expanded.

• There is a lot of back and forth about the extent of the ground game here in California.  Many have written in to talk about the field operation in key districts and field offices throughout the state.  Some have said that I overlooked this element, including all the doorhangers and phone calls made inside the state.  Others have told me that the calls tried to shoehorn too many messages into one (I did have experiences calling for multiple propositions and a candidate at the same time, which ends up shortchanging all of them) and that the results on the ground in general were unfocused.  And the insistence from some to talk about field elides the point.  Even if I grant that every targeted legislative campaign had the most aggressive and far-reaching field program in American history, the facts are that most of these campaigns lost, and so it’s time to come to terms with the fact that the type of organizing done in the state isn’t working.

• Some have suggested that Democrats, in fact, did not underperform the Presidential ticket in House races, but I think a lot of this is fun with statistics.  Yes, House Democrats in California may have done better than Barack Obama, but that would be because a substantial number of them had token or no competition.  Like 30 out of 53.  While on the chart at the link, it appears that California exceeded the Presidential numbers, the proof is in the lack of pickups despite a 24-point blowout at the top of the ticket.

• Other local organizers have the right idea.  I’m going to reprint this comment in full:

We ran a very intensive and very grassroots effort in Monterey County with more than 1000 volunteers (5 fold increase over 2004) that was by and large successful, got some newcomers into office and saved some progressive incumbents from conservative challengers.

We did all of this without CDP help.

We were offered use of the CDP voter database which in many ways was quite inadequate when it came to mapping and would have costed us money.  We were also offered 1000 doorhangers on Thursday before the election (we have 80,000 Democrats in Monterey County).

Instead we commissioned our own slate mailers and door hangers and mailed and hung 80,0000 and 30,000 respectively in conjunction with the local unions.  We used the VAN through CAVoterConnect for free with great results for us. We were able to manage our volunteers with it and we used it for all of our phone banking and Neighbor-to-Neighbor activities.

Here is what the CDP could have done – and can still do for future campaigns:

Support the VAN and help all local parties get access.  Help integrate State VAN with Obama VAN.

Conduct more capacity building, especially in how to run county-based campaigns, along the lines of Camp Obama but applied to state and local races.

Provide a template for door hangers that local parties can buy into instead of having to go out and design their own.

Work toward a more modular – bottom-up campaign.

Vinz Koller/ Chair/ Monterey County Democratic Party

I particularly want to emphasize the VAN, the California VAN is for some reason not integrated with the DNC’s Votebuilder program, which doesn’t make much sense to me.  There ought to be an effort to clean up all that idea in the off-year to get it ready for 2010.  Votebuilder is simply easier to work with and can be managed by volunteers.  And since there will be off-year elections this year, it can be test run.

• I don’t think I ever blamed the Obama campaign for draining the state of resources, but let me say again that I don’t.  In addition to many of the best volunteers leaving the state, many of the top organizers, including most of labor, left as well.  And Obama’s election was crucially important for a variety of reasons so you can’t blame them.

• Therefore, the biggest thing California Democrats can do to reverse this disturbing trend of the “political trade deficit,” sending money and organization elsewhere and never importing anything, is to argue for and pass the National Popular Vote plan, which would force locals to organize their own communities in a Presidential election.  If the Electoral College were offered as a system today, it would be found to be an unconstitutional violation of the principle of “one person, one vote” as determined by the 14th Amendment.  It shrinks the pool of competitive states down to a geographically significant battleground, and has made California irrelevant – again – as it has been for Presidential races for a generation.  A disruptive change like the National Popular Vote would go a long way to changing how campaigns are conducted in Presidential years in California.

Friday Open Thread

• Sen. Boxer released a statement on Sen. John W McCain’s speech:

Last night at the Republican National Convention, John McCain used the word “fight” more than 40 times in his speech. In the 16 years that we have served together in the Senate, I have seen John McCain fight.

I have seen him fight against raising the federal minimum wage 14 times. … [Litany of crazy right-wing McCain agenda items here] … And I saw him fight against the new GI Bill of Rights until it became politically untenable for him to do so.

John McCain voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time in 2007 and 100 percent of the time in 2008 — that’s no maverick. We do have two real fighters for change in this election — their names are Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

• Some fine folks are hosting a fundraiser for CA-03 Democratic nominee Dr. Bill Durston in Stanford on the afternoon of September 28. Full Details and RSVP here. Wouldn’t it be great if Dr. Bill could defeat the corrupt Abramoff-Republican Dan Lungren?

• The water situation could begin getting very ugly very fast.  After two of the driest winters on record, our reservoirs are dangerously low.  The state is now reviving a Water Bank to facilitate the buying and selling of water from across the water-rich North to the bone dry South.

So people, can I just say one thing? If I see people hosing down driveways, and well, having a lawn in the middle of the desert, make sure you want that more than you want, say, to drink a nice glass of water tonight. Priorities, people.

Also, I guess the movement to restore Hetch Hetchy won’t be heating any time soon. It stinks that we have to use our precious natural resources this way. The water from Hetch Hetchy is replaceable, but convincing people of that seems really tough right about now.

• In Orange County or thereabouts? Want to make sure Democrats take the White House?  Well, how about you hop aboard the CA4Obama bus to Nevada tomorrow morning. It’s leaving from Fountain Valley tomorrow bright and early (6:30am). Interested in joining them? Email ca4obama AT gmail dot com

UPDATE by Dave: A couple more:

• It’s a little-known side effect of the budget crisis, but funding for arts education, which is crucial to child development, is going down the toilet.  It’s fine to raise and educate a bunch of test-taking drones, but it doesn’t make this a well-rounded state.  No wonder so few of our schools fail to meet federal standards – they are not put in the position to do so.

• Meg Whitman for governor.  Yeah, that’s the big buzz out of St. Paul.  Bwahahahaha.  Interesting that the post says the Republicans expect her to face Jerry Brown.

• Another bill being sent to the governor’s desk is SB37, the national popular vote bill.  And today, DFA sent their California list an email urging the Governor to support it.

California is the largest state in the union, but when it comes to electing the president it can feel like the smallest.

California is ignored by presidential candidates because they believe the electoral vote is already locked up. And, with the Electoral College the way it is, they might even be right. But, if America chooses our president by the national popular vote, then suddenly California would rise to the top of every candidate’s priorities. The more Californians who vote for a candidate, the more that increases the popular count and the greater say you have in choosing a leader for the entire country. Since one out of every ten Americans live here, doesn’t that make sense?

The California Legislature has approved legislation that would award California’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The bill now goes to Governor Schwarzenegger and he will make his decision any time.  You must act today to let him know how you feel.

Contact Governor Schwarzenegger now and urge him to sign the National Popular Vote bill.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Phone:  916-445-2841

E-mail at this link: http://gov.ca.gov/interact


Skelton: “GOP Trying To Rig The Presidential Election”

(UPDATE: David promised more on how you can help, here it is! – promoted by Bob Brigham)

There is no reason for a well-informed Californian not to know about the Dirty Tricks initiative to steal the 2008 election by changing the way the state apportions its electoral votes.  By now practically every newspaper in the state has written an editorial against it.  And now one of the deans of Sacramento, George Skelton, bluntly criticizes the maneuver.

The chutzpah award for this summer has a runaway winner. It’s the small team of Republican operatives trying to rig the 2008 presidential race.

“Rig” means tilting the playing field to assure continued Republican occupancy of the White House — perhaps for a very long time.


Skelton intimates that this could backfire on the Republican operatives by creating a rallying point for progressives and Democrats:

Whatever this is, it’s brazen — a strategy based on the assumption of a low voter turnout that leans Republican while the electoral college measure slips under the Democratic radar.

But I can envision just the opposite. I can see this initiative drawing a lot of media attention that awakens Democratic voters.

“It’s a ‘wacky California’ story,” (Peter) Ragone says. “Like in, ‘Here they go again!’ “

Skelton offers the obvious alternative to this power grab in clear and concise language.

What would make sense is to completely shutter the archaic electoral college and elect the president by national popular vote. The argument that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it was discredited in 2000 when the system did break. For the fourth time in history, the candidate who got the most citizen votes lost out in the electoral college. No need to recite the national consequences of that glitch.

But before we can tear down the electoral college, Americans must get over the notion that states — not citizens — should elect the president. Whomever most people want to be president should be. That’s how every other officeholder is elected in this land.

Exactly, though placing it on the ballot as an alternative would probably needlessly confuse the issue.  Especially if you see it as a rallying point.  I don’t think the 30,000-feet strategy of Ragone and Chris Lehane is to energize Democrats, necessarily.  They want to spend a lot of money and “confuse to kill” if they have to.  But the progressive movement smells an opportunity here, a chance to use this campaign as a springboard, to activate progressives all over the state to fight this dirty trick.

Like I said, well-informed people have no excuse not to know about this.  But those one notch below may not be at all aware.  That’s why we need to make sure we have the resources we need to run a positive campaign bent on capitalizing on this dirty trick to change the political map in the state.  Republicans will rue the day they even tried this.  More on how you can help later.

NYT: Hey Arnold, Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Today the New York Times weighs in with an editorial about the right-wing Electoral College power grab, and in fairly bold language excoriates it.

The Electoral College should be abolished, but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. A prominent Republican lawyer in California is doing it the wrong way, promoting a sneaky initiative that, in the name of Electoral College reform, would rig elections in a way that would make it difficult for a Democrat to be elected president, no matter how the popular vote comes out. If the initiative passes, it would do serious damage to American democracy.

The editorial goes on to explain the damage this initiative would cause, rightly calling it a Republican power grab and explaining how their goal is to fool the public into giving away the election in the name of “reform.”  Obviously written before the news of the competing ballot initiative came to light, there’s a perfunctory paragraph approving of the idea of the National Popular Vote.  But the concluding paragraph calls out the Governor to show his true colors on this issue:

Leading Republicans, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been silent about the initiative to split California’s electoral votes, but they should be speaking out against it. The fight isn’t about Republicans vs. Democrats. It is about whether to twist the nation’s system of electing presidents to give one party an unfair advantage. No principled elected official, or voter, of either party should support that.

Most Republican politicians aren’t principled, but Arnold at least fashions himself to be.  He should be asked about this at every opportunity until he gives a satisfactory answer.

A Competing Initiative With The Right-Wing Electoral College Power Grab

A lot going on for a Tuesday in August.  Dan Morain at the LAT has the latest story:

Democrats proposed an initiative today aimed at having California embrace the movement to elect presidents by popular vote.

The initiative also is designed to head off a Republican effort to wrest away California’s electoral votes. Republican consultants are proposing a separate initiative to change California’s winner-take-all system of awarding its 55 electoral votes. Under the Republican measure, electoral votes would be awarded based on how congressional districts vote, an idea that could benefit the Republican nominee.

If the competing Democratic and Republican measures make it to the ballot next June, California would become a battleground over the electoral college system. The state has 55 electoral votes, more than any other state, and more than 10% of the 538 electoral votes nationally.

Chris Lehane announced the competing initiative at a press conference today.  And the initiative has been filed with the Attorney General.

I should add that there was another poll out today on this issue, by Rasmussen, which showed that the right-wing Electoral College power grab fails badly once people are given information about it’s implications, but that polling on a national popular vote concept is pretty favorable.  Numbers on the flip:

The proposal being pitched in California would award one Electoral Vote to the winner of each Congressional District along with two Electoral Votes for the statewide winner. In a theoretical sense, 45% of voters nationwide think that’s a good idea. Thirty percent (30%) disagree while 25% are not sure. However, even that tepid level of support dissipates when voters learn that a change in California could significantly increase the number of Republican Electoral Votes. Once that is factored into the equation, support drops to 31% and opposition increases to 43%.

It’s interesting to note that Republican support for the measure barely increases when told of the potential benefit to their own party. That may be due to a sense of fairness or a nagging realization that the same thing could happen in other states where the GOP would lose votes. Forty-five percent (45%) favor the concept in theory and 48% favor it after learning how it would impact the results in California. Among Democrats and unaffiliated voters, support plunges dramatically once the electoral implications of a change in California are explained.
Overall, 54% of voters would like to get rid of the Electoral College and have the winner of the popular vote become President. Thirty percent (30%) disagree. Democrats strongly support this approach while Republicans are evenly divided. Women are more enthusiastic about it than men.

I’ve been advocating for the National Popular Vote plan for some time.  If the Electoral College were enacted after the 14th Amendment, it would be found unconstitutional.  Every election in our system is majority-rule except for the one for the highest office in the land.  Californians are disenfranchised every year as they watch small states like Wyoming get an outsized portion of the electoral vote.

The GOP spin was predictable:

Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the GOP measure, said the Democratic-backed measure would leave Californians with little or no voice in national politics.

“If you ignore the congressional districts, there would be one big overwhelming national vote,” Eckery said. “What matters in L.A. or what matters in Santa Monica, won’t matter. It will be just one vote thrown into the mix.”

Um, what’s wrong with one big overwhelming national vote for a national office?  And did what matters in Santa Monica and LA matter in 2004?  2000?  1988?  That’s a ridiculous argument.

This is getting very, very interesting.

Feb. Primary Will Happen: Time to Put Pressure on REAL Election Reform

It’s increasingly apparent that the 2008 California Presidential primary will be moved to February 5.  The Senate bill moved through the appropriate committee today unanimously, and the Assembly will move their version as well, which the Governor has indicated he will sign.

This bill says nothing about possible initiatives on redistricting or term limit relaxation that are rumored to be tied to the primary shift.  But Fabian Nuñez, who under current law will be termed out in 2008, doesn’t have $7.1 million in his campaign account for no reason.  Last week he put forward a redistricting plan that was short on details.  And Senate President Pro Tem Perata appeared cool on the idea, at least publicly.  But it’s clear that somebody is gearing up for something.

I would offer that if you REALLY wanted to change how we choose a President and how California can impact that, if you actually wanted to see candidates in this state both before and after Feb. 5, 2008, there are far more effective ways to do so beyond moving up a primary to the very moment when the nominee will have already been all but selected.  Therefore I challenge everyone who supports this plan to also advocate full support for the National Popular Vote.

The real travesty with California’s role in the Presidential process is not in the primary election, but in the general.  By virtue of the antiquated electoral college system, a Californian’s vote is about 3.6 times less valuable than a vote from a resident of the state of Wyoming.  We’ve seen over the past two close elections that states like California are completely taken for granted in the general election, with all the money and all the focus going to a select few swing states.  This state with the most voters really does have practically no effect on who gets elected.

The National Popular Vote would change all that.  Under this legislation, every state pledges to deliver its slate of electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote.  It would not kick in until states with a majority of electoral votes make it law, therefore essentially doing an end run around the electoral college.  It is completely constitutional (apportionment of electors has always been left up to the states; Nebraska and Maine give them out be electoral district) and would mean that the winner of the popular vote could never be denied the Presidency.

The practical effect of this would be that Presidential hopefuls would not be able to concentrate their campaigns in one or two states.  It would open up the playing field entirely, and we would see a number of new and innovative strategies to round up votes.  Nobody’s vote could be taken for granted, and therefore political participation nationwide would be widespread.  Some think that candidates would just park themselves in major urban centers.  They pretty much park themselves in a handful of states right now, so I don’t see that as a fair or even coherent criticism.

46 states have introduced bills for the National Popular Vote.  It has passed the Colorado State Senate, and has cleared committee in Montana and Hawaii with bipartisan backing.  Last year both houses of the legislature in California passed the National Popular Vote bill, which was managed by then-State Senator Debra Bowen and then-Assemblyman Tom Umberg.  But it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger last September 30.  It was vetoed because there was no public groundswell of support and no penalty for the Governor to veto the bill.

This is what baffles me about petitions and such for the date of the California Primary.  Here is a common-sense solution that would make California count and literally change the way the Preisdent gets elected, making the system more fair and just.  Why aren’t the champions of reform (and, ahem, courage) pushing this bill?  The LA Times and the Sacramento Bee editorialized in favor of this reform last year.  Where is the grassroots and the netroots?

In fact, Carole Midgen is sponsoring SB 37, the National Popular Vote bill, in the 2007 session.  I would love to see these people who are so wounded by California’s lack of entry in the Presidential process to get behind this bill.