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Campaign Law Watch / CAMPAIGN LAW-STATES

California Votes to Bypass Electoral College

Golden State legislature says it will give its states electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

August 9, 2011

Providing a significant boost to an effort to end-around the Electoral College, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Monday that would award the Golden State’s 55 electoral votes to the presidential candidate garnering the most votes nationwide.

California, which has more electoral votes than any other state in the nation, is the eighth state to join the National Popular Vote compact, an effort to end the Electoral College's role in picking presidents. 

The bipartisan movement is trying to convince state legislatures to commit their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote, precluding elections like the one in 2000, when George W. Bush won the presidency despite losing the national popular vote to Democrat Al Gore.

 

With California's passage of the legislation, the National Popular Vote now has 132 of the 270 electoral votes to circumvent the Electoral College system. It will not take effect until enough states sign on and pass legislation to equal 270.

An afterthought in the presidential process, California is seeking to leverage its status as the country’s most populous state into a more prominent “king-maker” role. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who sponsored the legislation, griped that Californians are ignored by candidates "pandering exclusively to the battleground states.” Brown’s statement on signing the legislation echoed that sentiment.

“California should not be taken for granted in presidential elections, and it seems logical that the occupant of the White House should be the candidate who wins the most votes," Brown said. "That is basic, fair democracy—and that's why California has joined the movement for a national popular vote."

John Koza, who founded the National Popular Vote project in 2006, was elated at California’s endorsement. California’s backing, he acknowledged, “gives it (the National Popular Vote) the credibility so that it’s not just a theoretic or academic idea.” Koza is aiming for the initiative to have enough support before the 2016 presidential election.

By effectively bypassing the Electoral College, Koza hopes to force presidential candidates to campaign in all 50 states. "Right now the candidates spend 98 percent of their time and money in 15 states. So two-thirds of the states are totally ignored," groused Koza.

 

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