About an hour into the highly anticipated political debate -- "The Rumble in an Air Conditioned Auditorium” -- between talk show hosts, and long-time political frenemies Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly, the following exchange took place:
Stewart: We should eliminate the electoral college.
O'Reilly: I disagree. With the popular vote, New York, California, etc. control everything. That is not right.
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Hmmm…that got me thinking.
Have we seen much of the Presidential candidates here in California, the nation’s most populous state and bestower of its biggest cache of electoral votes?
Of course not—well, only when they need to collect campaign contributions.
Why? Because arithmetic and demographics tell us that the Golden State’s 55 electoral votes are solidly in the Democratic column.
That’s why California voters get no respect during Presidential election years. (Of course, it's also why Californians aren’t being bombarded with robocalls, negative advertising, and all-around electoral nastiness.)
What if we ditched the Electoral College, which apportions electoral votes to each state according to its representation in Congress, and elected our Presidents by a nationwide popular vote?
(By the way, the fact that each state has two senators—that translates into every state having, at least, 2 electoral votes—already dilutes California’s influence in American politics and government.)
Look at eight battleground states that now share the focus of Presidential campaigning: Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Together, they have a total of about 44 million eligible voters, or about 21% of the country’s roughly 213 million eligibles.
What if every one of our state’s 32,780,847 eligible voters were up for grabs when we elect a President? With 15.4% of the nation's eligible voters, we’d no doubt feel much more political love.
And, yes, some elections would have different results.
Democrat Al Gore would have likely won the 2000 presidential election. Remember? The Gore-Lieberman ticket won the national popular vote by a 543,816-vote margin. In California, Gore won by 1,293,774 votes.
George Bush, of course, won in the Electoral College after a bitter dispute and a Supreme Court decision that declared the Republican to be the winner in Florida. Altogether, there have been three elections in which a candidate has won the Presidency by winning the Electoral College tally but not the popular vote: 1876, 1888, and 2000.
And here’s a factoid that might be of special interest in this very blue state: in each of those three races, it was the Democratic candidate who won the popular vote, but lost the Presidency.
So, my fellow Golden Staters of every political preference, let’s visualize how our collective political clout could increase if the Presidential process really was “one Californian, one vote.”
Debater Stewart posited, "The electoral college makes absolutely no sense to me. I have no problem going with the popular vote.”
I’m beginning to think California shouldn’t have a problem either.