Making California Matter in 2016 (No, I Have Not Been Drinking)

So happy to see movement among Midwest legislators to move to a system of awarding votes in the Electoral College by Congressional District! But no one is talking about the largest electoral prize in the nation:  California.

California has 55 electoral votes and within those 55 votes there is a ton of opportunity.  Stop laughing!  For example, California screamed “revenge!” when Bush 43 beat Gore in 2000 and many of my D friends were adamant about abolishing the electoral college. In fact, there is still a movement out here to convert the whole nation to the popular vote, which is about as likely to happen as Barack Obama releasing his college transcripts. But seriously, most of California is red, territorially speaking. The coasts are quite blue and densely populated, but the interior of California is red, mad as hell, and not going to take it any more.

In the 2012 Presidential election, moving California to awarding electoral votes by Congressional district would have resulted in 5 electoral votes for Mitt Romney.  And that’s with no serious campaigning whatsoever by Romney in California.  As we know, Presidential elections can be very close and 5 electoral votes could mean the difference between freedom and the next liberal version of Obamacare.  So hopefully you agree that these five votes are worth thinking about.

Now how do we get there?  California is home to the zaniest ballot proposition system in the country that is probably not what Plato envisioned when he spoke of direct democracy.  But nonetheless, citizens can effect all sorts of change in California via ballot measures.  Getting a ballot measure approved, last time i checked, required in the neighborhood of 700,000 signatures, usually managed by a third party organization for about $1-2 per signature, on average.  So getting a measure to change the way California awards its electoral votes would cost around $1.5-2 million.  This could be accomplished this year and be on the ballot in 2014.

So assuming we raised the money to put it on the ballot, then what?  You can be sure that there will be resistance to this from the DNC and potentially other friends of the DNC.  But what, exactly, would be the rhetorical counter to the idea of awarding electoral votes on a more proportional basis?  Don’t give the other side a voice?  Crush the non-Democrats?  Winner take all is the fairest way?  We were just kidding in 2000 … Bush 43 won fair and square?  Let’s perpetuate the status quo?   Message-wise, this would be one of the tougher marketing campaigns for the Democrats to get their base to rally behind, I think.

But a big factor in favor of this ballot prop would be California’s potpourri of third parties.  They are voice-less and should jump at the opportunity to make themselves heard, and should campaign hard in favor of this effort.  Here are the numbers from 2012:

Barack Obama won California with 60.24% of the vote here, to Mitt Romney’s 37.12%. Yes, it’s brutal being an R in California, but here are the third party voter:

Gary Johnson Libertarian 143,221 1.10%
Jill Stein Green 85,638 0.66%
Roseanne Barr Peace & Freedom 53,824 0.41%
Thomas Hoefling American Ind. 38,372 0.29%
Other (+) – – 23,249 0.18%

OK stop laughing … it’s a rag-tag bunch of 3rd party candidates (Gary Johnson excluded), but it’s a vocal bunch who should be plenty enthused about changing the way California allocates electoral votes. Today, third party candidates get nada, zip, bubkiss when it comes to the electoral college. And putting this in motion gives them just a slightly bigger shot at being a real part of the system, whereas today that are utterly shut out at the national level.

So about 2% of the vote in California went to third party candidates in 2012.  Not a ton, but statistically significant and potentially enough to help counter whatever screaming we’d get from the professional left in California.

This idea is not a long shot.  Getting on the ballot is entirely doable.  And mustering a marketing budget and PR machine to push this effort would have popular appeal in California, which has traditionally backed “buck the status quo” efforts like this in past.  Raising the marketing money to push people to vote “Yes” would have to come from somewhere … a crowdfunding campaign, whatever.  And five electoral votes (could be more in 2016) for the R’s could make the difference.  There’s NO WAY this will get done in the California legislature, which has gone utterly dark blue and is a basket case unto itself.

If you like this idea or have ways to improve it, let me know in the comments section.