When Kerry Took the Philippines ...

A mostly political Weblog.
June 15 2004 5:26 AM

How Kerry Took the Philippines

For Ronald Reagan!

For kf readers understandably dissatisfied with the previous item, here's another state ballot initiative with the potential to affect the presidential race, and a lot more. An ambitious and apparently wealthy educator, Jorge Klor de Alva, is sponsoring an initiative to change the method for awarding electors in Colorado from winner-take-all to a proportional system. If Bush won 55 percent of the vote, for example, he'd get 55 percent of the electors, not 100 percent. Proponents of the measure claim it would take effect in time for the 2004 election, which might allow Kerry to break off a few electors even if he loses the state. ... If this proportional system spread, it would radically alter the peculiar mechanism of the Electoral College. But it might--depending on how it was written--make it too easy for third parties to gain a balance of power by grabbing a few electors, producing three- or four-way bargaining in the Electoral College. (If you could start a minor party that might get, say, 15 percent of the national vote, or 30 percent of the vote in a few states, you'd be almost crazy not to start that party under this scheme.) This would not be the same system, then, as simple direct national election of a president by majority vote. It would create a unique, bigger third-party problem. ... 

You go first: As The Denver Post report suggests, there is arguably little incentive for a small battleground state like Colorado to be the first to switch away from winner-take all--candidates would stop paying attention to Colorado and focus on the remaining winner-take-all prizes. ...

P.S.: Isn't The Note supposed to pick up on all these presidentially significant state ballot drives? Or has the ABC crew become locked in its cocoon of glamorous Michael Moore movie premieres and symposia, reliant on self-promoting emails from reporters to cover the rest of the country? This would never happen at kausfiles. ...

ME/NE Mo? The other alternative elector-appointing system is the Maine/Nebraska plan, which gives electors to the winner of each Congressional and Senate district. (See this old George Will column.) Republicans would presumably benefit in the short run from the ME/NE rule--they control the majority of House districts, after all. ... ME/NE advantages: Candidates would be encouraged to campaign in both urban and rural areas--something that probably wouldn't happen with direct popular election. And the third party problem would be kept under control, since a minor party would have to actually win a congressional district to get an elector. The problem with ME/NE: Congressional districts are now so gerrymandered that there won't be many toss-up battlegrounds. ... The Maine/Nebraska system would at least create huge pressure to do something about the nation's scandalous gerrymandering problem. ... [Thanks to very alert kf reader E.C. for pointing out the hideous error in an earlier version of this item.] 12:59 P.M.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ward of the States: The Ward Connerly petition drive to end racial preferences in Michigan is back on again, at least temporarily. A state appeals court has reversed a lower court's ruling that petitions to get an anti-preference measure on the ballot were improperly worded. At the time of the earlier decision in March, the NYT's Greg Winter credulously quoted affirmative action supporters hyping its effect:

The several plaintiffs in the case, including the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus, called the decision a near death blow to their opponents, because it essentially renders all the petitions, and the signatures they carry, invalid.

[Emphasis on absurd legal braggadocio added.] ... I'm not sure if this earlier Times report was biased or simply part of a long tradition of journalists overestimating the importance of lower court decisions. Yesterday's decision is a lower court decision too. The real decision will presumably be made by the Michigan Supreme Court.  ... If the issue does get on the ballot, it will almost certainly have an effect on the presidential race in this swing state, though I'm not sure what effect that would be. (In 2000, the Bush forces tried successfully to keep Connerly off the ballot in Florida. They wanted to avoid having to take a position on his proposal--a position that threatened to lose them the soft swing "compassion" vote while mobilizing opponents.)

[If the issue doesn't get on the ballot this year, doesn't it mean that this was the rare case when a lower court ruling actually was important, because it delayed the signature-gathering until it was too late, just as the Michigan Black Legislative Caucus might have predicted?--ed You know everything, don't you.] 6:14 P.M.

When Kerry Took the Philippines ... for Reagan! I'm deeply suspicious of the following U.S. News "Washington Whispers" item, which seems to almost comically grab at anything that might inflate Kerry's affinity with Ronald Reagan: