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October 27, 2008

The Electoral College Hurts The Fight Against Proposition 8

Jesse at Pandagon has a post discussing the latest wingnut fantasy:  Obama could lose California.  After he wins California easily, I'm sure they'll chalk it up to illegal immigrants voting or some such thing.

Anyway, Jesse pointed out that no one is putting any resources into early voting for California; since the states 55 electoral votes are a lock, Obama doesn't need to spend money there and McCain is apparently convinced that he has even less of a chance of getting those votes than he does Pennsylvania - which is true, but reality is such a stranger to that campaign I'm actually a bit surprised he's not abandoning the entire nation to focus on winning over Berkeley.

This dynamic goes a long way toward explaining why California is such a weird state.  To the rest of the nation, it's a super-ultra-liberal enclave all the way through.  Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as the farther you go from the coast, the more conservative you get.  East Bay San Francisco has wingnut enclaves that would make Mississippi jealous.  So the state that reliably commits 20% of the 270 electoral votes that Democrats need to win the Presidency is the one that recalled its Democratic Governor and has foisted such Republican all-stars as Randy "Duke" Cunningham, John Doolittle and Richard Pombo upon Congress.

While the California Democratic Party is large and successful, it still could benefit from national attention and support.  If the President was elected by popular vote, Obama would have been spending some of his millions in California, and would have imposed his incredible organizational structure on them as well.  More Democrats would be registered, and Democrats would be banking early votes in California the way we are in other states.  These Democratic voters would not only vote for Obama, but would also vote to defeat Proposition 8, the hateful attempt by the Mormon and Catholic Churches and others to take away the existing right for same-sex couples to marry and impose their religious beliefs upon all others in the state, including many established Christian churches. 

The fight over Proposition 8 in California - along with a host of other issues, such as the execrable Proposition 187 that passed in the 1994 - shows us how the national party's necessary focus on electoral votes every four years damages our efforts to advance the progressive agenda in all parts of the country.  Switching to direct election of our Presidents would require nationwide party building of which Dean's 50-state strategy is only a pale shadow, and the benefits could be enormous. 

As it is, if you're in California or you know people who are, get out and vote and/or pester those you know to do the same.  Unless they're going to vote in favor of Proposition 8.  Then you might consider the ways you can discourage them or sabotage their attempts to get to the polls.  All's fair in love and elections, you know.


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I'm in California. I voted yesterday. I'm encouraging everyone I know to either request an absentee ballot before the deadline tomorrow or to go vote in person at the registrar/recorder's office (in L.A. county, the only location to vote in person is in Norwalk, where I went. Plus I'm doing my best to spread this No-on-8 video, made by my pal, William Lucas Walker, excellent TV writer/producer, recently married (after being together 9 years) to his sweet, handsome partner Kelly, and father of 7-year-old beloved princess extraordinaire Elizabeth:


(I am so not a skilled embedder; anybody who wants to help out, feel free.)

I'm not the most effective political operative, because I can't understand how any human being with a beating heart can either (a) vote to keep anyone from reaping the benefits of a loving legal union that lets their kids feel the security of having parents who are married (I got to have that 'til I was about 9, then pflooey!), and/or (b) vote Republican. As a result, I get overly passionate, lose my ability to reason, raise my voice and arms and gesticulate a lot.

But Bill's more level-headed, and he and his video are going where many of the no-on-8 ads fear to tread: Think about the children. There are 52,000 kids living in homes with their gay parents who'd love to feel as legitimate and just plain regular as their classmates and friends with straight parents. Not to mention this huge element: that the benefits, rights and protections afforded to kids whose parents are married wouldn't hurt, either.

People shouldn't be able to vote to legislate against things just because they don't like or understand them. If that were the case, I'm sure we all have a list of stuff we'd campaign against. (For me, it'd be monster truck rallies and the popularity of books like "Weekends With Morrie" and "The Da Vinci Code," for starters.) I'm hoping the tide of support for Obama, even though there's minimal campaign presence here in the Golden State, will help to sink this heinous piece of proposed legislation.

Regarding the L.A. County early voting experience, even though it was a Sunday in a non-battleground state, there was a good crowd of people at the registrar/recorder's office. (I heard there was a truly huge crowd the day before, with much longer lines and wait times.) I (and the two friends I ferried down to Norwalk) had to wait outside the front door of the building until the doorkeeper dude got word via walkie from upstairs that they were ready for more. Then we took the elevator to the third floor, where helpful folks guided us to follow the red line to the main room, where we stood in a line to give our info to employees who gave us a number. Then we sat in the chairs they'd set up (probably 75 or 80 chairs, filled to capacity most of the time I was there) and waited for them to call our numbers. When they did, we went to another window, where they handed us our ballots and booklets. Then we followed another red line that led us to another point where we waited in line 'til a booth opened up and we could take our turn and vote.

The whole process only took about twenty minutes, not counting the 30-miles-each-way drive, which raelly wasn't too bad. I was a little disappointed that after all our efforts, it turned out that we were really just voting in person using absentee ballots, but it's a comfort knowing that these early-submitted absentee ballots will be among the first counted on election day, plus I still got my little "I Voted" sticker. And afterwards, we went to the oldest McDonald's in the country, with its single golden arch and neon "Speedie" sign, and ate deep-fried apple pies. Yum.

These Democratic voters would not only vote for Obama, but would also vote to defeat Proposition 8

Sadly, I think it's obvious that this is not necessarily the case. There are at least enough homophobic Democrat ticket-splitters to make Prop 8 close now--do you have a reason to believe that new registrants would behave differently from Democratic voters as a whole in the state?

It had been my understanding that CA doesn't have early voting.

In my county you can vote by mail and be a permanent absentee voter, but there is no place where you can go vote until election day. It may be different in other counties, and it may be that not all of the counties are publishing their statistics.

I have heard that in my mostly Dem county they are county on record levels of absentee ballots coming in.

DC, what county are you in? I thought in each county you could vote absentee in person at the office of your county registrar-recorder. Is this not the case?

i had no idea there was early voting in my county; it wasn't well advertised, and the only location is a pain to get to from here. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local&id=6457707 i only looked it up today, too late to consider and reject the drive.

california IS a very weird state. hell, we spawned both reagan and nixon -- to the regret of many. probably including the citizens who still regard them both as too inclined to cave in.

i am deeply devoted to democracy, but in general, i think the initiative process in CA is out of control. anyone with enough money to pay people to sign an initiative can get some piece of junk on the ballot. for complex issues [like, for one example, crime-related legislation], the result can be a disasterous piece of junk -- not vetted for consistency with existing law, constitutionality, cost, actual benefits, etc.

prop. 8 is a horror. it intends to rewrite our state constitution to TAKE AWAY EXISTING CIVIL RIGHTS -- a movement completely opposed to equality. and for what? who will be harmed by letting loving people marry legally, and have their families carry the legal rights and obligations that other families embrace?

There are at least enough homophobic Democrat ticket-splitters to make Prop 8 close now

There's no actual evidence for this view. What Prop. 8's backers have managed to do is confuse people over what it does and what a "no" vote vs. a "yes" vote would actually mean. A strong GOTV effort for Obama, with volunteers and staffers that are educated on Prop. 8 as well, would help to alleviate the confusion. Anyway, that there are homophobic Dems out there wouldn't change the fact that more Dems voting means more people voting against Prop. 8. There's plenty of racist Democrats out there, but Obama still maintains majority support among Democrats even in the deep south.

But this is not the electoral college, but the winner take all system, which is entirely ad hoc.

A state like California could form a group of states that all agree to distribute their electoral college votes in proportion to the vote ... with, say, a 15% threshold to be included in the split.

If they all passed legislation to do a proportional distribution provided the balance of the states in the group did likewise, then every state in the group would be a swing state for at least one electoral college vote ... and California, as the largest, would have the most electoral college votes swinging.

On the other hand, more attention from the national party would have lead to even greater new voter registration, which, by drawing in larger number of traditionally socially conservative Latinos and African-Americans, might have made the passage of Proposition 8 even more likely than it is.

"...political observers say high voter turnout for Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama -- who is predicted to draw record numbers of church-going African Americans and Latinos -- may spell the demise of legal gay marriage in California." (link)

The California Democratic Party is a remarkably ingrown and dysfunctional entity which folks like these are trying to change. It is true the Obama boom has not given it the shake up contested states have enjoyed.

On the other hand, the potential for the Obama/Democratic coalition of an emerging majority of people of color, young people and a good slice of whites, especially women, has been obvious in CA ever since the losing fights over immigration and affirmative action in the mid-90s.

Funny state.

In Los Angeles county, the only place to vote early--in a county of four million people--is Norwalk. Of course we're not voting early.

...California is such a weird state. To the rest of the nation, it's a super-ultra-liberal enclave all the way through. Nothing could be further from the truth....

As far back as 1977, when I was a 17 year-old high school senior in Pennsylvania, Hayakawa was a senator, and Prop. 13 was all over the national news I noted to myself that it seemed as though in California what there was a striking lack of was prominent moderates. The liberals seemed to made of the nation's wackiest lefties and the right likewise seemed to have the wildest extreme conservatives.

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