On Fox News Live, correspondent Anita Vogel reported on a ballot initiative proposed by a Republican organization that would "divvy up" California's "55 coveted electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district, rather than the winner-take-all system currently in place." On-screen text during Vogel's report identified a spokesman for the GOP group as "pro-reform" and an opponent of the initiative as "anti-reform." However, the spokesman has criticized two other initiatives on California's electoral vote that have been proposed by Democrats.
On the August 23 edition of Fox News Live, Fox News correspondent Anita Vogel reported on a ballot initiative proposed by the Republican organization Californians for Equal Representation that would "divvy up the state's 55 coveted electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district, rather than the winner-take-all system currently in place." Host Greg Jarrett introduced the report by stating that the initiative "could change the way we elect a president in America." During the segment, Vogel played clips of Californians for Equal Representation spokesman Kevin Eckery supporting the initiative, and former Democratic National Committee trustee director Ari Swiller opposing it. As blogger Eric Kleefeld noted on Talking Points Memo's Election Central, on-screen text during the report identified Eckery as "pro-reform" and Swiller as "anti-reform." But contrary to Fox's characterization of the two sides as "pro" and "anti" reform, Eckery has criticized two ballot measures proposed by Democrats that would also "change the way we elect a president in America."
In an August 22 article, the Los Angeles Times reported that "Democrats on Tuesday proposed putting on a 2008 ballot an initiative aimed at having California join the movement to elect presidents by popular vote" and asserted that the initiative was intended to "head off a Republican effort to get some of California's electoral votes." The article continued:
A team of Democrats filed two virtually identical initiatives with the California attorney general's office Tuesday, a first step to begin gathering the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place either measure on the June or November ballot.
If backers gather sufficient signatures to place one of the Democratic measures on the ballot, and voters were to approve it, California would become one of roughly a dozen states to have embraced the concept of electing presidents by popular vote.
The national drive toward a popular vote would not scrap the electoral college system, but would require states to award their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the most actual votes nationally. It would take effect only if states representing a majority of the electoral votes agree to the change.
The Times also reported that Eckery "said the Democratic-backed initiative would leave Californians with little or no voice in U.S. politics." The article continued: "'If you ignore the congressional districts, there would be one big overwhelming national vote,' he said. 'What matters in L.A. . . . won't matter. It will be just one vote thrown into the mix.' "
From the noon hour of the August 23 edition of Fox News Live:
GREG JARRETT: Well, it's a move, as we mentioned a moment ago, that could change the way we elect a president in America, the all-important electoral votes in California, that's the big state. All of it could be up for grabs and not just handed to the person that wins the state, winner-take-all. Anita Vogel, live in Los Angeles now with more of the details. Hi, Anita.
VOGEL: Well, hi, Greg. That's right. This is really interesting. This is a proposal that could drastically change the way electoral votes are awarded here in California, and it certainly could have ramifications for the next presidential election.
[begin video clip]
VOGEL: California Republicans are pushing a ballot measure that would divvy up the state's 55 coveted electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district, rather than the winner-take-all system currently in place. Democrats are not happy about this because even a losing candidate could walk away with a hefty number of electoral votes.
ECKERY: I think that the main ramification is that the next presidential election is going to have a fairer outcome. I think that when you look at, "How can you get more people to the polls, how can you make people's vote count?" that this is just one terrific way to do that.
SWILLER: They're going to come up with a lot of other schemes, they're going to put a lot of conservative ballot initiatives around the country, and in particular in California, to try to move people out and get their base motivated, because otherwise Republicans are not coming to vote.
VOGEL: Opponents say this is nothing but a Republican power grab. Supporters counter it would force candidates to focus on issues important to people all over the state. Either way, political observers say, if passed, this could be a massive shakeup.
DASH: This would politically kind of be the Mount St. Helens of politics, I mean, a huge eruption, a huge sea change. You know, like the earthquakes, when they changed the world millions of years ago. The tectonic plates are changing the landscape.
[end video clip]
VOGEL: Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, currently award electoral votes district by district. Now, the proposal still has to qualify for the ballot here in California. Supporters need 434,000 signatures, and an early field poll shows there is some support for this. Greg, back to you.
JARRETT: It's amazing. Nobody complained of Maine and Nebraska because they're not electoral-rich, but California? Well, that changes the equation. Anita Vogel, thanks very much.