Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Under New Law, Every Vote Counts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Just as the 2012 presidential campaign builds momentum, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that could give California's electoral votes to the candidate that loses California.

    Brown signed a bill that would award California's 55 electoral votes -- the most of any state -- to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote.

    The change would be good for California in one sense; candidates who now ignore the state because it's uncompetitive (the Democrats are sure to win the state in presidential elections) would have incentive to campaign in California in a national popular vote system, because every vote counts.

    The downside is the potential for cheating and nationwide political chaos.

    In the Electoral College system, any problems with vote counts or fraud are isolated to each state -- because a presidential election is really a set of 50 separate state elections.

    But if the national popular vote were to take effect, it would turn a very close election into a national emergency.

    There might be nationwide recounts, and searches for fraud everywhere.

    In signing the law, Brown takes on the Electoral College, which awards electoral votes to the winner in each state.

    The result has been elections like the 2000 contest, in which George W. Bush lost the popular vote nationally but won the presidency.

    To prevent such outcomes in the future, activists around the country have been working to get states to agree to give their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

    The bill Brown signed would only take effect if enough states sign onto this agreement to account for a majority of the 538 electoral votes, or 270 votes.

    California, by agreeing to join with Brown's signature, brings the number of states in this agreement to nine, and the number of electoral votes to 129.

    Can the United States handle national democracy and truly national elections?

    If this new California law provides momentum for the national popular vote movement, Americans may soon get to find out.