Top Dems decry GOP election reform proposal

Local Democrats shared the stage with party heavy-hitters Wednesday to decry an electoral-reform initiative being touted by one of the state’s highest-profile conservative law firms.

“Open cheating” was how former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, characterized the initiative submitted by Thomas Hiltachk, a partner in the law firm Bell McAndrews & Hiltachk, which represents the California Republican Party.

Dean stood with Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris and Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, in the plumbers and pipefitters union hall in San Francisco. The elected Democrats took turns bashing the California Presidential Election Reform Act as a power grab, election fraud and a move to disenfranchise voters.

If successful, the initiative would divide California’s 55 electoral votes along congressional lines, awarding two votes to the state’s overall winner, but granting the votes from each congressional district to the winner of that district. Currently, 19 of California’s districts are Republican.

The bill’s proponents say it changes the state’s electoral profile to more accurately reflect its population.

“California is largely taken for granted by presidential candidates because of its ‘winner-take-all’ system of awarding its electoral votes,” the act reads. That system, according to the text of the act, “does not reflect the vast diversity of our state, and the regional differences of our citizenry.”

But opponents say the bill would essentially rob California — the state with the most electoral votes in the country — of its clout.

“This is an opportunity for the Republicans to pick up, from their perspective, 19, 20, 21 electoral votes, which is, in essence, the equivalent size of Ohio,” Newsom said.

According to Californians for Equal Representation, the group promoting the initiative, Democratic opposition is just attemtping to hold onto power they no loger deserve.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a more accurate way of counting our votes because it more closely resembles how we vote,” said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the group.

The electoral votes from all states except Maine and Nebraska go to the overall popular winner in the state. Maine, with four electoral votes and Nebraska, with five, use a system similar to that proposed under the electoral reform act.

amartin@examiner.com

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