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BREAKING NEWS: Electoral initiative backers give up

September 27, 2007 |  8:22 pm

Plagued by a lack of money, supporters of a statewide initiative drive to change the way California's 55 electoral votes are apportioned, first revealed here by Top of the Ticket in July, are pulling the plug on that effort.

In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday's print editions, The Times' Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot.

Although Maine (since 1972) and Nebraska (since 1996) award electoral votes to the popular vote winner in each congressional district, the California initiative ignited a national controversy with Democratic critics charging it was a power grab by Republicans who are regularly shut out of any California electoral votes by the current winner-take-all system. Democrats have won all the state's 55 electoral votes in the last four presidential elections.

Nineteen of the state's 53 congressional districts are currently held by Republicans, giving them a fair chance of winning those electoral votes in a presidential election. The remaining two electoral votes would still go to the state's overall winner.

The initiative began in July with an air of mystery. Its text and paperwork were filed by a Republican law firm in Sacramento -- Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk -- but the actual identity of the backers was unknown. Observers noted the initiative would have helped independent candidates because its text specifically provided for third-party or independent candidates to win electoral votes by district.

Supporters said the initiative would increase California's role in presidential politics and better represent the state's diversity.

Opposition was led by Democratic consultant Chris Lehane who received financial backing from donors such as Stephen Bing, like Lehane a Hillary Clinton backer who saw any threat to keeping all of California's electoral votes as unacceptable.

"We want to to make sure this is not the Freddy Krueger of initiatives," Lehane said today, "that comes back to life. We'll continue to monitor it." Morain's full story is available here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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