Some state electors fear system will push Bush

The Associated Press
Monday November 20, 2000

SACRAMENTO – Forty percent of California’s representatives to the Electoral College would alter or even eliminate the 213-year-old institution in which they will serve. 

Electors said in a telephone survey by The Associated Press that they fear the college will choose a president — namely, George W. Bush — who lost the popular vote when they meet Dec. 18. 

Democrat Al Gore was leading in the popular vote Sunday, but Republican Bush had an edge in the Electoral College, with Florida hanging in the balance. If Bush wins, he would become the first man to lose the popular vote but win the presidency in 112 years. 

California awards all of its 54 Electoral College votes to the state’s popular vote winner. Gore led in California Friday with 53.5 percent of the vote, with more than 400,000 absentee ballots still to be counted. 

“I’ve always thought it should be whoever wins the popular vote,” said Cathedral City Councilman Gregory S. Pettis, elector from the 44th Congressional District. 

None of 50 California electors interviewed last week would consider switching their Gore vote, though 31st Congressional District elector William K. Wong of Sacramento joked he might auction his vote on the eBay Web site. 

“Nobody’s offered me an ambassadorship to the Court of St. James, and even that wouldn’t do it,” said Roberts Braden of Chico, the elector from the Second Congressional District. 

Several suggested Bush electors in other states might face pressure to support the popular vote winner when Electoral College representatives gather in each state capitol next month. 

In telephone interviews, 10 California electors favored abolishing the Electoral College; 12 wanted to change it; 18 thought the college should be retained; and 10 weren’t sure. Four electors could not be reached despite repeated attempts since Monday. 

Those who wanted to abolish the college dubbed it an anachronism. 

“It was born during a time when there was a lot of elitism in our country, and there was no faith in the common people to make an informed choice,” said elector Richard Valle of Union City in the 13th Congressional District. 

Others argued the system gives less populous states disproportionate power by awarding each state as many electors as it has U.S. senators and congressmen. 

“It magnifies their influence, and most of the larger states are where you tend to have more minority voters,” said Amy Arambula of Fresno in the 20th Congressional District. 

U.S. senators also used to be selected indirectly, but now American voters directly elect every officeholder except their president, noted R. Stephen Bollinger of Westminster in the 46th Congressional District. 

He and others, however, said they doubt smaller states would ratify a constitutional amendment eliminating the Electoral College. 

Many of the electors who supported changing the system thought California should follow the lead of Maine and Nebraska. They divide Electoral College votes based on which candidate wins a majority in each congressional district. 

Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, on Thursday said he will introduce a bill to do the same in California. 

“That shows the true split of the popular vote,” said Sunil Aghi of Anaheim, founder of the Indo-American Political Foundation and the elector from the Third Congressional District. 

The largest group of electors said the Electoral College has worked for more than 200 years and shouldn’t be changed. 

“If you had it a popular vote, it’s possible for four or five big states to control the election, and that’s not fair,” said Larry Trullinger of Fresno, from the 39th Congressional District. 

Despite weighty questions of the nation’s future, many electors said they are enjoying the newfound notoriety. 

“I’m trying to swing a book deal out of it,” joked C. Craig Roberts of San Diego, the elector from the 49th Congressional District. “It’s the first time in my lifetime that America’s paid as much attention to the Electoral College as it does to the Super Bowl or the World Series.”