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This is nothing new -- it's a 51-year-old idea that could have changed history


Electoral Votes By Congressional District

This is nothing new — it’s a 51-year-old idea that could have changed history

The latest political story to come out of California has a yet-unreported twist:  the proposal to scrap the current winner-take-all by state system for awarding electoral votes in the Presidential election with a system that is winner-take-all by congressional district is actually 51 years old.  Had the Mundt-Coudert amendment been passed by Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states when it was first offered back in 1956, the Presidents of the United States and American history itself might have been very different.

Under the statewide initiative known as the Presidential Election Reform Act, which was filed with election officials in Sacramento two weeks ago for submission on the June 3 primary ballot, the Golden State’s 55 electoral votes would be divied up with one for the winner of each of California’s 53 House Districts and two for the winner statewide.  Under such a system, George W. Bush would have won 22 electoral votes in ’04, since he carried 22 districts; under the present system, John Kerry won all of California’s electoral votes since he carried the state by a margin of 55% to 44% statewide.

To no one’s surprise, the initiative was filed by a Committee for Equal Representation, the filing done by Tom Hiltachk, whose law firm represents the state Republican Party and which has worked with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The opposition to the proposed electoral vote change is handled by Californians for Fair Election Reform, which the state’s two Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein helped form.

But what has not yet been reported is that the idea of electoral votes by congressional districts has been around since 1956.  In reporting on the amendment filed by Sen. Karl Mundt (R.-S.D.) and Rep. Frederick Coudert (R.-NY), HUMAN EVENTS (February 11, 1956) pointed out that the measure “would divide up the electoral vote in each state on the same basis as Senators and House members now are elected — that is, two presidential electors would be chosen at large, the rest byn congressional districts.”

Noting that Mundt-Coudert enjoys “more favor among press observers and students of the question,” HUMAN EVENTS reminded readers that M-C “was actually the way electoral votes were cast in the early days of the Republic — before grasping politicos set up the “winner take all” system.

Mundt-Coudert went nowhere.  Neither have proposals that come out after every close presidential election calling for abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with popular election of the President — as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-NY) proposed in her first year in office.

Mundt-Coudert has returned, at least in California (Maine and Nebraska, with a combined nine electoral votes, are the only two states that divide electoral votes by congressional districts.)  The latest Field Poll shows that 47% favor the electoral vote by congressional district proposal, with 35% opposed. 

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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