A proposed ballot measure in California to apportion the state’s electoral votes by congressional district, rather than awarding all of the state’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, has received much-deserved attention recently. Some Republicans—including many supporters of Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign—have supported the ballot initiative because they recognize its potential to confer upon the Republican nominee a windfall of roughly 20 electoral votes in an otherwise solidly Democratic state; Democrats have uniformly opposed the measure, for the same reason. The measure has also renewed debate about the fairness and wisdom of the Electoral College.
There is much to be said, as a matter of policy, about the California initiative. If it is successful, for example, it is likely to lead to similar efforts in other states, driven (as is the California effort) more by partisan aims than by concerns about representative democracy in presidential elections. But the proposal suffers from a much more serious defect: it is very likely unconstitutional.