The “No Dirty Tricks” Campaign

Actor Bradley Whitford debuted an online video he created as part of a new push by the Courage Campaign to defeat a Republican-led effort to change the way that California calculates its presidential electoral votes.

It’s just the latest in an attempt to stop the Presidential Election Reform Act initiative, which would end the “winner-take-all” system of awarding the state’s electors and replace it with one where they are divvied up by the winner in each congressional district. Such a method, Whitford says, would give the GOP a leg up in the presidential election. Democrats would lose about 20 electoral votes, given the current makeup of the state’s districts. That would make it very difficult to win the White House, because the Democrats have depended on California’s 55 electoral votes as a base of support.

Signatures are now being collected by Californians for Equal Representation to put the initiative on the June, 2008 ballot.

A group called Californians for Fair Election Reform, which includes some of the states Democratic leaders, has been running ads warning voters of the measure, characterizing it as a partisan power grab.

And the progressive group Courage Campaign, led by producer Rick Jacobs, has launched a separate effort called Nodirtytricks.com as a way of engaging bloggers and other online activists to try to defeat the measure.

“The Republicans, because they do not have a majority of Americans on the issues, have become dependent on these kind of shady strategies,” Whitford said in a conference call on Monday with bloggers and other activists.

Opponents fear that voter turnout will be low in June, and that only the most die-hard supporters — i..e. the GOP base — will turn out to support it.

“The election could be over, here, in June 2008,” Jacobs said on the conference call.

Although the measure is not yet on the ballot, opponents appear to have adopted a strategy of stopping the initiative before it gets any farther.

Political strategist Chris Lehane, who has been advising Californians for Fair Election Reform, points to polling that shows that although a majority of Californians support the idea, it is less than 50%, and even less than 40% by one measure. That’s not a great place to be at the start of an initiative campaign, he says.

Supporters say the measure is needed to more accurately represent the vote in such a large, diverse state. Kevin Eckery, the spokesman for the measure, has said that he’s actually encouraged by the poll numbers and that voters should be given the chance to decide for themselves. He said, “They don’t want to be told, ‘Don’t put it on the ballot.’ Even if they are going to vote ‘no,’ they want the right to vote ‘no.'”

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