Californians are very creative when it comes to all sorts of things (naturally, being a Californian, I’m somewhat prejudiced). It looks like politics are no exception (though I’m not sure if Cali came up with the idea first).
The State legislature passed a law that, if a similar law is passed by enough other states, would throw all of California’s electoral votes in with the winner of the national popular election. If you aren’t very familiar with the whole Electoral College thing, I’m probably not the best person to explain it. Basically, when you vote in an election for the President of the USA, you aren’t really voting for the President. You are voting for a panel of people who have promised to vote (at least the first time around) for the person you voted for. This generally translates your vote for President into an actual vote for the President, and usually the President elected is the President whom the majority of people in the country voted for.
Not so, obviously, in the case of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Al won the popular vote (i.e., more people voted for him than did for George), but George won in states with higher Electoral College votes. Since more panelists voted for George than voted for Al, George became Emperor, er, President, and Al became a regular on the lecture circuits. The fact that the people chose Al made no difference. This was not the first time this happened, either. It’s just the one that is most recent.
If California’s new law, and that of the other states slowly passing the same law, gets enough support from other states, then we might finally see the actual votes of the people elect the President. Here’s how things would play out the new way. If Al won the popular vote (i.e., the people in the U.S. vote for Al to be the President), then California will have it’s Electoral College representatives vote the way the majority of the country voted, even if that is the opposite of the way the people in California voted. Whoah! That seems odd, right?
If California were the only state to do that, it would be odd, and really rather pointless. That’s why the law doesn’t kick in until enough other states (technically enough total Electoral College votes) also agree to do this. When enough states with enough votes all agree to this, then there will be enough Electoral College votes (a majority) to cause the popularly elected President to automatically become the Electoral College elected President. So, even if California votes Democrat, but the majority of the USA voted Republican, California will see to it that the majority decision is upheld.
It seems a bit crazy, and it seems a bit questionable Constitutionally, but I think I could live with it. The Electoral College is just a silly hold-over from a time long ago when the average man (only free men could vote) was not particularly educated. The world is a different place, and the USA is vastly different than it was in the 1800s.
For more on this story (and probably a better worded explanation), see Popular vote gets thumbs up in Calif. on Yahoo! news.