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California would give all its electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide under legislation that was sent Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 459 cleared its final legislative hurdle by passing the Assembly, 51-12, with little Republican support.

The measure by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, comes more than a decade after Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush edged Democrat Al Gore despite getting 544,000 fewer votes nationwide.

In 2004, the tables nearly were turned by Democrats, however, when John Kerry would have defeated Bush -- despite 3 million fewer votes nationwide - if he had garnered Ohio's electoral votes by swaying 60,000 more GOP voters to his side.

AB 459 would commit California to a compact in which each participating state would agree to abide by the national popular vote for president.

Thus, a candidate potentially could be rejected Californians at the ballot box yet win all the state's 55 electoral votes.

The compact would not become effective until its member states control a majority of the Electoral College's 538 votes. Eight states and the District of Columbia have given thumbs up so far, totaling 74 electoral votes.

Brown has not announced a position on AB 459 and typically does not commit himself prior to signing or vetoing a bill.

Hill contends that California is at a severe disadvantage under the current "winner take all" system that awards all the Golden State's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who finishes first in statewide balloting.

Because California's voter rolls are dominated by Democrats, who hold a 13-point advantage in voter registration, there is little chance of a GOP presidential candidate winning - and little reason for either party to campaign extensively in the state, according to supporters of AB 459.

Hill argues that his bill would force presidential candidates to court California voters by taking interest in agriculture, water, high-tech, trade and other issues important to its residents.

Assemblyman Dan Logue, a Linda Republican who opposed AB 459, characterized it as a partisan power play.

Because most votes are located in urban areas, which tend to be Democratic strongholds, the bill would prompt presidential candidates to focus on large cities at the expense of rural areas where GOP registration is strong, he said.

Hill countered that the population of large cities nationwide represents only a small fraction of voters, so presidential candidates would hurt themselves by courting only urban voters.

Legislation similar to AB 459 was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and 2008.

Schwarzenegger's veto message in 2008 said that the issue should be put to a vote of the people because it represents "a major shift in the way not only Californians but all Americans choose their president."


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