On Electoral College “Reform”

Electoral College reform is in the air.

But rather than abolish the Electoral College to ensure that the national popular vote winner takes the presidency (or using the National Popular Vote compact to do the same without the laborious process of a Constitutional amendment), the reform that’s in the air would all but guarantee that the national popular vote runner up would take the White House.

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Republicans in a variety of states — including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio — have raised the prospect of changing the way their states’ electoral votes are allocated in presidential elections. Instead of winner-take-all contests in which the candidate who wins the most votes in the state then wins that state’s electoral haul, some in the GOP want district-by-district races.

That way, in a state like Wisconsin, President Obama can beat Mitt Romney by over 200,000 popular votes, but when it came time for the electoral college, Obama and Romney would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes, five to five. Expand this to the national level and Obama would have finished 2012 with 5 million more popular votes than Romney, but Obama still would have lost the election thanks to gerrymandered districts.

And here:

It wasn’t so long ago, coming off a bruising presidential election, that Republicans were looking at ways to increase vote percentages among younger and minority voters to remain a contender in national elections. But it appears professional Republicans have decided that’s either impossible, unnecessary or perhaps just too hard. Because now they’re going for another possibility: rig the electoral college to insure Republican presidential victories with a decreasing voter base.

In other words, nuclear gerrymandering.

The plan is to game the electoral college to rig the system for Republicans. It works like this. Because of big victories in the 2010 midterm — and defending majorities in 2012 — Republicans now enjoy complete control of a number of midwestern states that usually vote Democratic in national (and increasingly in senatorial) elections. It may be temporary control but for now it’s total. Use that unified control in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania to change the system of electoral vote allocation from winner-take-all to proportional allotment.

People may not like the Electoral College, but they understand the rules — win the state, win the state’s Electoral votes. This scheme would be rigging the rules in favor of the minority party, and I suspect that it would change the complexion of the 2016 race in ways that I’m not sure the GOP would be prepared for.

Let’s suppose that the GOP rig the Electoral College so that even if Democrats win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia it’s a net negative for the Democratic candidate in the Electoral Collge because the Republican candidate will net out more Electoral votes from that state due to gerrymandering.

This means that the Democrats will have to make a play for states that they’ve written off since the turn of the century. That means going hard for Texas, the south, the high plains, and the Rocky Mountains.

No, this strategy won’t win 2016 for them; these areas are still very Red. But it will lay the groundwork for the Democrats to win them in 2020 by building the local Democratic machinery and infusing these areas with Democratic ideas. That’s a long term thing — and it may also cause states that were on the fence about the National Popular Vote compact to pass it.

If the GOP gain the presidency by losing the popular vote nationwide and specifically losing the popular vote in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin while also winning a plurality of those states’ Electoral votes, there would be a widespread sense that the GOP didn’t play by the rules. Even in 2000, there was a sense that Bush had won, albeit on a technicality. This situation, however, would strike many as cheating, and the elected President would be seen by many as illegitimate.

As I pointed out here, five years ago, this concept isn’t bad, so long as every state does it and apportionment is done not by congressional district but by percentages so that the Electoral vote apportionment reflects the actual vote within the state. But to implement this system only in states that have voted for the Democratic candidate and to apportion the votes along the partisan lines of the Congressional districts will invite electoral chaos and outrage.

One thought on “On Electoral College “Reform”

  1. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, looks better and better.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes – 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

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