CommunityThe Bullpen

Republicans Devise Electoral Vote-Rigging Scheme

The asymmetry in the ways Democrats and Republicans use power can be seen in their responses to Electoral College disadvantages. When Democrats are faced with an Electoral College gap such that their Presidential candidate can win the popular vote and lose the election, they do pretty much nothing. Joe Lieberman even remarked in an exit interview that he was surprised at the lack of a movement to abolish the Electoral College after 2000. Such a movement actually exists, but the fact that the Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket which won the most votes in 2000, yet lost the election, doesn’t know about it, tells you what you need to know about those post-2000 efforts and their impact among DC Democrats.

By contrast, when Republicans are faced with an Electoral College disadvantage, as seen in the maps in 2008 and 2012, they seek merely to distort the already malapportioned Electoral College to give themselves a fighting shot. And they use their power in the states to bring that home.

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.

Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.

But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.

The article makes clear that Republicans in Washington are directing this effort, in association with the states, to effectively award large numbers of electoral votes to Republicans automatically.

To those who think this would be a fairer way of determining the Presidential election, consider that it only increases the malapportionment of the Electoral College. Already, the Electoral College is distorted, relative to the popular vote, because smaller states get a disproportionate percentage of the influence. All states, regardless of size, get two electoral votes based on their Senate seats. So while California has 78 times as many citizens as Wyoming, it gets only 18 times as many electoral votes.

Combine that with the tendency toward gerrymandering, particularly in states where Republicans handled redistricting. For example, in Pennsylvania, House Democrats received the majority of the vote, but Republicans will hold 13 of the 18 seats in the next Congress. If you award electoral votes based on the winner in each individual district, you’re just extending that gerrymander to the Presidential race.

Even delivering electoral votes proportionally based on the winner of the state is imprecise, because there simply aren’t enough electoral votes per state to precisely mirror the popular vote. And this is of course especially true when only blue-leaning states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are targeted to award their electoral votes proportionally, and not big red states like Texas and Georgia.

So the entire enterprise seeks to distort the Electoral College to wire it for Republicans. The proper way to change the Electoral College is to remove it from the Presidential process. Nothing could be further from the designs of these Republican operatives.

Previous post

Republicans and Democrats Speak Out Against “Too Big to Jail” HSBC Case

Next post

Nobody Should "Have the Power" to Raise the Debt Ceiling

David Dayen

David Dayen