Electoral College Tinkering: a National GOP Push?

When George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000, many Democrats loudly called for the abolition of the electoral college.

Now, on the other side of two wins by Barack Obama, national Republicans are looking at ways to blunt the Democratic edge in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that go blue in presidential years but are presently governed by Republicans.

Reid Wilson of the National Journal has the story, flagged by Early Returns.

Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
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.

Obama won all three states in 2008, handing him 46 electoral votes because of the winner-take-all system. Had electoral votes been awarded by district, Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have cut into that lead. Final election results show that Romney won nine of Michigan’s 14 districts, five of eight in Wisconsin, and at least 12 of 18 in Pennsylvania. Allocate the two statewide votes in each state to Obama and that means Romney would have emerged from those three Democratic states with 26 electoral votes, compared with just 19 for Obama (and one district where votes are still being counted).

The down side for the GOP? Such changes would effectively nationalize state legislative elections – a big potential threat to Republicans in swing districts.

Pa. hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential election since 1988.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) suggested such a change back in 2011. His proposal would have allocated Pa. electoral college votes according to congressional district. That met with broad criticism, given that Republicans also drew the congressional map.

Earlier this month, Pileggi introduced a revised plan that would allocate votes proportionally.

Update: Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson said the Senator introduced both versions of his plan, in 2011 and 2012, with no input from anyone in DC.

9 thoughts on “Electoral College Tinkering: a National GOP Push?

  1. It’s pure politics, but its more evident, if one person=one vote, then a proportional voting system would accomplish the same result, well not exactly since districts don’t always have essentially equal population but if districts were not gerrymandered, it would work.

    When people vote the governor , or the attorney general, its one person one vote, why should the presidential election be different, when you vote for senator its the same thing.

    One point not mentioned is that states are free to tinker with the college, the GOP legislature could simply award votes to romney, or award votes by “state legislative district” rather than “congressional district”,
    or they can award votes by “whoever wins the canadian election”.

    I would love to see the international media, see a rigged election, in which the president wins a higher popular vote in certain states but romney wins.

    One caveat, many states DO NOT HAVE LAWS SAYING AN ELECTOR HAS TO VOTE FOR THE WINNING CANDIDATE, “LAWS THAT DO EXIST HAVE NOT BE TESTED”, JOHN EDWARDS GOT ONE VOTE IN THE EC IN 2004.

    Of course party loyalty is there, but I could see a moral conviction if a candidate won statewide, and elector defected.

    It’s like slavery and racism, a slave was worth 3/5 of a person, and folks don’t like the fact that urban turnout is equal to oner person on vote, blacks for instance usually populate urban areas, Nebraska redrew its district to make obama less likely to win it.

  2. Considering the effects of gerrymandering, this is not fair at all. The Democratic party had more votes nationally and in Pennsylvania, but because of gerrymandering, we get a lopsided Republican PA Congressional delegation. If we could take redistricting out of the political realm, then this plan would be fair. But “fair” is not a word that politicians care about – “power” is what they care about, and not power to the people.

  3. Why do it by district? Why not just apportion it and then have electors elected just like the lists in parliamentary elections in Europe? Or would that be “European socialism”? Remember that phrase

  4. Well, makes sense. If you can’t win with your ideas, cheat. Isn’t that what politics is these days? It isn’t about representing the people. It’s about forcing your views upon them, no matter how you get there. Obama with a big win? Gee, let’s not figure out what we’re doing wrong…let’s figure out how to “fix” things so we win next time.

  5. The unintended consequence of this would be turnout problems on down ballot tickets in congressional districts where the outcome would be predecided.

    This would put Republican state and congressional candidates into jeopardy. In the end, that is the reason enough Republican state politicians will oppose to keep this from ever becoming a floor vote.

  6. I tend to agree with both Ryan and TNardi. This plan would bring the vote closer to the people and allow the full range of Pennsylvania voter beliefs not to be at the will of the turnout machine of inner-city urban democrats. It would award votes based on the differences among the any different types of people that abound in our state.

    With that said, bringing gerrymanderin, which cuts both ways depending on the state your in, into the question, it is not fair.

    However, allowing the minority’s voice to be drowned entirely as the current system does isn’t fair at all either.

    I think the current proposal, proportionality, is the best thing going.

  7. Ryan,

    Given political gerrymandering, it really isn’t. And given the districts, I’d argue that it’s worse. Look at Bob Brady’s district, which is about half of the city of Philadelphia. That is D+35, meaning 35 points *more* Democratic than the nation, on average.

    On the other hand, Mike Fitzpatrick’s district, which is mostly Bucks County, is something like R+1 — 1 point more Republican than average. If Generic Republican wins PA-08 by 1 point and Generic Democrat wins PA-01 by 35 points, they are each awarded 1 electoral vote — despite the fact that Generic Democrat would have received hundreds of thousands more votes, overall.

    Same if you look at GT Thompson’s district, which is like R+9, and Jim Gerlach’s, which is like D+1.

    Is that to say the Electoral College is fair as a winner-take-all? No. But this is less fair — in *losing* the state of Pennsylvania in sheer vote totals, Romney would have received *more* electoral votes than Obama. It’s not true proportional voting some districts are packed with more Democrats or Republicans than others, skewing the results.

  8. I tend to think this is a reasonable compromise between the existing system and a system based squarely on the popular vote.

  9. Bring the power closer to the people? The trolls in the PAGOP and orcs in the PADEMS wouldn’t ever let that happen. One vote to rule them all…my precious

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