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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Latest GOP Scam: Gerrymandering the Electoral College

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on December 18, 2012.
At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum flags Reid Wilson’s National Journal article, “The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme,” which warns Democrats of a coming battle:

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.

Drum adds that “If, say, Michigan switched to a proportional system, then Mitt Romney wouldn’t have won zero of its 16 electoral votes this year. He would have won eight or nine. Voila! More votes for Mitt.” Further, says Drum,

Do this in other states that are either solidly Democratic or trending Democratic, and you could snag 40 or 50 extra electoral votes for the Republican nominee. Needless to say, there are no plans to do something similar in states that tend to vote for the Republican candidate. Texas and Georgia have no intention of going proportional and allowing the Democratic nominee to get a share of their electoral votes.

In his post, “Electoral College Shakeup: How Republicans could put a lock on the presidency” at In These Times, Rob Richie explains:

If Republicans in 2011 had abused their monopoly control of state government in several key swing states and passed new laws for allocating electoral votes, the exact same votes cast in the exact same way in the 2012 election would have converted Barack Obama’s advantage of nearly five million popular votes and 126 electoral votes into a resounding Electoral College defeat.
The power of elector-allocation rule changes goes further. Taken to an extreme, these Republican-run states have the ability to lock Democrats out of a chance of victory in 2016 absent the Democratic nominee winning a national landslide of some 12 million votes. In short, the Republicans could win the 2016 election by state law changes made in 2013.

Richie notes that the scheme is already in motion in Pennsylvania and “In the last year, Republican leaders have indicated interest in dividing electoral votes in such states as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and, just this week, Virginia, where state senator Bill Carrico has introduced a bill to allocate Virginia’s electoral votes by congressional district.” He crunches the numbers and provides an interesting chart showing two scenarios using the ‘allocation by district’ method under which Romney would have won an electoral college majority. He demonstrates that under existing political realities, there is no possibility of Democrats using the technique to their advantage.
Jamelle Bouie’s post on the topic, “Republicans Float Plan to Make Electoral College More Unfair” at The American Prospect adds “Republicans…want to “reform” the system by adopting the worst of all worlds–winner-take-all for Republican states, proportional distribution for Democratic ones…it amounts to little more than a scheme to rig presidential elections in favor of GOP candidates.”
As Richie concludes,

…The very fact that such a scenario is even legally possible should give us all pause. Election of the president should be a fair process in which all American voters have equal ability to hold their president accountable. It’s time for the nation to embrace one-person, one-vote elections and the “fair fight” represented by a national popular vote. Let’s forever dismiss the potential of such electoral hooliganism and finally do what the overwhelming majorities of Americans have consistently preferred: Make every vote equal with a national popular vote for president.

This may indeed be the most viable strategy for Democrats, since some Republicans will likely join the direct popular vote movement, concluding that direct popular vote gives them a better shot than trying to ‘run the table’ in winning district allocation of electoral votes reforms in all the swing states. Democrats on, the other hand, will continue to have a growing edge caused by demographic trends. It’s the only way to insure a fair playing field for all parties.

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