My View: Electoral college and RNC strategy
January 29, 2013
The GOP’s post election hang wringing has two faces: One is to soul search why they lost the Latino, women, and youth votes. The other is more sinister and under the radar: a move supported by the Republican National Committee to rig the mechanics of our elections to make it easier for the GOP to win in 2016.
If you are one of those Americans frustrated by Congress’ inability to compromise and angered by a minority in the House that just says “no”, then fasten your seat belts. The strategy cooked up by the RNC is an attempt to thwart public will at the presidential election level. They plan to do it by changing long standing Electoral College rules that allocate electoral votes at the state level. The repercussions would be many, from diminishing the importance of swing states in elections, to increasing the likelihood that presidents would be elected who did not get the majority of the popular vote, and institutionalizing gridlock on the national level for years,
Republicans have succeeded in the past four years in seizing control of more state legislatures and governorships even in states that often vote Democratic in presidential elections. This has, allowed them to gerrymander districts in 2011, drawing lines to make them homogeneous and safe for more Republicans. Now about 158 of the 234 Republicans in the House of Representatives come from “safe” districts, thanks to recent redistricting and gerrymandering. It worked. Democrats failed to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, even though Democratic candidates for Congress won 1 million more votes than Republicans.
Building on their safe district strategy, the RNC has launched a coordinated effort, to change the winner take all Electoral College votes in six states where the GOP controls state houses, but that voted for Pres. Obama in 2012. The plan is to have Electoral College votes be allocated by Congressional district. For example, in Virginia, in 2012, Pres. Obama won the popular vote and took all 13 electoral college votes. If the electoral college votes were allocated by the winner in each separate congressional district, Mitt Romney would have won 9 of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes in spite of his losing the popular vote.
Only two states have ever opted for proportional votes. Most have not because a large block of votes garners more power and attention for state interests in Washington than splitting themselves into smaller bits and it is a leading reason why the electoral college system has not been changed. It also may explain why attempts in the Virginia legislature to pass such a scheme were killed last week when the Governor and major GOP legislators withdrew their support.
One complaint about the Electoral College is that the winner is not always the same as the winner of the national popular vote. It has happened four times in 44 presidential elections, but in using the Virginia example ,it is easy to see how the distortion could actually be much worse.
Another up side of requiring a Presidential candidate to win the popular vote statewide in order to win all of the Electoral College votes requires them to appeal to a wider range of interests and it forces moderation and compromise. For example, a candidate that only needs to win an urban district could ignore rural needs so there is less reason to compromise. Worse, if they do compromise, they could inspire a more purist primary opponent. When they get to Washington, the pressure is not to compromise so gridlock is set in concrete.
Swing state Colorado will escape the controversy since Democrats control both Houses and the governorship and commissions and courts thwarted gerrymandering in 2011. However, keep your eyes on RNC targeted Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida state legislatures.