Home / General / Republicans Rigging the 2016 Election

Republicans Rigging the 2016 Election


Why this story isn’t getting more attention, I don’t know. But Republicans are openly seeking to rig the 2016 elections. RNC Chair Reince Priebus is encouraging Republicans who control the government in Democratic-leaning states–PA, OH, WI, MI especially–to overhaul their electoral systems and end winner-take-all distribution of electoral votes. Of course Republicans completely oppose doing this nationally. It is a naked and cynical attempt to rig the election. Rather than broaden their message to appeal to young and non-white voters, Republicans are looking to commit the greatest suppression of votes since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.

There are essentially two proposals to do this. The first would distribute votes proportionally. If the Democratic candidate won 53% of the vote in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electoral votes go to the Democratic candidate. The second is to distribute them by congressional district, with the 2 at-large votes going to the popular vote winner. With the Republicans having gerrymandered these states to the extreme, it means that the same Democratic candidate winning 53% of the vote might only get 45% of the electoral votes.

I mention Pennsylvania because it is taking the lead here. PA House Bill 94 offers up the second plan, another PA legislator supports the first. This very well could happen and yet no one is paying attention.

This isn’t without risks for Republicans. Under the proportional plan, neither party would ever pay one bit of attention to a state again. Spending money there wouldn’t be worth the marginal gain of one or two electoral votes. Under the congressional district plan, every congressional election becomes nationalized. Huge money pours into these districts and some of these legislators, who are gerrymandered into 60% districts while Democratic legislators are in 90% districts, will lose their jobs. Normally, a politician’s first goal is to preserve their own job. But with this Tea Party bunch, I’m not so sure. Some of these people are true hard-core fanatics and will gladly see the loss of their own seat as worth the price.

A few other problems for Republicans. It’s not clear to me how excited they will be to have their state policies dictated from the RNC. But they might not care. Also, such a blatantly undemocratic move I think would cost Republicans a lot of respect nationally, including among the Beltway elite who want to fawn over their every move. Even the David Brooks’ of the world would have a hard time with this. Not that the Tea Party types care. It’s also hard to see how this does not become a giant issue in the 2016 election as well, with Republicans having to defend this at every stop. And of course, as soon as Democrats take over these statehouses again, it will all change back. Let’s hope that’s in 2014, although historically that seems unlikely. But enormous money is going to pour into these states in the midterms because they will have become so important for 2016.

Of course, all of this is completely legal. The Constitution allows states to decide these matters for themselves. So there’s no reasonable legal challenge here.

And in the post-election haze, when many Democratic voters are happy that Obama was re-elected and are thinking about what policies might get passed on guns or immigration, Republicans are seeking to slam through nation-changing legislation on the state level. We are all like the Michigan AFL-CIO, completely unaware that Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans are going to make the state right-to-work overnight.

This is very likely the biggest political story of the next 4 years. It is entirely possible that a Democratic candidate could win 55% of the vote in 2016 and lose the election.

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  • ajay

    Under the proportional plan, neither party would ever pay one bit of attention to a state again. Spending money there wouldn’t be worth the marginal gain of one or two electoral votes. Under the congressional district plan, every congressional election because nationalized.

    I think there may be a few words missing here?

  • ExpatJK

    And for a brief moment there in November it looked like the GOP might consider broadening their base. Then they went, “naaah, too much work.”

    If they do go for this, what is there to stop them? I know OH has referendums so that’s one option. Not sure about the other states.

    • rea

      I know OH has referendums so that’s one option

      Probably not: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress . . .”

      Nothing in there about referendums overruling the Legislature . . .

      • ExpatJK

        Thanks for this. I was thinking of the defeat of SB5, the anti union bill.

        • I think rea is being a bit too literal there. The referendum process is a part of the lawmaking process in the state, so I don’t see any obvious reason that the language of the Constitution should be construed to exclude it simply because the elitist white dudes who wrote it wicked awesome Founding Fathers couldn’t conceive of that form of lawmaking at the time.

          • ExpatJK

            Ok. I’m originally from referendum-loving CA so I don’t know much about how these things work in other states. I think WI also has them?

            • Procopius

              You need to check the constitution of each state. I think most states have them in some form. They were a big thing in the Progressive Movement back at the beginning of the 20th Century, but in many cases the opposition was able to insert “gotchas” that hampered them somehow. This fight has been going on for a long time. Following World War II we got complacent, thought we had it pretty well won, while the reactionaries patiently built their structure of think tanks and academic positions, and took over ownership of the media.

          • rea

            One of the issues in Bush v Gore was whether the state constitution constrained the discretion of the state legislature under the US constitution with respect to appointment of electors. Three justices said no; the rest didn’t reach the issue.

            • Which means that it tells us pretty much nothing, other than that three Justices were going for the most ridiculously expansive outcome they could find.

        • Anonymous

          Yep the parasitic left was left to run wild for a little while longer with SB5 being shot down. Don’t worry – we’re coming back – and you’re going to hate it more than we already hate you.

      • John

        Isn’t this the argument the Bush people were making in Florida in 2000 – that the Florida courts shouldn’t consider the Florida constitution because the US Constitution says it’s the state legislature that decides how electors are chosen?

        • John

          Furthermore, if read literally, doesn’t this mean that the Governor has no veto power? Isn’t the more obvious reading here that states have the power to allocate electoral votes however they wish, under whatever terms state law provides for (including referenda, etc.)?

    • Nothing. It’s all entirely legal.

      • Dave

        Then it’s not “rigging the election”, it’s “gaming the system” a subtle but significant difference.

        • TT

          Explain the difference, please.

          • Joe

            “rigging” means “to manipulate fraudulently” while “gaming” implies a “trick” of some sort, but more a sort of loophole than one that is ‘fraudulent.’

            Tax fraud v. tax loopholes might get you the same amount of money, but there is a difference.

            • Left_Wing_Fox

              Shorter version: Both are immoral, but only one is illegal.

          • Kent Brockman

            I don’t say evasion, I say Evoisian!

    • JoyfulA

      No referendum in Pennsylvania.

      • Hogan

        Not by initiative, anyway. Questions can be put on the state ballot by a majority vote of the legislature (but why would they ever do that?).

        • JoyfulA

          Why would they? is right. I’ve never seen one on the ballot.

          • gorillagogo

            Here’s the only recent one I could find. It’s from 2008.

            • Hogan

              Yeah, new debt and constitutional amendments have to be voted on as ballot questions. There hasn’t been a constitutional amendment since 1977.

            • JoyfulA

              Ah, OK. I was thinking of something like a “citizen referendum.” Something interesting.

              • Procopius

                In the late 19th and early 20th Century Pennsylvania was pretty well under the control of the mining interests and the Pennsylvania Coal & Iron Police. I think you can find some of their history on the Internet. It’s been suppressed in school books, of course.

    • Njorl

      “If they do go for this, what is there to stop them? ”


      If they do pull it off, I think violence would be unavoidable.

      • catclub

        I think violence of any large scale – larger than the potential in AWS, for instance, is very unlikely.

        They say we are a violent pot that is almost boiling over. Except we have 92% employment, and various amusements available.

        Germany resorted to Hitler when unemployment was 47%
        We did not go that way, when our unemployment got to 25%

        Spain and Greece have 25% unemployment now, but appear to be settling down. They also have some sorts of safety nets.

        Safety nets really are anathema to revolution.
        I wonder how bad the Syrian safety net was.

        There has been much more violence in Greece this round, and Greece has a worse safety net (as far as I can tell) than Spain does.

        • njorl

          I wasn’t thinking of organized violence. I was thinking more outrage and frustration.

          • rm

            I am never in favor of violence, but also, I think our outrage and frustration would only please our enemies.

      • Anonymous

        Bring it on – we want that NOW.

  • rea

    I’m still surprised there was not a post-election attempt in some of these states (like here in Michigan, where the Republican crazies ran amuck in the lame duck session) to award the electoral vote to Romney despite the state’s popular vote. The Constitution at lest arguably would allow it.

    • John

      Still a bridge too far, perhaps? Many Republicans, at least, are still politicians in the traditional sense.

    • David Hunt

      I’m only a layperson in legal matters and it’s been years since I took a course on government, but I’m quite certain that Michigan’s state laws specify that the electors are selected according the popular vote in November (each party candidate has slate of electors that they submit to each state). For the legislature to change which electors were sent to the Electoral College would mean that they would literally had overturn their current election law, and they’d have had to do it retroactively.

      That kind of naked coup attempt would be a bridge too far (I hope) for even the most radical GOP controlled state legislature. I think this is especially true because moving Michigan to Romney wouldn’t have swung the election.

      Finally, speaking as a non-lawyer, I sincerely hope that it wouldn’t be naive to think it illegal to change the method of assigning the electors after the election.

  • “It is entirely possible that a Democratic candidate could win 55% of the vote in 2016 and lose the election. ”

    Which is why I don’t think anything will actually come out of this, and it will pass once the new House gets down to the business of shutting down the government, blocking gun control bills, etc.

    • I think you are too optimistic here. What do state-level Republicans in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania care if people around the nation don’t like it?

      • They probably don’t, but then, if the last few years have proved anything it’s that the Teabaggers aren’t anywhere near the silent majority they think they are. Rigging a Presidential election such that a Democrat loses with a clear and substantial popular vote majority would be the king of all Pyrrhic victories.

        • Might be. Except that they would control the means of deciding that election. If people around the nation were so outraged that it destroyed Republican midterm elections in 2014 and/or pushed states like Arizona and Georgia to the Democrats, then OK. But I wouldn’t place a bet on that happening.

          • Probably not beforehand, but there’d be large (matter of fact) “outrage” at the result. People would think it an obvious farce, Serious People in the Washington Post would write columns about how the Republican President-elect should instruct his Electoral College delegates to cast their votes for his opponent instead, and if Republicans fought it tooth and nail it would be the end of them for at least a cycle or two.

            To say nothing of how…elastic…some judges may find the text of the law in the face of an honest to God Constitutional crisis.

            • I don’t think the Serious People in Washington would actually care. All they’d really care about would be getting back onto the traditional cocktail party circuit again.

              “Get over it, losers! Using trickery and underhanded methods is always okay when done in support of Republicans!”

              • I’m not really one to defend teh Seriousess, but this is kind of ridiculously myopic thinking. For fuck’s sake, we’re postulating a scenario in which someone pulls in ~55% of the popular vote and loses. There’s no way that’s not going to be slammed by basically everyone, at least in terms of “well that was the rules this time, but this is ridiculous and the rules need to change.” Which is why it arguably makes little sense at all: in the best case scenario it could work once, after which point there would be substantial support for electoral law reform that Republicans don’t want, and the GOP would have to choose between acquiescing or just straight up endorsing rigging the system to benefit their chances, which would produce a huge backlash that would substantially marginalize them for at least 2 or 3 election cycles.

                • JKTHs

                  Don’t underestimate the power of the Very Serious. I’m sure after a while of outrage we’d say WaPo op-eds/editorials to the effect of “It doesn’t who should have or shouldn’t have won the election. Can’t we all just come together and solve (fill in the blank)?”

              • Cody

                I’m confident the first article would say “Republicans Rigging Election, just like Democrats did in 13 B.C. [Or whatever fake date they make up]”

              • The Serious People in Washington turned pretty definitively against the bogus “voter fraud” efforts in 2012.

        • ExpatJK

          How so? Do you think the SC or someone would step in? It’s basically 4 years of power for some complete right wing loon who could enact crazy radical changes.

        • Rob

          You are acting like 2000 did not happen.

      • John

        The Pennsylvania Republicans care that people in Pennsylvania don’t like it, I think. Certainly Corbett cares about that, and will lend the idea no support if he wants any chance at re-election.

        • I’m not at all sanguine about the prospects of stopping them from doing it in the first place, but if they actually do manage to steal an election as a result there’s going to be a lot of pressure on them to change it back, and maybe even to get rid of gerrymandering altogether, that’s going to be very hard to resist for an elected official.

    • tt

      Why? That’s approximately the percent of the vote Democratss would need to take the house, due to gerrymandering. I don’t see any reason Republicans would stop there.

      • Brandon

        It’s easier to obscure that across 435 individual races that most people don’t pay attention to than it would be over the Presidential election.

        • tt

          That’s true and probably why we’ve seen lots of gerrymandering (though never as bad as we have now) but nothing like the Pennsylvania bill. But as the Republicans begin to realize that they won’t be able to win fair elections I’m not sure the threat of negative attention will be enough to stop things like this.

          • It’s probably worth pointing out that the media never reports House election results by total vote counts at the state level, and that the idea that land mass is at least as important as population density in district drawing is innately held by a lot of people. To that end, most people probably just don’t even realize how gerrymandered house seats are in these places.

            • tt

              Yeah. The Republicans have done much to make our system less democratic already, but I agree that this is a couple of steps more transparent and less easily defensible. The problem is, if the Democrat candidate loses with 55%, it’s not enough that 55% are angry, you need some of the 45% too. The Republicans can control the majority of state houses, congress, and the presidency with 45% (fortunately they probably won’t be able to repeal the 17th amendment). And I don’t have any sense of which of those solidly Republican voters get angry enough over rigging the election to their side to switch parties. I can already think of the excuses: we’re a republic not a democracy, etc.

              • I think you’re overestimating how much of the solidly partisan-in-the-booth Republicans are dyed in the wool ideologues. I’d say it’s a good bet that a chunk of Republican voters would break off at the prospect of actually using the law to fix elections.

              • mpowell

                I think they could do a lot more damage to the electoral system without a constitutional amendment, though. That’s the real issue. If they can win power with 45% of the national vote today, once they have congres and the presidency, how low can they go and still retain power? The constitution is pretty terribly written to defend against this kind of thing (and remember, they might have the SC) so it’s a little scary to say: “well, the backlash will doom them”. Sure they don’t have 45% of the country that will go for it. But they might have enough.

            • JoyfulA

              It wasn’t that long ago that many state senates had 1 senator per county, as in 1 senator for Philadelphia County’s 1.5 million, 1 senator for Elk County’s 15,000.

              • RedSquareBear

                At least that’s closer to being an Senate in the style of the U.S. Senate.

                If we’re committed to bicameral legislatures at the state level (and I see little reason we really should be, tradition notwithstanding) then why not at least model the Federal level where the House and Senate arguably represent different things but why have two popular houses in each state? It’s needless duplication.

                • JoyfulA

                  The Supreme Court ruled against the practice, IIRC.

  • JoyfulA

    In Pennsylvania, everyone is focused politically on Governor Corbett’s unilaterally outsourcing the highly successful lottery to a British outfit, the sole bidder. Even the Republican legislators are opposed.

    We also just elected a Democratic attorney general who ran on a platform of Corbett’s (former AG) Sandusky investigation and why it took so long and put additional children at risk.

    • Do you think that has any impact on the potential of one of these bills passing?

      • John

        Corbett is already one of the least popular governors in the country. I don’t see why he’d want to court even greater unpopularity by supporting this giant turd.

        • Njorl

          If you expect to lose your next election, you make other provisions for your future. Republicans take care of their good soldiers (provided they are not real soldiers).

          • John

            I doubt Corbett has given up hope of re-election.

      • JoyfulA

        Some impact. I’m mostly explaining why no attention is being paid to various bills submitted.

        The legislature keeps turning down Corbett bills to privatize education because there are enough old-school GOPs left, and there may be enough of them left to defeat any such radical bill, together with more Ds in the lege this year, although still minorities.

        Corbett could veto any such bill to curry favor with the electorate; he wants to be reelected in 2014, and that’s a statewide vote. Yet everyone despises Corbett; here in the land of the Red, newspaper comments are vitriolic from the right as well as from everyone else.

        • rea

          Corbett could veto any such bill

          As noted above, far from clear that the governor can exercise his veto on this.

          • Steve LaBonne

            I really don’t think this is a tenable idea. It’s a piece of legislation like any other. Of course it can be vetoed.

            • Yeah, this is a pretty clear example of a hyper-literal reading of text leading to an absurd on its face conclusion.

            • JoyfulA

              And the state supreme court is now 4-4 and relatively sane, now that one R justice is under indictment and unable to participate.

            • rea

              Well, the argument is (and setting the substantive outcome aside, it seems like a pretty good one) that the US Constitution does not grant the states the power to select electors–it grants that power to the state legislatures. Ultimately, that choice of words has to mean something.

              • Jerry Vinokurov

                But I don’t understand how the legislature can make its will known other than passing laws. And if a law can be passed, it can also (in most cases that I know of) be vetoed by the executive. The usual machinery of legislation has to mean something here too.

                • Njorl

                  Legislative bodies do more than pass laws. Senate confirmation of presidential appointments is not subject to veto. It would be ridiculous if they were, obviously, but it demonstrates that the legislature can act in ways outside the legislative process.

                • Jerry Vinokurov

                  Fair enough, but it doesn’t seem to me like those are equivalent situations. The Senate’s advise and consent powers are clearly delineated, whereas simply saying “in such a manner as the legislature thereof may direct” would seem to invite total absurdity. For example, if the state already has a law on the books directing how to apportion the votes, it would seem that a literal reading would support an interpretation whereby the legislature wouldn’t even have to pass a bill; it could just literally say what it wants to happen and then it would, even if it didn’t have the strength of law. Is the legislature of a state allowed to violate its own laws, then?

              • “Ultimately, that choice of words has to mean something.”

                No, not really. If nothing else, you could just read it as a poorly phrased reference to the lawmaking process. As I believe Scott wrote earlier in the week (or last week, perhaps): ambiguity in the text should be resolved in favor of the non-absurd, and without any hard evidence to the contrary, the notion that the Constitution gives state legislatures supremacy in making election law to the point that their decisions aren’t constrained even by the state’s constitution or rules governing the process of lawmaking is quite absurd.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Ah, yes, the old Rehnquist Bush v. Gore argument. It was transparently specious at the time and it hasn’t improved over time. The most obvious and tenable reading requires the use of the “legislative process.” Based on your reading, it would also violate the Constitution to actually enforce election statutes, because this would involve the executive and judicial branches. It’s silly. Of course Corbett can veto the bill.

                • Njorl

                  The fact that the argument is bad is much less important than the fact that it was made by a supreme court justice.

        • JoyfulA

          And today I read that Corbett says, having “fixed” the lottery, he’s going to fix (privatize) the state liquor stores.

          • Hogan

            We should live so long.

            • John

              From what I’ve read, the Republican plan to privatize the state liquor stores is basically designed to screw over state liquor store employees without actually making the liquor laws more favorable to consumers.

  • mingo

    This is one of those causing-me-to-lose-sleep things*. What the hell can we do about it? I’m not in one of those states, so I can’t contact a legislator.

    *apparently legion, since I don’t sleep much anymore.

    • If you do know people in these states, you should tell them.

      This is one of those things that Republicans would prefer to do quietly. The more people know about it, the more they will be disgusted.

    • S_noe

      You can encourage your state rep to support NPV (link), too.

  • Matt

    Hilarious – while this is going on, GOP Congresscritters are busy shrieking “OMG TYRANNY!” about having to get a background check before buying a gun. Once again, IT’S ALWAYS PROJECTION.

  • Manta

    Wouldn’t an appropriate response for democrats to do the same thing in republican-leaning states? If they manage, the end result would actually be an improvement on the present electoral system.

    But I don’t know how many republican-leaning states have democratic legislatures.

    • David Hunt

      I don’t know how many republican-leaning states have democratic legislatures.

      I’d guess that number is very low and could be zero. Republicans seem to be much better at Gerrymandering districts at the state level as well as the national level.

      Also I’m against this type of election rigging in general. I’d much rather see something like the National Popular Vote come to pass. It gets to a system of selecting the President via an actual popular election and it doesn’t even require that you amend the Constitution.

      • David Hunt

        Ack! Apologies for the horrible web fu in placing the link to National Popular Vote site.

      • S_noe

        Working link.

        I really wish NPV would snazz up their website, by the way – given that education on the issue is a big obstacle for them. I doubt that people who get pointed there come away impressed.

      • catclub

        Somebody demonstrated that if you get 51% in all of the high electoral vote per person states, that you can win the presidency with around 23% of the vote.

        NPV should be emphasizing that NO 23% of the population should be allowed to determine the result.

  • David Weigel at Slate has been writing in horror about this since it first emerged after the election. His latest is about how the redistricting beginning after the 1990 census that pushed for majority minority districts means that black voters are highly concentrated in blue districts; it will have a huge and obviously intended effect of diluting black vote.

  • DrDick

    It is pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention, which now includes the GOP, that the Republicans cannot win national elections on the merits, as their policies and priorities are wildly unpopular. This is behind their concerted voter suppression efforts and now they are attempting an electoral coup.

  • witless chum

    Side issue, but Erik why do you keep insisting the Michigan unions were surprised by Snyder’s flip?

    It seems likely to me that the reason the unions gambled with their ballot issue in November trying to write collective bargaining to the state constitution and undo a bunch labor regulations the governor had imposed was that they were afraid of something like this happening.

    • Fake Irishman

      I am familiar enough with the decision-making process here in the Mitten to confirm this analysis.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Hey, what’s the problem? Article IV, section 4: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”

    Says ‘Republican’ right there…

    Why do liberals hate the constitution?

    • rea

      Ah, but the “Republicans” at the time of the Constitution were not the present day Republicans, but today’s Democrats.

  • BarrY

    Eric: “Also, such a blatantly undemocratic move I think would cost Republicans a lot of respect nationally, including among the Beltway elite who want to fawn over their every move. Even the David Brooks’ of the world would have a hard time with this”

    Um, why?

    • liberal


    • quercus

      Yeah, can you point to anything substantial yet that any Republicans have done that has caused the David Brooks of the world to show any less fawning? Sure, of course the Vewy Sewious People are appalled when some rube Republican from the sticks says something which fails to cloak their misogyny in a respectable, educated form, but has any political action ever led to any kind of public semi-rebuke from the Villagers? I can’t think of any.

  • Scott Lemieux

    This isn’t without risks for Republicans.

    I dunno, not really.

    • Stan Gable

      I think it creates risk for individual lawmakers in 60-40 or less districts without any tangible benefit to them. The national party is the only entity that would benefit from this and even in that case it’s still kind of marginal. I’d take it seriously if they start scheduling votes on it but I can see how a lot of R legislators might prefer that this go away.

  • Joe

    Calling the ghost of John Jay who as Gov. of NY rejected gaming the system to help win the election of 1800.

  • Cody

    Shouldn’t the correct response be for Democrat Senators in Red States to start introducing similar legislation? Wouldn’t it help out Democrats if – say Georgia – was done in this manner? Reducing the EC votes Republicans would get in a national election from their safe states.

    If all states had this system, it wouldn’t be as bad right? We’d actually be electing on popular vote.

    And obviously Republicans would shoot all of these down, but it would lay bare their hypocrisy. It should be pretty easy to point out how they’re stonewalling a bill in Georgia they propose in Pennsylvania and there is only one possible reason…

    • S_noe

      If all states had this system, it wouldn’t be as bad right? We’d actually be electing on popular vote.

      Only under the proportional variant, which would have the side effect of throwing a lot of elections to the House. The next post from Brockington shows results from both scenarios, and it’s not a pretty picture if you like democracy.

    • Actually, no. Small, heavily Republican states would still get extra electoral votes from their Senate representation, and the granularity of the House.

      Right now, the EC actually doesn’t give either party a huge advantage relative to the popular vote. The small-state bonus is roughly balanced by the underrepresentation of Republican rural/exurban voters in blue states. This change would fix the latter but not the former, producing a large Republican bias.

  • Murc

    I feel like I’m being a bit oversensitive and slightly off-topic, but this sentence construction bothered me:

    Rather than broaden their message to appeal to young and non-white voters, Republicans are looking to commit the greatest suppression of votes since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed.

    Now, I know what you’re saying here, which is that the VRA reduced voter suppression so this is the worst thing since it passed.

    But in my experience, the way “(X) is the greatest/worst thing since (Y)” is constructed, both X and Y are the same type of thing. Example:

    “George W. Bush was the worst President since Nixon.”

    “Obama has signed a greater amount progressive legislation than any President since LBJ.”

    Same thing to same thing. You wouldn’t say:

    “Obama has been the greatest President since George W. Bush.”

    That’s absolutely true, and someone looking at it could puzzle out what you’re saying, but it looks… weird. And wrong.

    It’s the little things that bother me sometimes, really. I know that nobody likes a pedant, but there you go.

  • West of the Cascades

    If — a big if — several states (which included some that routinely go Republican for Presidential elections) went to the first of these models, I don’t see how it would be “blatently undemocratic.” Breaking the electoral vote down by congressional district, on the other hand, given the horrific gerrymandering in the 2010 reapportionment, would be.

    But the unspoken premise here is that the Electoral College system we have for electing presidents is itself “democratic.” It’s not, as elections where the winner of the popular vote has lost the election demonstrate. Having a state’s electoral votes more accurately reflect the popular vote in that state actually seems more democratic than our current system where the winner of the plurality of the votes in a state gets all of that state’s electoral votes. But unless that sort of reform were spread widely, it would mean a rigged election (and I realize this sort of “reform” is happening only in states where Republicans are expecting to lose the statewide vote in 2016).

    But – frankly – I’d be almost as happy to see a state like Ohio taken out of its disproportionate role in the Presidential election, with the Democratic candidate knowing that he/she will get about half of its votes no matter what. I wouldn’t mind seeing Florida do the same. It wasn’t too long ago that both of those states voted for Republicans for president and the Democratic candidates were shut out. I’d love to see North Carolina and Arizona and Texas adopt similar proportional electoral vote systems.

    And since we’re not going to scrap the Electoral College any time soon, it would be interesting if a large number of states went towards this sort of “proportional electoral vote” system. After all, President Obama won 51% of the popular vote but 60% of the electoral vote. I’d rather see a system where the 51% wins you the presidency than the current system we have now. I get that the piecemeal “reform” like the Republicans are proposing is an attempt to rig the next election — but there’s nothing inherently undemocratic about the proportional electoral vote proposal.

    • gorillagogo

      Sure, if you take out the undemocratic parts — the piecemeal implementation and the gerrymandering — there’s nothing inherently undemocratic about the proposal.

    • rea

      there’s nothing inherently undemocratic about the proportional electoral vote proposal.

      Well, yes there is, as small states (because of their two senators) get more than their proportional share of the electoral college.

    • DrDick

      I think the objection is that this takes a fundamentally undemocratic process (the electoral college) and makes it even less democratic and more subject to partisan manipulation.

  • The way to stop this would be to challenge the seating of those states’ electors.

    Whether a Democratic Senate would do that depends on how decisively the anti-cheating forces win the political PR fight over the next four years.

    • Joe

      How is this “cheating” in a legal sense? Adding additional qualifications to the electoral vote not there already would seem to be unconstitutional & though it very well might be a political question, when it was done for seating members of Congress, the Supreme Court rejected it.

      • It’s not “cheating in a legal sense.”

        Nor would refusing to seat the electors be “cheating in a legal sense.”

        • Joe

          It would be if the reason was illegitimate, e.g., not liking perfectly LEGAL electoral college regulations because Dems don’t like the end result.

          • Hogan

            Well, there’s “my candidate didn’t win” not-liking, and there’s “the candidate with the clear majority didn’t win, through rules designed specifically to bring about that result” not-liking.

          • Scott Lemieux

            It would be if the reason was illegitimate

            Leaving aside that the reason would be perfectly legitimate, you can’t have it both ways — either everything that’s within the letter of the law is acceptable, or norms matter. What you’re arguing is that the former applies to Republicans while Democrats have to abide by the latter standard and, yeah, no.

  • UserGoogol

    Plain Blog about Politics has made the fairly reasonable counterargument that this plan doesn’t really make much sense from the perspective of state Republicans.

    First, a state has to be relatively close in order for a strategy like this to make sense, but that means on the one hand that Democrats could take the state legislature and undo it, and on the other hand that the policy could have the opposite effect of swinging an election to Democrats in a close election.

    Second, proportionally allotting delegates massively weakens the power of the state Republican party. Ohio is important because winning a few extra votes can win a lot of electoral college seats, without that presidential candidates would give much weaker campaigns for those delegates, which in turn would hurt the politicians in those states who can ride off that.

    And his third point is that Republicans really have to strongly support this idea to make it happen, and just a few odd state legislators and Mr. Sillyname isn’t really enough.

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  • McKingford

    I think we may be overstating the effect here.

    If Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan had all had this in place for the 2012 election, it would still have resulted in an election with Obama getting 274 EVs. There is really no scenario under which the Democratic candidate gets 55% of the national vote and loses other electoral votes; in fact, with 55% of the national vote, the Dem gets *more* than 274 EVs, likely by picking off additional congressional districts as well as winning NC, Indiana, and probably Arizona.

    The problem from the GOP perspective is that this gaming of the system makes the election *closer* but doesn’t actually give it the win. And it has the additional problem that small relative gains by the GOP are offset by the fact that it can’t actually win more electoral votes. IOW, if the GOP marginally increases its vote total in a place like Ohio – even enough to win the state, it actually comes out behind, with fewer EVs than if the existing system had been in place.

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  • james

    The wording of the first paragraph last sentence seems a bit confusing. The Voting Rights Act had the opposite effect in terms of suppressing vote. Did I read that wrong?


    fuckin reds

  • This seems vaguely familiar, I recall a similar tactic employed by a young Austrian politician who eventually was elected to rule Germany…

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