by Randolph T. Holhut
AR Chief of Correspondents
January 31, 2013
IF YOU CAN'T WIN, CHEAT: THE GOP PLAN FOR THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The demographics of our nation are changing rapidly in ways that do not favor conservatives. And their political ideas are the ideological equivalent of a Superfund site.
So what's a politically radioactive and demographically doomed party to do? What Republicans always do - cheat.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is pushing a plan that takes advantage of the legal quirk where Americans officially choose their presidents not through the popular vote, but through the Electoral College.
Priebus wants Republican lawmakers in states that were won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012 to change the rules from the traditional winner-take-all system where the candidate that wins a majority of the popular vote is awarded all of a state's electoral votes.
Instead, they want a system that would allocate electoral votes based on the number of congressional districts won by a candidate. Currently, only Maine and Nebraska do this.
Thanks to gerrymandering by Republican-controlled state legislatures, Republicans kept their majority in the U.S. House in 2012, despite Democratic candidates for the House winning nearly 1.4 million more votes overall than Republican candidates.
Apply the same logic to the presidential election in the key swing states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, and you can thwart the popular vote and ensure that a Republican candidate will win.
Virginia is working on this Electoral College plan right now. Under this system, the state that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012 would have split its 13 electoral votes. In 2012, that would have meant Obama - who Virginia by 149,288 votes - would have gotten just four votes, while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have gotten nine.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a similar plan. If it had been in effect in 2012, Romney would have taken 13 of the state's 20 electoral votes, despite losing the overall popular vote by 5 percent.
Ohio Secretary of State John Husted likes the idea, too. This plan would have given Romney 12 of Ohio's 18 electoral votes.
Likewise for other states that have Republican governors and congressional districts gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Had this system been in place and Romney won every congressional district that elected a Republican House candidate, he would have also picked up 17 electoral votes in Florida, nine in Michigan, and five in Wisconsin.
These six states would have given Mitt Romney 64 additional electoral votes. Add them to the 206 he legitimately won, and Romney would have had the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, despite not winning a majority of the popular vote.
To review, states that have already rigged their congressional elections by creating safe districts for Republican candidates want to use these same rigged elections to determine who gets elected president. And If enough states adopt this plan by 2016, it would almost ensure that a Republican candidate will win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by millions.
You can't get any more anti-democratic than that.
The 2000 election, and the blatant manipulations of the rules in Florida, gave Gov. George W. Bush the presidency. Similar manipulations in Ohio in 2004 all but ensured a second term for Mr. Bush. About the only thing that gave President Barack Obama victories in 2008 and 2012 was generating more voter support than could be stolen by his rivals.
A 2016 election played under the Prieibus rules would render the will of the people meaningless.
So, how can you stop this plan? The best way would be to abolish the Electoral College altogether and have presidential candidates elected through the popular vote. This requires a Constitutional amendment, but there is growing bipartisan support for a National Popular Vote, as it is known. So far, eight states and the District of Columbia have approved it.
The other way is to simply keep public attention on the people who are trying to undermine democracy. That was enough to stop Republican attempts in the 2012 elections to prevent those likely to vote Democrats from casting ballots. The pressure needs to be stepped up on Priebus - and every other Republican who wants to game the system so they win. Let everyone know what they're up to.
Americans don't like cheaters. And that what the Republican plan for the Electoral College amounts to - cheating.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.