Capitol Report – Undermining the popular vote
By State Representative, Leon D. Young
In swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Electoral College tally for these states have recently gone to the Democratic candidate for president. Now that these three Legislatures are controlled by the GOP at the state level, there is a new movement afoot to change the way the state awards its electoral votes.
Under a proposal now percolating in the GOP, the allocation of most electoral votes would be by congressional district, instead of giving them all to the statewide winner. When queried about such an Electoral College plan in Wisconsin, Governor Walker expressed “real concern” about deviating from our current allocation process. However, I found his reasoning to be most intriguing.
Walker’s initial thoughts as to why we should maintain the current system goes as follows:
“One of our advantages is, as a swing state, candidates come here. We get to hear from the candidates. That’s good for voters. If we change that, that would take that away, it would largely make us irrelevant.”
This would seem to suggest that Scott Walker’s real concern is ensuring that Wisconsin remains a player in the presidential sweepstakes. Moreover, the future pilgrimage of presidential hopefuls to the Badger State is a win-win – in terms of time and money spent in the state.
But, there is a bigger and far more important political issue at play in this debate. The GOP is well aware that it faces a difficult, if not impossible, uphill climb in national elections. As we saw last November, many of its draconian policies angered voters (Blacks, Latinos, women and young voters), and drove them away to President Obama’s camp.
In order to be relevant in 2016, the GOP must opt from one of two choices. It can do some real soul searching, in terms of making meaningful concessions on immigration, reproductive rights and social programs. Or, the GOP can try to strong-arm the next presidential election in 2016 by merely changing the rules of the game.
Based on recent history, allocating electoral votes in the aforementioned states by congressional district would shift large numbers of electoral votes from the Democratic to Republican column.
Under the most likely scenarios, it would deliver a majority of electoral votes in those states to the GOP even in elections in which Republicans lost the statewide vote. That’s because the congressional maps in those states favor the GOP.
If history is any indication, the GOP would much rather undermine the integrity of the popular vote, than make any substantial policy changes to be relevant in national elections.