If you can’t beat ‘em, scheme ‘em.
That’s apparently the philosophy Republicans from several states have decided to embrace as their winning strategy for 2016.
Lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio–all states Obama carried in the last two elections–are considering proposals to modify the Electoral College from a winner-take-all system to something more like a congressional district method. As it stands now, in every state except Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins a state’s popular vote gets all of its electoral votes too. But Republicans want to toss that arrangement in favor of a system that divides electoral votes by congressional districts and awards them proportionally.
Such a change would “effectively end the Electoral College,” said former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on Hardball Tuesday. Already on board is Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who last week told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at.” Such a change would give states “more local control,” he argued.
Democrats, however, view the idea as a blatant attempt to “rig the game,” as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put it in a recent email to supporters. “[Republicans] know what they’re doing and we need to stop them,” he added.
Michael Crowley, deputy Washington bureau chief of Time magazine, agreed that the motivation behind the Republicans’ proposed changes is more than a little suspect. “What it looks like, and what it will look like if [Republicans] pursue this, is a party that’s panicking,” said Crowley on Hardball Tuesday. “They’re desperate. They can’t win. The demographic trends are working against them… So, they’re essentially going to try and change the rules.”
Crowley went on to describe the plan as both “sleazy” and “embarrassing,” mostly because Republicans are only proposing these changes in states that swung blue for the last two elections, and not in any red states.
“If [Republicans] are going to do it in Pennsylvania, wouldn’t it be fair to do it in Texas, where right now Democrats get zero electoral votes?” said Rendell on Hardball Tuesday. “If you adopted this system, [Democrats] would probably pick up 10 or 12 electoral votes in Texas.”
In the last election, President Obama’s margin of victory was wide, with 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206. But Obama won the popular vote by a much narrower margin, 51.1 percent to 47.2 percent. It is unclear whether the president could have won re-election under the Republican-proposed electoral system that circumvents demographic trends and rewards the GOP’s recent gerrymandering.
“Most African-Americans, and Latinos, and young people cluster in urban areas,” explained Rendell on Tuesday. “Those congressional votes would go to the Democrats. But [Republicans] would pick off the other areas where there isn’t so much a congregation of minority voters and young voters. It’s really a despicable movement.”