Still reeling from their second straight presidential loss to Barack Obama, Republicans are working to make drastic changes to how electoral college votes are allocated in key swing states.
Republicans in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have all proposed scrapping the “winner take all” electoral vote system in favor of plans that would reward the GOP’s recent gerrymandering. The six states considering the varied plans are all swing states that have gone for Barack Obama twice now, and others have been hard fought but ultimately gone blue for even longer.
The plans vary. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers want to siphon off a handful of electoral votes for the runner-up candidate–which has been the Republican since 1992. In other states, the proposal calls for the overall winner of the popular vote to get two votes, while the rest of the votes are distributed by congressional district. That plan is already in place in Maine and Nebraska.
What does that look like when implemented in these swing states? Here’s how it would’ve played out in the 2012 election in a handful of states controlled by Republicans.
In Florida, where Romney lost by only 1%, Obama would have lost even bigger: Romney would have picked up more than half the state’s electoral votes.
In Ohio, where Obama eked out a 2% lead, Romney would have won two-thirds of the state’s votes.
In Wisconsin, Romney would have won half the state’s votes, despite losing the overall vote by 7%.
And Romney would no longer have lost his home state of Michigan, even though he lost the popular vote there by 9%. Instead, he’d have picked up nine electoral votes.
Pennsylvania’s plan, which allocates votes based on the overall percentage, gives Romney his smallest advantage, with only eight extra electoral votes. That’s still a nice bonus for a guy who lost the state by 5% and therefore lost all 20 electoral votes.
The plan advanced this week by a Virginia Senate subcommittee is even more lopsided, allocating the two extra votes not to the popular vote winner, but to the winner of the most congressional districts. The result? Romney picks up 9 of the state’s electoral votes, despite losing the state’s popular vote by 3%.
If the plans currently on the table were implemented in these six states alone, Romney picks up another 60 electoral votes, bringing his total to 266 nationwide, making the race much closer but not ultimately taking the victory away from Barack Obama.
An analysis by Alan Abramowitz for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics found that if a Maine—or Nebraska—style system had been in place nationwide for the 2012 election, Mitt Romney would have defeated Barack Obama, 276 electoral votes to 262 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote by 4%. If the plan being pushed in Virginia became the law of the land nationwide, that difference would be even more stark.
This new plan reflects the fact that in all these states, Republicans are in control of the state house and have been since 2010. The successful pro-Republican gerrymandering that took place that year didn’t just protect the Republican control of the House of Representatives, but also laid the groundwork for taking back the presidency. If these plans, which are by most accounts legal (although they could be challenged in court), were to become law, it would be difficult for Democrats to win the presidency in 2016, even if they win by millions of votes.