Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in Minneapolis, Minn. 
Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty

GOP officials revive a scheme to help rig presidential elections

The scheme first crossed my radar in 2011 with a Republican effort in Pennsylvania. GOP policymakers in the Keystone State thought it'd be a good idea to change the way Pennsylvania allocated electoral votes in the presidential election: instead of awarding all of its votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in the state, they'd divvy up votes based on specific congressional districts.

There was no great mystery behind the scheme. Democratic tickets won Pennsylvania, a key and competitive battleground, in every cycle for decades, and Republicans were looking for a way to mitigate the Dems' advantage by rigging the process.

The proposal eventually faltered -- though, ironically, it would have backfired in 2016 -- but the idea behind the scheme quickly spread. As regular readers may recall, after the 2012 elections, six states -- Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania -- all considered plans to end winner-take-all electoral models. In each instance, cooler heads prevailed.

The idea, however, isn't going away. The Washington Post reported this week:

Republicans in two swing states lost by President Trump in 2016 have introduced legislation that would have benefited Trump in the 2016 election, by splitting up their electoral votes by congressional districts instead of awarding them statewide.

In Minnesota, Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt has introduced a bill that would assign one electoral vote to each of the state's districts, and two to the winner of the statewide popular vote. In Virginia, Rep. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg) has introduced identical legislation, and passed it through the Elections Subcommittee on a party-line vote.

In New Hampshire, a similar effort has been launched by GOP lawmakers.

Had these laws been in effect last year in each of the three states, it would have meant an additional 12 electoral votes for Donald Trump from states he lost.

For now, it's unlikely we'll see dramatic changes like these. Minnesota and Virginia both have Democratic governors, who would veto the vote-rigging schemes if the bills passed the legislatures. New Hampshire has a new Republican governor who hasn't expressed much of an interest in the policy, and even if the Granite State adopted the preferred GOP model, only one electoral vote would be at stake.

But these new efforts are a reminder that many Republican policymakers aren't close to being done with initiatives to stack the deck in their favor. After six years of aggressive voter-suppression laws across much of the country, GOP officials are still exploring new ways to keep Republicans in power, even if voters prefer a different course.

Indeed, as Donald Trump has made painfully clear this week, this isn't just a state issue: the White House has national voter-suppression ideas in mind.