How many angels can dance on the head of an electoral vote?

Updated
 

The Republican scheme to rig the presidential election by allocating electoral votes along gerrymandered district lines is clearly in big trouble. It was brought up in several states, but the only one where it still stands a credible shot of advancing is Pennsylvania, and as of yesterday, state GOP leaders are divided amongst themselves.

But while we wait for this awful idea to fade away completely, David Frum is unmoved by criticisms of the Republican vote-rigging plans.

Liberals and Democrats are today aghast at Republican schemes to rewrite voting rules to strengthen their position in the Electoral College. Republicans are suggesting that states switch from winner-take-all to a district-by-district allocation of electoral votes. […]

Wherever did Republicans get such an idea? Oh yeah […]

Moral: when it comes to setting the rules of the game, there are no angels.

I never saw this as an especially partisan issue – it’s offensive when sore losers try to create an unlevel electoral playing field, no matter which side of the political divide does it – but so long as Frum has raised the point, it’s worth clarifying the relevant details.

Frum’s example is a 2004 effort in Colorado, in which some on the left considered a similar plan: allocate the state’s electoral votes proportionally, instead of a winner-take-all system.

So Frum has a point about the hypocrisy of progressive complaints in 2013? Actually, no.

In 2004, the Colorado measure was crafted by activists, but Democrats didn’t support it. Indeed, neither the state nor national Democratic Party had anything to do with the idea, and offered it no backing. In contrast, in 2013, we see the exact opposite: the election-rigging schemes were endorsed by the Republican National Committee, and have enjoyed the support of many state GOP policymakers.

In 2004, some liberal groups wanted the matter on the Colorado ballot; in 2013, Republican state lawmakers wanted to pursue this through the legislative process.

In 2004, progressive activists eyed proportional electoral-vote distribution, which is also a bad idea, but is different than what the right has proposed in 2013 – allocation of electoral votes in “blue” battleground states, and only “blue” battleground states, based on gerrymandered district lines.

In other words, Frum is drawing a parallel between two developments that really aren’t especially similar.

I can appreciate the need to avoid hypocrisy, but I hope fair-minded observers can look at what Republicans proposed here and agree that it’s wrong and has no place in our democratic system. In this case, GOP officials, fearing the future, sought a ridiculous structural “fix” – they hoped to create a system in which Republicans could get fewer votes but win power anyway. They intended to create such a system by telling traditionally Republican states to play by one set of rules (winner take all), while telling competitive Democratic states to play by a different set of rules (divided votes by unfairly drawn district lines).

My point is less about which side is more angelic and more about which side feels the need to cheat.

Sometimes, there’s value in putting a pox on both houses, and sometimes, only one house deserves it.

Gerrymandering and Electoral College

How many angels can dance on the head of an electoral vote?

Updated