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GOP leader backs plan to rig election

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

RNC chair Reince Priebus has thrown his support behind a controversial plan that would split the electoral votes of some Democratic-leaning states, to the advantage of Republican presidential candidates.

"I think it's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Sunday, adding that the system "gives more local control" to states.

At issue is an idea pushed by Republicans in states that have been voting Democratic in presidential elections, but whose state governments are currently controlled by Republicans. Under the plan, states would no longer award all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. Instead, they would divide them in proportion to the number of congressional districts won by each candidate—with the popular vote winner being awarded two bonus votes, in some versions.

Maine and Nebraska already split their electoral votes by congressional district, but because of their small size, the impact on the presidential race has been negligible. A coordinated and politically motivated move by several large Republican-controlled states would be a very different story, however. Had the idea been in effect last November in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida—all of which are controlled by the GOP—Mitt Romney would have won more electoral votes than President Obama, despite losing the popular vote by around 3.5 percentage points.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who last year pushed through an anti-labor measure that critics charged was designed to weaken Democrats, recently called the idea "an interesting concept."

And Pennsylvania Republicans unsuccessfully pushed a version of the plan in 2011. They're now reintroducing a tweaked version.