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Electoral College proposal comes in for criticism

Nov 17, 2014

A plan to change the way Michigan awards its electoral votes for president got largely panned at a state House hearing on Monday.

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The legislation would award up to seven of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes to the presidential runner-up in Michigan. The number of votes they get would depend on how close the popular vote is.

Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who directs the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law, admits the current winner-take-all electoral system is not ideal.

“So reform is needed, but not this reform,” she told the state House Elections and Ethics Committee.

Other opponents who spoke at the hearing claimed House Bill 5974 is a scheme to peel off votes for Republicans in a state that has voted for Democrats in every presidential election since 1992.

Even some Republicans on the panel expressed concern. State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth Twp., worries it could violate voters’ rights.

“I think that individuals vote as much against somebody as they are voting for somebody,” he said. “And when I go to vote, I don’t want to have that attachment that a portion of my vote is going to the guy I don’t like.”

Heise said he would like Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to give the committee an opinion on whether the plan would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution before any votes happen.

The bill’s sponsor says he’s open to that, as well as making changes to his bill.

“My goal is not to just get a proportional system,” said Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Twp. “My goal is to make Michigan relevant in presidential politics. I want Michigan voters and Michigan issues to matter. And this was the best idea I could come up with.”

Committee Chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, says she has not decided when or if she will hold a vote on the bill.