States could make sweeping changes to Electoral College

Jan 22, 2013

In his commentary this morning, Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry pointed to what he is calling a Republican plan to rig presidential election results.

Currently, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all of a state’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

Under the plan being considered by Republicans, state’s such as Michigan and Wisconsin—that lean Democratic in presidential elections but have GOP-controlled legislatures—would divide Electoral College votes based on who won the popular vote in each congressional district. Two 'at-large' Electoral College votes would be awarded to the candidate who wins the overall popular vote.

This is how it's done in Maine and Nebraska.

And it would mean serious changes for presidential results.

If Michigan had divided its votes in this way, Romney would have won the state’s electoral votes nine to seven, despite Obama winning the popular vote by nearly half a million votes.

John Marshall at Talking Points Memo calls it “nuclear gerrymandering.”

But it is something that Michigan lawmakers are considering.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

While some Republican officials warn of a political backlash, GOP lawmakers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are already lining up behind proposals that would allocate electoral votes by congressional district or something similar.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he "could go either way" on the change and doesn't plan to push it. But he said it's a reasonable issue to debate and that he prefers that leaders discuss it well before the next presidential election.

"It could be done in a thoughtful (way) over the next couple years and people can have a thoughtful discussion," Snyder said.

Republican leaders in the Michigan Statehouse have yet to decide whether to embrace the change there. But state Rep. Peter Lund, a Republican who introduced a bill to change the allocation system two years ago, said some Republicans might be more receptive to his bill this year following the election.

"We never really pushed it before," he said, adding that the bill wasn't designed to help one party more than the other.

According to the National Journal, Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, briefed Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on a possible proposal for Michigan.

The legislation is also being considered in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where state power is in the hands of Republicans.

The proposals, the senior GOP official said, are likely to come up in each state's legislative session in 2013. Bills have been drafted, and legislators are talking to party bosses to craft strategy.

Democrats have been quick to oppose the plan, the AP reports.

"It is difficult to find the words to describe just how evil this plan is," said Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat. "It is an obscene scheme to cheat by rigging the elections."

Leach and other Democrats warn that their could be political consequences for Republican governors who support these changes.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom