For 189 years, the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral College votes in most states has determined the outcome of presidential elections. In that time, Republican and Democratic candidates have won, many serving multiple terms.
Yet today, there’s a move afoot by Republicans to change the one-man-one-vote system to a vote-splitting plan. Why? Because the GOP is unhappy with the outcome of the November presidential election in which Democrat Barack Obama won a second four-year term.
It is noteworthy that when Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, served two consecutive terms, there was no clamor on either side to do away with the long-standing method of electing the president.
The GOP campaign — it was endorsed by national Chairman Reince Priebus — can be summed us thus: If we can’t win fair and square, we’ll win by changing the rules.
In the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, some Republicans have been contemplating changing state laws to allocate their electoral votes by congressional districts. Currently, the winner of the popular vote in each state gets all the electoral votes.
Only Nebraska and Maine use the vote-splitting procedure.
To understand what’s going on, think back to the 2010 midterm election: Republicans took control of governorships and legislatures in most of the swing states, including Ohio, which gave them enormous political power with regard to congressional and state legislative races. How? They drew the new boundaries for congressional and state Senate and House districts.
Thus in Ohio, not only did the Republicans assure themselves super majorities in the state House and Senate, but they gerrymandered the congressional districts to give them control of 12; Democrats are sure of winning in four.
Consider what would have happened in last November’s presidential election in Ohio had the vote-splitting system been in place:
President Obama won 51.1 percent of the vote statewide, but secured a majority of the votes in only four of the 16 congressional districts. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, won in 12 districts.
Had Ohio’s 16 electoral votes been decided on the basis of congressional districts, Romney would have taken 75 percent of them.
House Bill 94
In Pennsylvania, which tried to push through a vote-splitting scheme a few years ago, Republican lawmakers have now come up with House Bill 94. It divvies up the electoral votes according to congressional districts.
The effort by Republicans in states that Obama carried to change the dynamic of the election has drawn harsh criticism. Democrats correctly point out that the winner-take-all system for the allocation of Electoral College votes has worked well and received no complaints from Republicans when they won the presidency. The American public has been taken aback by the way the GOP used its majorities in various states to create such lopsided congressional and legislative districts.
The negative reaction has prompted Republican governors seeking re-election next year to oppose the vote-splitting plan. Thus, changes won’t be made anytime soon.
However, it would be a mistake to believe that the GOP, which has a record of erecting barriers to open elections, will abandon its long-term scheme for improving its presidential fortunes.