Tilting the Field Under Cover of Nothing

When you lose an election, vote-rigging can be an effective best practice to drive improved results
freddthompson on Flickr (via Creative Commons)

The Republican National Committee just concluded its winter meeting at the Westin uptown with a call for Republicans to rethink their tactics, if not their ideas, in the face of population changes that seem to bode ill for the electoral future of the Grand Old Party.

“Demographic changes in America are changes in the Democrats’ direction,” conceded Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for former President George W. Bush. “We have to figure out how to make it come our way.”


Oh. Sorry. Pardon me for yelling, but IS ANYBODY HOME?

Republicans in Virginia and a handful of other battleground states are pushing for far-reaching changes to the electoral college in an attempt to counter recent success by Democrats.

In the vast majority of states, the presidential candidate who wins receives all of that state’s electoral votes. The proposed changes would instead apportion electoral votes by congressional district, a setup far more favorable to Republicans. Under such a system in Virginia, for instance, President Obama would have claimed four of the state’s 13 electoral votes in the 2012 election, rather than all of them.

Other states considering similar changes include Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which share a common dynamic with Virginia: They went for Obama in the past two elections but are controlled by Republicans at the state level.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus recently voiced support for the effort, saying it is something that “a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at.”

Sean Spicer, a Priebus spokesman, said Thursday: “For these states, it would make them more competitive, but it’s not our call to tell them how to apportion their votes.”

Let’s go over that again: Republicans, dissatisfied with the outcome of the 2012 elections, are attempting to change the law in six states so that, in effect, Republican votes are more valuable than Democratic ones. The stated rationale is to balance out the purported advantages of densely populated areas, which lean so heavily Democratic that, Republicans assert, many voters in rural areas don’t even bother to go to the polls because they know they’ll just be outvoted.

Well, that’s how that particular “one person, one vote” cookie crumbles, I’m afraid. The U.S. Supreme Court more or less settled that in the landmark Reynolds v. Sims decision in 1964, when justices ruled 8-1 that legislative districts in Alabama had to be roughly equal in population. Otherwise, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, the value of a vote would vary widely from district to district:

Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests. As long as ours is a representative form of government, and our legislatures are those instruments of government elected directly by and directly representative of the people, the right to elect legislators in a free and unimpaired fashion is a bedrock of our political system. It could hardly be gainsaid that a constitutional claim had been asserted by an allegation that certain otherwise qualified voters had been entirely prohibited from voting for members of their state legislature. And, if a State should provide that the votes of citizens in one part of the State should be given two times, or five times, or 10 times the weight of votes of citizens in another part of the State, it could hardly be contended that the right to vote of those residing in the disfavored areas had not been effectively diluted. It would appear extraordinary to suggest that a State could be constitutionally permitted to enact a law providing that certain of the State’s voters could vote two, five, or 10 times for their legislative representatives, while voters living elsewhere could vote only once. And it is inconceivable that a state law to the effect that, in counting votes for legislators, the votes of citizens in one part of the State would be multiplied by two, five, or 10, while the votes of persons in another area would be counted only at face value, could be constitutionally sustainable. [emphasis mine]

Awarding electoral college votes by Congressional district, one GOP argument goes, would more closely align them with the will of the people. Voters in Virginia — where, remember, Mitt Romney would have won nine of the state’s 13 electoral votes in November if the Republicans’ current proposal had been in place — chose President Obama by nearly 150,000 votes, 51.2 percent of the vote to Romney’s 47.3. (That’s right — 47 percent.) The will of some people, they mean.

Incidentally, there doesn’t seem to be a big push for such reapportionment in either Carolina. ‘Course, if it ain’t broke

And one other big development from the RNC’s three days in Charlotte: Reince Priebus was re-elected as chairman. No sense changing horses in mid-scam.

Update: I guess we ought to be thankful Republicans were so deluded about their electoral fate last year, they didn’t see the Grand Old Gerrymander as the urgent matter it was:

Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, confirmed this week he plans to reintroduce legislation that would award all but two of Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes according to congressional district results. The remaining two would go to the candidate winning the statewide majority.

“I believe it’s more representative of the people — closer to the actual vote,” said Lund, who proposed a similar bill in 2012. “It got no traction last year. There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him.” [emphasis mine]

Who says Republicans are too ideological and rigid? You can’t get more pragmatic than this!

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest