After the drubbing they received in the last two presidential election cycles, shell-shocked Republicans are gravitating toward a novel strategy to get around voters by rigging the electoral process so that they can win even when they lose.
The idea is ingenious — and corrupt. Presently, in all but two states — Maine and Nebraska — the winner of the popular vote receives all the state’s electoral college votes for president. The GOP proposes to distribute the electoral college votes proportionately. That in itself is not a bad idea; indeed if it were implemented by all states, it would even improve the antiquated electoral college system.
However, the GOP plans to introduce the rule selectively in only those states it lost to Pres. Barack Obama and where the party presently exercises legislative and executive control — Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania. It would retain the winner-take-all system in the states it routinely wins in the South, but use its political clout in states it lost at the federal level, to manipulate the outcome of presidential elections to its advantage. Under the proposed new system in these six states, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have picked up an additional 50 electoral college votes, significantly narrowing his 332-206 rout in the electoral college to a squeaky 280-258, even though Pres. Obama trounced him by nearly 5 million in the popular vote.
The strategy is an extension of the unscrupulous tactics Republicans deployed to rig Congressional elections. Nationwide, Democratic candidates won a majority of the Congressional ballots cast — more than 1.3 million votes than the GOP — but lost the House, nevertheless. Republicans, who took control of state legislatures and the governor’s mansions in 2010, gerrymandered Congressional districts during the redistricting process.
As a result, in Pennsylvania, Democrats edged out the GOP 2.72 million to 2.65 million, but Republicans won 13 of the 18 Congressional seats, because redistricting by the Republican controlled legislature had boxed the vast majority of Democratic voters into just a handful of odd-shaped districts. In Ohio, GOP candidates overall won a majority of the votes by a nose — 2.31 million to 2.06 million — but won 75% of the 16 seats at play in that state. And in Virginia, the GOP won almost 70% of the seats, even though the two parties were separated by fewer than 100,000 votes — 1.83 million for Republicans to 1.74 million for Democrats.
Thanks to the gerrymandering, Republicans control the House of Representatives 234-201 despite winning a minority of the popular vote. Speaker John Boehner has some chutzpah to claim a voter mandate.
The objective behind redistricting, which is done every 10 years, is to make accommodations for demographic shifts, as reflected in the decennial census. But during the past two redistricting cycles, Republican strategists have schemed to rig districts in their party’s favor by disproportionately packing urban Democratic-leaning districts to create vast swaths of safe Republican constituencies, as the accompanying bizarre map of Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts shows. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has decided to defer to state legislatures on these political questions, so we are locked into these rigged Congressional districts until 2022, when the next redistricting process, very likely equally corrupt, will occur. But Americans should be vigilant against the new Republican tactics to now steal presidential elections by packing the Electoral College as well.
There is little doubt that the vast majority of Americans would be outraged by this crass and dishonest manipulation of the electoral process — if only they knew. Unfortunately, the complexity of redistricting and the local nuances involved to make it work are lost on most Americans. And the media are too distracted by rating-boosting fake controversies over birth certificates to look out for those who are simply stealing and making off with the ballot box.