Friday, January 25, 2013

Electoral Time Machine

An old saying - be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

There is serious talk of changing the way Presidential electors are selected. All states with the exception of Maine and Nebraska are winner take all with whichever candidate winning the popular vote also winning the entire number of electors.

Maine and Nebraska apportion their electors based on popular vote in individual Congressional districts.

With the Republican Party now having lost consecutive Presidential elections, critical states won by President Obama but controlled by Republican legislatures are considering switching to the Maine/Nebraska model.

In Georgia, oddly enough, this type of change would award three additional electoral votes to President Obama. Not so oddly enough, there is no talk in Georgia of switching to this type of system.

In Virginia however, where President Obama became the first Democratic President since FDR to win consecutive elections, the talks are hot and heavy. In the Old Dominion, under this type of system, Mitt Romney would have received 9 elector votes to President Obama's 4 despite losing the statewide vote handily.

National Republicans aren't shy about their intentions and this leads normally even tempered analysts like University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato to exclaim,
corrupt and cynical maneuver to frustrate popular will and put a heavy thumb — the whole hand, in fact — on the scale for future Republican candidates
Due to the last redistricting, there is little doubt that flipping a half dozen key states to this system would give the Republican Party a huge advantage in 2016. But what about beyond? We've already seen the unintended consequences of "voter id" laws which energized the Democratic base in swing states like Florida.

We only have to look thirty years in the past to ponder the what if's of the future.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan stomped Jimmy Carter; setting the stage for the Reagan Revolution. Today, we still feel the echoes of that thunderous election.

Reagan beat Carter, 489 to 49

But what happens if you apply the Republican party's new scheme basing it on party control of individual congressional districts in the 95th Congress?

Carter wins, 283 to 221*

The modern Republican nightmare of a Carter second term.

Now obviously, given how many Reagan Democrats switched sides in 1980, Reagan would have won many Democratically controlled districts. However, you cannot deny, the race would have been much closer, the mandate would not have been nearly as strong and there's a pretty good chance Carter would have won.

Given the backlash voter id created, Republicans should consider what might happen in those state houses where this new plan is enacted. It might turn Republican legislatures seen as destiny driven into battlegrounds against a re-invigorated opponent.

And after 2020, it might be Democrats controlling those district lines and ultimately those electors.

*Total does not add up to 538 due to vacancies where party could not be determined


chamblee54 said...

I am tired of having my vote taken away by the electoral congress. A change in the way electoral votes are distributed will benefit America in the long run.

Dave Bearse said...

I understand that the Virginia proposal so blatantly seeks to trash the concept of statewide majority that it would award the two Senate electoral votes to the candidate that wins the most individual House districts, even if that's not the winner of a statewide majority.

This is perhaps another example of the GOP offering up a ridciulous elements in proposal so the element's abandonment can be spun as compromise, a tactic the GOP has employed with increasing regularity.