In 2012 President Obama won the Electoral College by a final margin of 332 to 206 for Mitt Romney. However, if Republicans have their way they could win the Electoral College in 2016 even if Democrats win the same amount votes. Just yesterday, Republicans in the Virginia state legislature moved forward with what has become known as the "Corbett election rigging plan."
The plan being advanced by many Republican state legislatures would alter the way Electoral College votes are awarded.
Currently, the winner of a popular vote within a state wins all of that state’s Electoral College votes. Mitt Romney won North Carolina by on two percentage points (50 percent to 48 percent), but Romney earned all 15 of the state’s 15 Electoral College votes. Similarly, President Obama won Florida by only one point (50 percent to 49 percent), but won all of Florida 29 electoral votes.
The plan being advanced by Republicans in multiple state legislatures would change that system so that Electoral College votes are awarded based on which candidate win each congressional district within a state. At first glance the Republican system seems fairer, but there are two basic problems.
First, the plan is only being considered by Republican state legislatures in states that Democrats won in 2012. If the plan is advanced, Republicans will benefit by getting more votes in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. However, the plan is not being advanced in states like Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona because Republicans control the legislatures in those states and do not want to give any Electoral College votes away to Democrats. In other words, Republicans plan to keep 100 percent of the Electoral College votes in states where they are winning while gaining proportional amount of votes in states they lose.
The second, and more serious problem, is that congressional districts are drawn in a way to benefit one political party through a process called gerrymandering. Because of these odd shaped districts (seen in the picture above), Republicans would actually win a much larger share of the Electoral College vote than the actual votes they received in each state. In Ohio, for example, Obama would only win four Electoral College votes (or 22 percent of the congressional districts) despite winning 51 percent of the actual vote in Ohio.
Gerrymandering is a powerful tool that allowed Republicans to keep their majority in the House of Representatives even though Democratic candidates got more votes across the country than Republicans. Now, Republicans are attempting to use the gerrymandering tool to also gain an Electoral College advantage.
If the Republican plan had been adopted in six states (Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin) where they currently control state legislatures, Mitt Romney actually would have won an Electoral College majority in 2012 despite losing the popular vote with just 47 percent of the vote nationwide compared to 51 percent for President Obama.
The stakes are high, as passage of the Electoral College change could make it practically impossible for Democrats to keep the White House in 2016.