Back in 2008, in one of my first posts for Examiner.com, It's time to abolish the Electoral College , I called for abolishing the Electoral College, with the Constitution amended to provide for a direct popular vote in presidential elections, including a provision for instant runoff if no candidate receives a majority.
After all, the Electoral College makes no sense when the will of the people can be thwarted if it makes a loser of the popular vote winner, as has happened four times, most recently in 2000, giving us perhaps the worst president in U.S. history, George W. Bush. With direct popular vote, everyone’s vote counts for filling the most important elected office in the world.
Abolishing the Electoral College should be a more urgent priority now that Republicans have proposed using it to rig presidential elections. Having lost four of the last six presidential elections, while failing to carry Michigan all six times, and with demographic trends favoring the Democrats, some Republicans see subverting democracy as their best hope for taking back the White House, instead of taking more popular and less extreme issue positions while running better candidates.
Currently, in every state except Nebraska and Maine, the candidate who carries it gets all of its electoral votes. In Nebraska and Maine, the candidate who carries the state gets two electoral votes, with the remainder distributed according to which candidates carried congressional districts. There are only three congressional districts in Nebraska and two in Maine, with voting patterns that don’t vary much. In fact, the only electoral vote split by district in these states since adopting this scheme occurred in 2008, when President Barack Obama carried Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd District while losing the rest of the state to Republican opponent John McCain.
But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wants to extend Electoral College voting by congressional district to states that have voted Democratic in presidential elections but have congressional districts that are gerrymandered Republican, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Along with fellow Republicans, he doesn’t want to apply it to states usually carried by Republicans, such as Texas. If this proposal had been applied nationwide in 2012, Obama would have lost the electoral vote to Mitt Romney, even though he won the popular vote by a margin of 4,970,508.
The extent to which Michigan’s congressional districts are gerrymandered can be seen in the 2012 election results, with Democratic congressional candidates winning the major party vote over Republicans by 2,327,985 (53 percent) to 2,086,804 (47 percent), while Republicans won a 9-5 majority in the state’s House delegation. Obama’s vote by congressional district followed the same pattern while he carried the state over Romney by 2,564,569 (54 percent) to 2,115,256 (45 percent), which would have given Romney a 9-7 edge in electoral votes.
Similarly, in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry carried Michigan over Bush by 2,479,183 (51 percent) to 2,313,746 (48 percent), but with gerrymandered congressional districts, Bush would have won the state’s electoral vote by 10-7. Obama was able to overcome the gerrymander in 2008 by defeating McCain by a hefty margin of 2,872,579 (57 percent) to 2,048,639 (41 percent), carrying four districts that elected Republicans to Congress, which would have been a 14-3 electoral vote margin in the state.
State Rep. Peter Lund (R-Shelby Township) first proposed this election rigging scheme in 2011, but it went nowhere, because Republicans thought Romney, a Michigan native, would carry his original home state. With Romney having failed to do so, Lund has reintroduced his despicable bill with considerably more fanfare.
State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), currently under investigation by a grand jury over his attempt to rig a state House election in a Grand Rapids district last year, has endorsed Lund’s bill. Gov. Rick Snyder and state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) have kept their distance so far, but we should remember that they did the same thing regarding freeloading off unions, dishonestly called “right-to-work,” before ramming it through the Legislature. The Republican base loves the idea, with a resolution endorsing Lund’s vote rigging bill approved at last weekend’s state convention by a lopsided vote of 1,370-312.
Ironically, back in the 19th century, distributing electoral votes by congressional district was used for one election in this state, with the parties in reversed roles. From statehood in 1837 until the founding of the Republican Party in Jackson in 1854, Democrats were in control, following which Republicans dominated, with their presidential candidates carrying Michigan in nine straight elections. But in 1890, a big Democratic year, Democrats won the governorship and control of both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1852. They then pushed through their Electoral College scheme, with two votes for the overall winner and the rest distributed according to congressional district results.
In the 1892 presidential election, Republican incumbent Benjamin Harrison carried Michigan over his Democratic predecessor, Grover Cleveland, by 20,000 votes and an electoral vote margin of 9-5. While Cleveland won the election, Republicans took back the governorship and control of both houses of the Legislature. They repealed the Democratic scheme, going back to winner-take-all for the state’s electoral vote. As a further irony, Harrison had won the electoral vote in 1888 while losing the popular vote to Cleveland. The other elections in which the popular vote winner was denied the presidency by the Electoral College occurred in 1824 and 1876.
It is unclear whether this piece of garbage will be passed in any state. Some Republicans are uncomfortable with it, and there has been a considerable public backlash in opposition. But even if nothing comes of it, the Electoral College remains a threat to democracy, carrying with it the potential for vote manipulation and rigging elections. It deserves to be abolished.