In the 2012 Presidential election, Barack Obama received 450,000 more votes in Michigan than Mitt Romney, winning the 16 electoral votes up for grabs in the state. But if the election was held again and some state lawmakers had their way, Romney would pick up six electoral votes. What?
You read that right. Michigan Republicans are backing an idea that would change the electoral vote apportionment for the state. Instead of winner-take-all, electoral votes would be based upon who wins each Congressional district in the state.
Now, the Electoral College system doesn’t have too many fans out there (remember 2000?). And Maine and Nebraska already award electoral votes by Congressional district. Democracy as we know it continues to exist. So what’s the big deal?
Well, because of gerrymandering, the practice of mapping Congressional districts in ways that ensure certain outcomes, we pretty much already know who’ll win the vote in most districts. According to the Five-Thirty-Eight blog, only 35 congressional districts (out of 435) are actually up for grabs in the next election. These districts were drawn by state legislatures in 2010, when Republicans won resoundingly. That has an echo effect, as last year Democrats got about one million more votes for Congress than their Republican rivals, but Republicans still control the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 32 representatives.
If electoral votes were awarded by congressional district in every state, it would be pretty much the same math for Presidential elections. In fact, one analysis says Mitt Romney would now be president if that were the case, despite losing the race with only 47.1% of the vote, three million votes less than Barack Obama received.
So that’s why several Republican-controlled states are considering make this change, and it has the support of Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus
Not to say it isn’t meeting resistance. In fact many high-ranking Republicans oppose it. In Florida, House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) dismissed the idea, saying “I don’t think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better.” A similar measure in Virginia was recently defeated. Former Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Congressman from Wisconsin, dismissed the idea recently. Ohio also struck it down.
That said, Pennsylvania is moving forward on a bill to allot electoral votes based on the winner of Congressional districts.
As for Michigan? Well, Governor Rick Snyder says it’s “not the appropriate time” to make this change. So for now, the status quo prevails. For now.
Whether there will be a big swing towards changing up the Electoral College is still unclear, but what is clear is that any change in the ‘majority rules’ mantra that has been part of the country’s voting norms for the past 225+ years would have far reaching implications in the long run. History could be unfolding right before our eyes.