It wasn’t so long ago, coming off a bruising presidential election, that Republicans were looking at ways to increase vote percentages among younger and minority voters to remain a contender in national elections. But it appears professional Republicans have decided that’s either impossible, unnecessary or perhaps just too hard. Because now they’re going for another possibility: rig the electoral college to insure Republican presidential victories with a decreasing voter base.
In other words, nuclear gerrymandering.
The plan is to game the electoral college to rig the system for Republicans. It works like this. Because of big victories in the 2010 midterm — and defending majorities in 2012 — Republicans now enjoy complete control of a number of midwestern states that usually vote Democratic in national (and increasingly in senatorial) elections. It may be temporary control but for now it’s total. Use that unified control in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania to change the system of electoral vote allocation from winner-take-all to proportional allotment.
So if you win Ohio by one percent you get about half the electoral votes and just a smidge more as opposed to winning everything.
On it’s own terms, that’s not necessarily a bad thing (probably but not necessarily) — if all the states take the same course. But that’s the idea — just do it in states where Republicans routinely lose. Obviously, if it’s proportional in Dem-leaning swing states and winner-take-all in the Red States that leaves Republicans with a massive advantage. And that’s the idea.
Now, I’m not sure how successful it’s going to be. This has been tried half-heartedly in the past. And when it comes down to it, state legislators and governors usually are not inclined to damage their own state’s electoral clout for electoral gain quite that transparently.
Just for example, say you’re Ohio. You’ve just had an electoral cycle where both campaigns are catering to your every whim and being highly solicitous of the state’s needs for about two years straight. Switch to proportional representation and all that disappears over night because winning or losing only gets you maybe one or two electoral votes.
It’s a reasonable question whether this is great for California or Texas, which don’t get much presidential attention. But it’s definitely good for Ohio. So for Ohio legislators or a governor to do this means putting your party’s interests above your state’s in about the most transparent way possible.
Nationally, though, it’s the big picture that matters. Plug the electoral dike by locking in GOP electoral victories even in the face of fairly significant popular vote loses. In other words, gerrymander the White House like the House.
Keep an eye on this. It could matter a lot for 2016.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.