Tim Dunkin
December 12, 2012
Electoral vote reform -- an idea whose time has come
By Tim Dunkin

It has often been noted that you can gauge the merit of a proposal by the amount of fire and brimstone that is generated against it by the Democrats and others on the Left. If the Left doesn't like it, then it must be a good idea. So it is with a proposed change to the way Pennsylvania allocates its electoral votes put forward by State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester). Under Pileggi's proposal, Pennsylvania would adopt a proportional allocation system in which its electoral votes based on the number of Representatives in the federal Congress would be apportioned according to the popular vote received by the candidates for the presidency in the state's elections, with the two remaining electoral votes (based on the state's two Senate seats) going to the overall winner. Under such a plan, Obama — who only won the state by 5% — would have received 12 EVs to Romney's eight, reducing a disparity of 20 EVs down to one of only four. As you can imagine, the Democrats and other left-wingers are spitting nails about the proposal, accusing the Republicans of "sour grapes" and of trying to "rig" the Electoral College. They are doubly incensed because Republicans in other large Rust Belt states (like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) where the GOP always competes but just can't quite seem to get over the finish line) have been considering similar proposals — and have the control over the state governments to be able to do it.

To these Democrat concerns, I say, "Boo hoo."

For years, and including most notably the most recent election, the Democrats have made a cottage industry out of inventing votes out of thin air, registering illegal immigrants to vote, using foul play to suppress legitimate voters, voting multiple times in different jurisdictions, rigging voting machines to switch votes to their candidates, and otherwise defrauding the results of our elections, going as far back as stealing it for Kennedy in 1960. This is why Democrats so vigorously oppose laws that require photo ID to vote — it has nothing to do with "voter suppression" (since pretty much everybody has a driver's license or other form of government issued ID, and those who don't could easily obtain one); instead, voted ID laws remove a major avenue for Democrat vote fraud.

One tends to think that their complaints about Electoral College reform — especially when we note that Democrats and others on the Left are usually the first to call for more "democracy" — are based on the same sort of reasoning: "This would not benefit us electorally, so we oppose it." Granted, the idea of Electoral College reform DOES benefit Republicans, which is the only reason they're proposing it, but at least in this particular case, their partisan self-interest would end up benefitting the country as a whole.

There have been many valid criticisms made against the Electoral College in recent years. The current system encourages candidates and campaigns to focus on a handful of high profile swing states, while everyone else is left out in the cold. The present scheme implicitly disenfranchises everyone who voted for the losing candidate in a state — even if the margin of victory was razor-thin. Because states move as units, larger states are "valued" more than smaller ones. By going to a proportional allocation system, many of these difficulties are ameliorated (if not eliminated). If all 50 states used this sort of electoral vote allocation, a net 50 electoral votes, by my back of the envelope calculations, would have moved from Obama's column and into Romney's. This certainly isn't the sort of "rig the system" result that Democrats lead us to expect it to be, but it would make the EV breakdown mirror the actual popular vote results quite closely — and would remove a lot of this ridiculous "mandate for Obama" talk that Democrats have been throwing around, based on the "lopsided" EV victory that the Resident was given.

However, for a number of reasons, I like a different allocation method for electoral vote reform that has been tossed around — allocating EVs by congressional district, as is currently done in Maine and Nebraska.

One of the problems with popular vote EV allocation is that it still doesn't really do much about the problem of using vote fraud to gin up lopsided vote tallies in urban precincts where there are entrenched Democrat political machines with no oversight or accountability, as exist in cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, and elsewhere. As such, electoral votes in a proportional allocation system can still be swung towards the beneficiary of fraud, and the larger the state (with proportionally smaller percent-popular-vote-per-EV ratios) the more EVs this can happen with. This could still make or break a close election, handing the victory to a fraudulently-elected candidate.

Allocating by congressional district, with the two "left over" EVs representing the Senate seats going to the overall winner of the state doesn't solve this completely (the two "left-overs" can still be stolen in a rigged statewide election), but it does help to minimize it. For reasons I discussed previously, it is much harder to defraud and steal most congressional level elections that are not taking place in hard-core inner-city urban areas, while it is easy to use grossly fraudulent vote totals in these urban areas to swing a whole state your way. Under a congressional district allocation system, the whole state isn't affected by funny business in one large city — rural, exurban, and suburban voters would be effectively re-enfranchised.

Another reason I like the congressional district allocation proposal is because it works to decentralize political power and political focus. Instead of candidates vying for that handful of swing states, campaigns would have more incentive to spread out their efforts across the country, letting the entire nation participate in the political process, instead of just Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and few others. Granted, this does not mean that every single congressional district in the nation will suddenly be hosting rallies for Presidential candidates. After all, there are always going to be districts that are non-competitive for one Party or the other, regardless of how we allocate electoral votes. But it does mean that swing-type districts in Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, California, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, etc. would see their stake in the race increase. This would probably help to cut down some on the disconnect that many feel with our present political system, and might even help some low-information voters to be motivated to educate themselves.

Further, allocating by congressional district would promote the cause of federalism, whereas focusing on popular vote works against that vital principle. In our federal republican (small-r) system, believe it or not, the popular vote is (and should be) only of secondary importance. Voters in California and New York should not have carte blanche to dictate to the rest of the country; neither should voters in Philadelphia and Detroit have it to dictate to everyone else in their states. Allocating electoral votes by congressional district helps to decentralize power not only by increasing the number of potential districts that have a "stake" in the election game, but also by increasing the importance of local units of responsibility, since each district gets a vote, so to speak, rather than just being subsumed into the morass of the entire state or nation. Using this to plant the idea in the heads of the American people that local division of power is more important, rather than fealty to bureaucrats in faraway Washington D.C., can never be a bad thing.

As much as Democrats and leftists hate the idea of proportional division of electoral votes, they hate the idea of allocating them by congressional district even more. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they have a visceral hatred of local control of politics, wanting political power to be centralized in D.C. and the large cities that they use to control the rest of their respective states.

However, one argument they make that might, on the surface, appear to have some merit is that allocation by congressional district would unfairly favor Republicans because Republicans in many of the state legislatures have gerrymandered the districts in their states to pack minorities and Democrats into a few Democrat-rich districts, while spreading Republicans and conservatives out into a larger number of districts that are generally fairly safe for GOP candidates.

However, this isn't as nefarious as the Left tries to make it out to be. First of all, it's not exactly like the Republicans are the only Party that knows how to gerrymander a district. Look at Maryland, for instance. Of Maryland's eight congressional districts, only one is represented by a Republican. Yet, if you look at an actual county-by-county map of the results of the 2012 election in Maryland, you see that there are actually several GOP-heavy areas, not just in the western Alleghany panhandle, but all around the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore, and the Piedmont region around Frederick and Hagerstown. If Maryland had mathematically apportioned districts, the GOP would have at least two more seats in Congress, perhaps even three. But, the Democrats spread the very left-leaning populations around D.C. and Baltimore around so that they can move seats into their column. They do it in other states, too. For every state like Texas or Pennsylvania where the Democrats can cry about GOP gerrymandering, there are states like Illinois, California, or New York where the Dems do the same thing. All things being equal, I would suspect that it more or less balances out nationwide.

Further, keep in mind that to some degree, gerrymandering (especially in southern states) is mandated by federal law via judicial application of the Voting Rights Act. An implicit requirement placed upon states is that there be districts in which blacks and Latinos will be elected. As a result, states go to great lengths to cluster minorities into so-called "minority-majority" districts so that more minority candidates will be elected and the judicial interpretation of federal law will be met. That, for instance, explains the hideously-shaped North Carolina 12th congressional district, which exists in its current form for the sole purpose of giving Mel Watt a seat in Congress. When states generate these minority-majority districts, simple math tells you that the other districts around these gerrymanders will be minority-poor, and thus Republican-enriched. After all, there are only so many minorities to go around. And this isn't really an underhanded Republican plot — it's a consequence of the very federal government that leftists hold dear.

The Left is especially adamant that electoral vote reform is a Very Bad Thing because of the fact that it's only currently being proposed in states where there is a political imbalance that has given the Republicans complete control of the state government, but hands the Presidency to the Democrat more often than not. This is unfair, they say. It's "rigging" the election, as Mother Jones bewailed earlier. No — it's simply federalism in action. Like it or not, states have the constitutional right to determine for themselves how they will allocate electoral votes — and two states already do it the way I've been arguing for above. Democrats have spent decades trying to tilt the playing field in their favor — they have no room to cry and complain now that the Republicans are doing it to them. At least the Republicans are doing it in a way that is constitutionally allowed. There are consequences to elections, as the Democrats are finding out. One can be sure that we would not hear these arguments from the Left if the reform was being proposed by Democrat governments in states that lean Republican at the presidential level. In one sense, I have to admit — turnabout is fair play, even if you think it's "rigged." Of course, even if every state in the union enacted allocation of EVs by congressional districts, Republicans would still have the advantage (hint: look at who controls Congress, even in the face of an Obama "re-election").

All in all, I hope that electoral vote reform will be an idea that will start to get some traction. If anything is "rigged," it is the current system whereby Democrat political machines in large urban areas are able to use the lack of oversight they enjoy to defraud elections over and over again. By lessening the ability of a few large and corrupt cities to overawe everyone else, allowing local say in the distribution of electoral votes for the Presidency, this reform will simultaneously "democratize" (if the term can be excused) the present system while also cleaning up much of the corruption that distorts it at present.

© Tim Dunkin

 

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Tim Dunkin

Tim Dunkin is a pharmaceutical chemist by day, and a freelance author by night, writing about a wide range of topics on religion and politics. He is the author of an online book about Islam entitled Ten Myths About Islam, and is the founder and editor of Conservative Underground, a bi-weekly email newsletter focusing on foundational conservative worldview and philosophy. He is a born-again Christian, and a member of a local, New Testament Baptist church in North Carolina. He can be contacted at tqcincinnatus@yahoo.com. All emails may be monitored by the NSA for quality assurance purposes.

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