GOP eyes new election laws

After back-to-back presidential losses, Republicans in key states want to change the rules to make it easier for them to win.
AP Wire
Jan 20, 2013

From Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, GOP officials who control legislatures in states that supported President Barack Obama are considering changing state laws that give the winner of a state's popular vote all of its Electoral College votes, too. Instead, these officials want Electoral College votes to be divided proportionally, a move that could transform the way the country elects its president.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed the idea this week, and other Republican leaders support it, too, suggesting that the effort may be gaining momentum. There are other signs that Republican state legislators, governors and veteran political strategists are seriously considering making the shift as the GOP looks to rebound from presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Electoral College shellacking and the demographic changes that threaten the party's long-term political prospects.

"It's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Priebus told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, emphasizing that each state must decide for itself.

Democrats are outraged at the potential change.

Obama won the popular vote with 65.9 million votes, or 51.1 percent, to Romney's 60.9 million, or 47.2 percent, and won the Electoral College by a wide margin, 332-206 electoral votes. It's unclear whether he would have been re-elected under the new system, depending upon how many states adopted the change.

While some Republican officials warn of a political backlash, GOP lawmakers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are already lining up behind proposals that would allocate electoral votes by congressional district or something similar.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he "could go either way" on the change and doesn't plan to push it. But he said it's a reasonable issue to debate and that he prefers that leaders discuss it well before the next presidential election.

"It could be done in a thoughtful (way) over the next couple years and people can have a thoughtful discussion," Snyder said.

Republican leaders in the Michigan Statehouse have yet to decide whether to embrace the change there. But state Rep. Peter Lund, a Republican who introduced a bill to change the allocation system two years ago, said some Republicans might be more receptive to his bill this year following the election.

"We never really pushed it before," he said, adding that the bill wasn't designed to help one party more than the other.

Democrats aren't convinced. And they warned of political consequences for Republicans who back the shift — particularly those governors up for re-election in 2014, who include the governors of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, among others.

"This is nothing more than election-rigging," said Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer.

Each state has the authority to shape its own election law. And in at least seven states — Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina — Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office.

Already, Maine and Nebraska have moved away from a winner-take-all system to one that allocates electoral votes based on congressional district.

"This is a concept that's got a lot of possibility and a lot of potential," said Washington-based Republican strategist Phil Musser, acknowledging that the debate would "incite different levels of partisan acrimony." Musser also predicted that more pressing economic issues would likely take priority in most Republican-led statehouses.

In Pennsylvania, Senate Republican leader Dominic Pileggi this week renewed his call for the Republican-controlled Legislature to revamp the way it awards electoral votes by using a method based on the popular vote that would have given Romney eight of the state's 20 votes.

Democrats quickly criticized it as partisan scheme.

"It is difficult to find the words to describe just how evil this plan is," said Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat. "It is an obscene scheme to cheat by rigging the elections."

Gov. Tom Corbett, who supported a related proposal from Pileggi last year, had not seen the new plan and could not say whether he supports the new version, the Republican governor's spokesman Kevin Harley said.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has said that changing how electoral votes are allocated was an "interesting idea" but that it's not one of his priorities, nor has he decided whether he supports such a change.

It's gotten a lukewarm reception in the Republican-controlled Legislature as well. No proposal has been introduced yet and no lawmaker has announced any plans to do so, but the state Assembly speaker, Robin Vos, first proposed the change back in 2007.

"I am open to that idea," Vos said in December as lawmakers prepared for the start of their session. "But I would have to hear all the arguments."

All 10 of the state's Electoral College votes went to Obama last fall under the current system. If they were awarded based on the new system, the votes would have been evenly split between Obama and Romney.

Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent an email plea urging people to sign a petition against the change: "We can't sit silently by as they try to manipulate the democratic process for political advantage," Barrett wrote. "We can't let them attack the very democratic institutions and rights that others have sacrificed so much to gain — just because they don't believe they can win in a fair election fight."

So far, Republicans have only advocated for the change in states that have supported Democrats in recent elections. The view is predictably different in states where the Republican nominee is a cinch to win.

"The Electoral College has served the country quite well," said Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere, who doubles as a national party vice chairman.

He continued: "This is coming from states where it might be an advantage, but I'm worried about what it means down the road. This is a system that has worked. That doesn't mean we can't talk about changes, but we have to be very careful about any actions we might take."

Associated Press writers Peter Jackson in Pennsylvania, Scott Bauer in Wisconsin, Jeff Karoub and John Flesher in Michigan, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Comments

Mystic Michael

Yep, that's today's GOP! Can't win in a fair fight? Cheat! Don't want to play by the rules? Manipulate the rules so they give you an unfair advantage!

All this brought to you by the same party that tried to steal the last election by staging a carefully-coordinated, nationwide voter suppression conspiracy. The same party whose newly-elected Wisconsin governor in 2010 gave away millions of state dollars in unnecessary corporate welfare...then cried "poverty!" in a contrived effort to destroy the collective bargaining rights of thousands of state employees. The same party whose newly-elected Michigan governor in 2010 imposed an autocratic "emergency manager" law in order to deprive cities & towns of their rights to self-government, witnessed that law's subsequent repeal last year by statewide citizen referendum...then immediately re-introduced the same policy - in a form that made it legally repeal-proof. The same party whose Ohio secretary of state tried to permit extended-hours early voting prior to last year's election for ONLY those counties that historically vote Republican - while denying extended-hours early voting in counties that historically vote Democratic.

For a party that so loves to wrap itself in the flag, hide behind the Constitution, and piously lecture the rest of us about "morals" and "traditional values", this sleazy pack of weasels wouldn't know democracy if it bit them on their pasty-white derrieres.

MM

Vladtheimp

So much Mystical Misinformation - I apologize for the length of this comment, but as Mark Twain said, A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The Dictionary of Mystical Big Government Leftists

1. "Voter Suppression" = showing a valid I.D. to vote. If you believe in requiring a valid ID before voting, then you are an evil "Voter Suppressor" in their eyes.

2. "Destroying the collective bargaining rights of government employees" and "depriving cities of self-government" = laws reflecting the will of the voters. If you believe that voters and taxpayers should determine the pay and benefits of the people that work for them, and that cities that continually drain money from the state because they refuse to keep their financial house in order should be controlled by the state before throwing additional taxpayer money down a rat hole, then you are thinking like the evil Republicans.

3. "Manipulate the rules to give you an unfair advantage, Don't Play by the Rules. Cheat" = ignore the fact that the United States in a Constitutional Republic; ignore the Constitution; substitute tyranny of the majority (pure mob rule) democracy.

The proposal that the Trib writes about,proportional voting for electors, means that the votes for electors would more closely reflect the voters in each Congressional district. For example, in 2012 in Michigan, President Obama won the statewide vote but Mitt Romney won 9 of 14 of the Congressional Districts; under the current "Winner Take All" System, all of Michigan's 16 Electoral votes went to Obama- in other words, even though Ottawa county gave Romney 67% of the vote our votes counted for NOTHING in the electoral college! This is the leftists definition of "Fair." If you believe that we have a Federal system, that the States have rights, and that, within that system, your vote should count as much as that of a voter in Detroit, then you are guilty of wanting to manipulate the rules to get an unfair advantage - go figure!

4. "Manipulate the rules to give you an unfair advantage, Don't Play by the Rules. Cheat" = Do What They Have Already Done.

You won't read it in the media, but what the Big Government leftists want to do, and have already accomplished in 5 States, (New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, and D.C.) is called the National Popular Vote plan that would effectively abolish the Electoral College without going through the formal process of amending the Constitution. States join an interstate compact that binds them to allocate their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. This would ignore the Constitution and favor the politics of voters in the 40 largest cities and their suburbs, at the expense of the rest of the country. It would also eliminate the possibility of smaller political parties, such as the Liberal Party, the environmental Green Party, the Constitutional Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Conservative Party electing a president. If you don't believe that voters in Detroit, Flint, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia should have a greater say in elections than you, that the Democrats and Republicans are doing a swell job of running the country and there is not now or ever will be a need for other parties who representatives can be elected President, and that you don't need to follow the process for amending the Constitution, then you have a "pasty white derriere" (must be nice to have a Mystic Free Pass for racist observations).

Mystic Michael

I see. So when GOP Governor Rick Scott of Florida ordered dozens of polling places closed, and when he drastically restricted early voting dates & hours, and when his party apparatchiks mailed out misleading voter guides to minority communities, it wasn't actually intended to discourage Democratic voters with long queues at the polls, or to confuse them with inaccurate information - it was actually to preserve the integrity of the vote?

And when GOP Ohio Secretary of State John Husted arbitrarily set ridiculous new standards for the validity of provisional ballots in his state, then illegally ordered the disposal & destruction of ballots that failed to meet those criteria, he was actually upholding Constitutional principles?

And when some 35 states - all of which just happen to have Republican governors and Republican-dominated legislatures - all began preparations immediately after the 2010 elections to simultaneously implement these kinds of tactics prior to the 2012 elections, it was actually a grassroots patriotic movement to restore freedom to America?

Gosh, Vlad! I never knew that! Thanks for setting me straight! ;>)

MM

Vladtheimp

Glad to help - in that vein I have some more assistance to keep you on the straight and narrow.

I ThinkProgress is being made - from an allegation that the Republicans "tried to steal the last election by staging a carefully-coordinated, nationwide voter suppression conspiracy" (requiring voter I.D.), we are now down to two specific claims of voter suppression and one vague and general smear.

With respect to Ohio Secretary of State Husted's standard on provisional ballots, which you claim was "illegal" we need to define "illegal." Since his ruling was upheld by a Federal Appeals Court, I have to think he was proven correct. http://www.cleveland.com/open/in... (I don't blame you for not knowing this because it is missing from all of the Big Government liberal websites - you actually need to research the real news).

With respect to Governor Rick Scott in Florida - yes, he did sign and implement a new law passed by the representatives of the citizens of Florida that restricted early voting, and yes, he did attempt to remove illegal aliens, who are ineligible to vote, from the rolls of qualified voters *, and yes, he was successfully sued by Eric Holder on these issues because Florida is one of the few states remaining under the thumb of the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act. So you are correct. Congratulations on a successful lawsuit by the Attorney General of the United States - you know, the guy who famously said, in Congressional testimony regarding his failure to prosecute the Black Panthers in Philadelphia for voter intimidation, that this was nothing compared to what happened to "My People" in the South in the 1960's. "My People" from the Attorney General of the United States - I have somewhat skeptical confidence that I would fall into that category if I were confronted with armed thugs in camo who suggested I should not vote at that precinct. . . . That notwithstanding, your allegations in this case were correct.

* Scott was forced to use the Florida Motor Vehicle database because the Obama administration refused to give Florida access to the access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security for that purpose.

Keep Straight, my Mystic Brotha!

VI

Missy Hanz

I am definitely sure that these laws will really give a real change. The only thing that needed is the cooperation of everybody. - JustFab

newsblogger

This article is meant to browbeat the Republican part and serves no real purpose.

newsblogger

*party

Mystic Michael

...except to conduct the most crucial possible function of a free press: namely, to shine the light of public scrutiny on the self-serving political machinations of the well-connected and the powerful, which left unchecked, would otherwise undermine the very foundations of democratic self-government itself.

But, yeah. Other than that, no real purpose... ;>)

newsblogger

So you are saying the democrats are innocent of any self serving and have no connection to any power? You missed my point.. The point is.. both sides have problems, but the media refuses to acknowledge this fact. They only attack the republicans (whom I never stated are flawless and do have problems). Voter fraud is rampant. Possibly this is not happening in your little safe community of GH but its widespread and mostly democratic (that's not to say its not happening on both sides). This alone should be enough reason for the voting process to be revisited and possibly updated to current times.

Mystic Michael

I understood your point just fine. And no, I'm not saying that the Democrats are innocent little angels. But this piece isn't about the Democrats - it's about the Republicans. And it just so happens that the Republicans have been getting this kind of press precisely because they have in fact been playing fast & loose with electoral laws, policies & processes in order to game the system, and thus give themselves an unfair advantage...in ways that the Democrats simply have not.

It isn't a "media conspiracy" - merely because the media reports something that you'd rather they didn't. Sometimes the actual truth has a way of leaking out. You may simply be inclined to perceive it as media "bias" or "conspiracy" - since it's such a stark departure from what you're accustomed to hearing.

And BTW, there is no actual evidence of widespread voter fraud in this country. None. Even the Bush/Cheney Justice Department (one of the most politicized in history) was forced to come to this same conclusion when they conducted a study a few years ago. And they were looking desperately for it.

MM

newsblogger

Why the personal attacks? We simply both read an article and came to different conclusions.

Lanivan

When vast, unprecedented amounts of US/global corporate money (now that "Corporations are People" as per the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling) and an attempt at Voter Suppression legislation in a host of Republican states (most attempts declared unconstitutional in the courts thus far) couldn't deny Obama a second term, the GOP fringe runs, not walks, towards their bulging bunker of dirty tricks.

Electoral College "reform" is the big brother to state gerrymandering efforts that has, for the most part, been successful in terms of artificially fixing the system. Like the GOP attacks on women's issues, unions, tort reform, gun safety ("Guns are People"), and others, these are controlled by ALEC, the highly partisan group that writes all the legislation for our GOP state congresses - which begs the question - why are MI state legislators the 2nd highest paid in the country, after California, if their work is being done for them by ALEC?.

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012...

Any discussions of electoral college changes should be closely watched by the voters. Whatever your political persuasion, any changes to our constitutionally mandated voting system, especially as controversial as these, should make you sit up and take notice. Whether one likes it or not, Obama won fair and square with a majority of the popular vote and a super-majority of the electoral college vote, despite mountains of money to persuade otherwise. Attempts to play games with the American public by the extreme fringes by attacking our rights should be exposed for what they are.

Meanwhile, let's put the pressure on our elected legislators to stick to the problems at hand - economic growth, job creation, Great Lakes water level restoration, environmental and energy issues. This is what we're paying them for, isn't it?

Lanivan

Reading down through the various comments, it should be noted that this article/discussion pertains to the current influx of voting rights suppression bills, which make it harder for eligible voters to participate.

Protecting the integrity of elections and voter fraud is a different subject. There are stringent rules already in place for ballot fraud and misconduct - 5 years in prison and $10,000 fine. Hardly worth a single fraudulent vote, which is why the number of convictions for voting fraud/tampering is so low.

Most accusations of fraud are proven false, or fall into the category of clerical error, incomplete information, or some other unintentional misconduct.

MSchultz

This is really disappointing. I hope Republican voters, as opposed to just angry Democrats, will stand up and voice opposition to these efforts. I have tended to vote Democrat in many of the recent elections because the Republican candidates have really unimpressed me. Increasingly I'm leaning independent and definitely would not be opposed to a third party. Always I focus on keeping the politicians that get elected to represent me, Republican or Democrat, in check. The Republican Party has plenty of worthy policy platforms that can be debated, but this last election clearly revealed that they need to start choosing candidates and backing politicians that can communicate how those policies can benefit a broader demographic in this country. The Democrats should be constantly seeking fresh ways to explain their policies as well, instead of constantly falling back on their base. Any effort to game elections in favor of one party is reprehensible, truly anti-American. The very hint of such an effort should be shamed from end to end in this country. Republican voters are the only ones that can change the direction of their party. Start demanding better representation! Condemn the shameful policies and actions that your party embraces!

biped

Vladtheimp is a right-wing wacko whose (mis)information is so skewed to the right, that I suspect he's been taken hostage by Fake Fox News.

Vladtheimp

I trust that your comrades in politics, like Mystic Michael and Lanivan, embrace your keen intelligence and wit. I do!

Mystic Michael

Now now, let's not pick on the politically incorrect. Vlad can't help it. He chose the blue pill. Once it gets to a certain stage of development, the mind has trouble letting go of the world of illusion. I've seen it before.

Vladtheimp

Thanks for the assist, Mystic One, but I think I am capable of defending myself against the rapier sharp intelligence of one who is apparently proud to be walking upright.

Lanivan

Hey - Voter ID, sounds logical, right? It's all about the timing, of course, and the insidious nature of the far-right agenda that has swept many of our state legislatures (including MI) since 2010. With a steady drumbeat, they have managed, in just a few short years, to hollow out our civil rights, women's rights, and other assorted rights, including our voter rights, spending loads of time and taxpayer money.

Since 2011, 19 mostly Republican-led states, have passed 25 laws and 2 executive actions restricting voting rights. NONE of these states has been able to prove ANY voter fraud, and there have been NO convictions for voter tampering.
http://www.brennancenter.org/con...

We're not talking about a benign voter ID law here - these laws include photo ID laws, proof of citizenship laws, making voter registration harder, reducing early and absentee days, making it harder to restore voting rights.

After years of no substantiated proof of voter fraud, why the urgent need? In the 14 states that passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions, it represents 185 electoral votes, or 68% of the total needed to win the presidency. As diligently as they tried, it didn't work with Obama, but they might have better luck next time.

Voters have rejected these laws at the polls; about 12 courts have overturned or weakened these restrictive measures, and the DOJ has blocked others.

"Jury Tampering", Corporations are People, Guns are People, Women are 2nd Class Citizens - Lord, give us the strength to vote these disablers of Democracy out of office in 2014.

Vladtheimp

You say: Since 2011, 19 mostly Republican-led states, have passed 25 laws and 2 executive actions restricting voting rights. NONE of these states has been able to prove ANY voter fraud, and there have been NO convictions for voter tampering.

Cute cherry picking. Let's go to 2008, which may have been the driver for laws passed in 2010, and 2011.

15 convictions of ACORN members for voter fraud in Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Nevada.

113 people convicted of voter fraud in Minnesota (and this chart (p. 4) shows the extent of the problem) http://www.electionintegritywatc...

Although the Minnesota report linked above shows a large number of fraudulent ballots and other frauds (which may have resulted in the election of Senator/Comedian Al Franken, we can argue forever about the real extent of voter fraud. I will quote a Lanivan classic in support of passing ballot security measures (substituting voter fraud for guns):

"I would offer in defense of my position the Cheney 1% doctrine (and I paraphrase): If there is just a 1% chance of the unimaginable happening, act as if it is a certainty. If getting serious about voter fraud would save even 1% of our elections from being changed by fraud, then we must act.

I agree!

Mystic Michael

Ah yes, the nefarious ACORN - excoriated and hounded into oblivion by the unhinged Right for the unspeakable crime of daring to actually organize & register poor people, people of color, and immigrant citizens. Didn't they get the memo that real power belongs ONLY to straight, white, wealthy, conservative, Christian males? The nerve of some people! Why, they're just as "bad" as the rest of the loony Right's other favorite current targets: Black Panthers, SDS, hippies, and Bolsheviks!

MM

Captain Obvious

Ahhh Imp, well versed but not well reasoned. Repeating right wing talking points does not qualify as reasoned argument. Quite parrot-like actually. Is the 113 number accurate? The report comes from a right-wing organization in Minneapolis called "Minnesota Majority.org. They are in a little trouble for making false and misleading robot-calls to voters. Bringing up ACORN? That really smacks of right-wingers beating a dead horse. And using Cheney's 1% argument here? It only works when the consequences are disastrous. The politicians are in such gridlock these days that the outcome would hardly be a disaster.

Vladtheimp

Read the Minnesota Majority Report - don't change the subject to alleged robo calls. Some of us think a stolen election is a national disaster, but maybe that's only me.

Lanivan

"I think the progress we're making is significant. I think the performance in general, at least in terms of the information I've received from the locals, is definitely very impressive".....former Vice-President Dick Cheney.

DP Roberts

Abolish the Electoral College and use the nationwide popular vote. What real purpose is served by the Electoral College?

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