People For the American Way

GOP Electoral College Power Play Tests Our Democracy

Pennsylvania Republicans have introduced a bill to ensure that Republican presidential candidates win the lion's share of the state's electoral votes in the future, regardless of how the people actually vote. In fact, Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, is among those in the GOP who have proposed using this method to sabotage the presidential election in other blue states, as well, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Under the Republican system, Mitt Romney would have won the presidential election last year despite losing the popular vote by four points and losing every swing state but one.

Yes, this is happening in America. TPM calls it "nuclear gerrymandering." Ian Millhiser writes about the Pennsylvania bill at ThinkProgress:

Under their bill, the winner of Pennsylvania as a whole will receive only 2 of the state's 20 electoral votes, while "[e]ach of the remaining presidential electors shall be elected in the presidential elector's congressional district."

Pennsylvania is a blue state that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every single presidential race for the last two decades, so implementing the GOP election-rigging plan in Pennsylvania would make it much harder for a Democrat to be elected to the White House. Moreover, because of gerrymandering, it is overwhelmingly likely that the Republican candidate will win a majority of Pennsylvania's electoral votes even if the Democrat wins the state by a very comfortable margin. Despite the fact that President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points last November, Democrats carried only 5 of the state's 18 congressional seats. Accordingly, Obama would have likely won only 7 of the state's 20 electoral votes if the GOP vote rigging plan had been in effect last year.

This is part of a pattern: Far right Republicans, handed temporary control of state governments by the voters in 2010, are pulling out the stops to game the electoral system to make sure Republicans win future elections, no matter what the people want. We saw this in the many voter suppression measures adopted in 2011 and 2012, including in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, many of those voter suppression laws were put on hold by the courts, at least for 2012. Moreover, in at least some places last fall, so many people showed up to vote against the far right agenda that they were able to overcome the intended impact of voter suppression measures.

But the Electoral College scheme represents a massive escalation in the GOP war against electoral democracy. It is a transparent power grab, one clearly designed to help them "win" the most powerful office in the United States even when the American people thoroughly reject their presidential candidate. The GOP has driven itself so far to the right that it now has only two ways to win office: either substantially change its central policies in order to make them palatable to the majority of voters, or make sure that the majority of voters who disagree with them are stripped of the ability to elect the candidates of their choice. Which path will the GOP choose?

This scheme should never be seriously considered but should instead be immediately repudiated by both political parties. Otherwise, we face a moment that will test our democracy and require all Americans to stake a stand.


Election 2016, Electoral College, Reince Priebus