Michigan Rep. Gives Away the Game on Electoral College Reform

Michigan is one of several states where the Republican-controlled legislatures are considering changing the way electoral college votes are determined. The proposal here is to have the electoral votes divided up by congressional district rather than a winner-take-all where whoever wins the popular vote gets all of the state’s electoral votes. The arguments they’re using are quite absurd:

Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, confirmed this week he plans to reintroduce legislation that would award all but two of Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes according to congressional district results. The remaining two would go to the candidate winning the statewide majority.

“I believe it’s more representative of the people — closer to the actual vote,” said Lund, who proposed a similar bill in 2012.

Really? If this had been in place last year, Romney would have won a majority of the state’s electoral votes despite losing the popular vote by 450,000 votes. Of course, this plan is a bad idea for the same reason that the electoral college itself is a bad idea (perhaps it made sense in the 1780s, but it certainly doesn’t in today’s world). Giving away electoral votes by district is wrong for the same reasons that it’s wrong to give away electoral votes by state.

The problem is that doing it by district means that if you have one district with a lot more voters in it, or a lot more voters of a particular type, it pretty much guarantees that those votes will go to one party and those who voted for the other party essentially have no say in the election. A Republican casting a vote in Detroit or a Democrat casting a vote in the suburbs of Grand Rapids have an equal chance of having their vote count toward the outcome — none. But that is true of the states too, not just the congressional districts. Replace Detroit with New York and the suburbs of Grand Rapids with Mississippi and the exact same reality holds true.

But more importantly, Lund pretty much admits that this is nothing more than a way to help Republicans win even if they lose the popular vote:

“It got no traction last year. There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him.”

So if it helps Republicans, it’s important to make this change because it’s “more representative of the people.” When it hurts Republicans, that alleged principle goes out the window. How terribly unsurprising. If this kind of vote-splitting were in place nationwide last year, Romney would have won the election despite getting almost five million fewer votes than Obama. Representative of the people? Seriously?

The solution to all of this is to eliminate the electoral college. Everyone’s vote should count for one vote, period. As it is, a Democratic vote in Alabama or a Republican vote in Illinois might as well not even be cast.

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  • glodson

    I keep having the argument about eliminating the Electoral College with people. They seem to believe it is good because it keeps heavily populated areas from determining results of elections. At least, that’s what I usually get in response. Which makes no sense, as the states with the highest populations already carry the most weight, and in those states, it is the more densely populated areas that carry the most weight.

    Jerrymandering is bad enough, and now we have a group who wants to do it for the Presidential votes. I guess this is what you do when you can’t get a majority of Americans to vote the way you wish.

  • Alverant

    If he wants it to be “I believe it’s more representative of the people” then he shouldn’t go by districts but go by the popular vote. If you get 30% of the vote you get 30% of the electoral college votes. That effectively makes it a matter of the popular vote nationwide bypassing the electoral college all together.

  • raven

    Now that the GOP has lost two national presidential elections in a row, they are going with their new plan.

    To cheat.

    1. Voter suppression always aimed at Democrats.

    2. Gerrymandering, aimed at Democrats. The majority of House votes were Democratic. The GOP still controls the US House.

    3. Changing the electoral college allocations. To help them.

    4. Seceding. Because that worked so well the last time over slavery.

    I’ve said it before. They really hate the US, the US government, and democracy and are open about it.

    All their crap about god, the flag, the constitution and all that is just that…empty rhetoric. They don’t want to live in a democracy, they want to rule a fake democracy.

  • raven

    It wouldn’t bother me if they abolished the electoral college, an anachronism.

    It would have spared us a lost generation, my two friends dead in Iraq would still be alive, as would my and millions of other 401(K) plans..

    George Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore in his first election.

  • mobius

    I definitely understand the concept of the Electoral College making my vote not count. I live (and vote) in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma will vote for the village idiot as long as he is a Republican. How do I know this? Well, they voted for George W. … twice.

  • TGAP Dad

    I want to take issue your statement that “…a Democratic vote in Alabama or a Republican vote in Illinois might as well not even be cast.” I’d like to see this qualified as “…a Democratic vote in Alabama or a Republican vote in Illinois for president might as well not even be cast.”

    Plenty of local offices and issues, as well as state-wide races are on ballots along with the presidential tickets. It is a matter for the poli-sci nerds as to whether liberal issues in Alabama are defeated because of dispirited liberals not voting (or vice versa Illinois conservatives) due to that effect.

  • The Lorax

    Yeah, I didn’t vote this year, and I told my mother and stepfather (both Republicans) to not bother either, but they did anyway. And whodaguessedit, Obama won Massachusetts.

    I probably would get out and vote more, if my vote actually counted for something.

  • Anyone who thinks their community would be ignored in a presidential election bases on the popular doesn’t realize that their community is already being ignored under the electoral college. In fact, we’ve reached the point where all but two or three states can be ignored in most races. Under a popular vote system, a vote in upstate NY is worth the same as one in Austin as one in WY as one in Gary, IN.

    And the added bonus is that we wouldn’t have to worry about how badly Florida fucks things up.

  • freemage

    Glodson: The thing is, the EC weights votes from sparse states higher than populous ones. This is because the total votes are based on both the House of Representatives delegation from that state, PLUS their Senate representation. As a result, a resident of Alaska (pop. 710K, 3 EC votes) has 4.2 E-6 of an electoral vote, while a voter from California (pop. 38M, 55 EC votes) has 1.4 E-6 of an EC vote–roughly one-third the voting power.

    The only consistently red state that gets screwed by this math, of course, is Texas. Most of the other deeply Republican states are also on the plus-side of this formula. So of course they want to keep the system intact.

  • Rip Steakface

    If this kind of vote-splitting were in place nationwide last year, Romney would have won the election despite getting almost five million fewer votes than Obama.

    I don’t know about a nationwide system, but even if the 5 or so states that have proposals like this going through their legislatures passed them all before the last election, Obama still would have won by about 50 EC votes.

    Can we just fucking ditch the electoral college, please? It’s antiquated and only serves to obstruct democracy. Every one of the other young people in my high school civics class agreed (~40 18-year olds) we should get rid of the EC, which is an admittedly small sample of mostly uninformed people, but it still says something about its popularity (that is, zilch).

    I know it would take a Constitutional amendment, but this seems like one of those rare few issues where there’s enough bipartisan consensus that it sucks that it seems actually fairly realistic to get it through. Maybe we should start lobbying Congress…

  • fastlane

    One question on going with the popular vote alone nationwide:

    Based on results seen from previous elections, is there much chance that voters in later time zones might have more ‘inside information’ because the polls on the east coast will have closed before many of them vote? How much, if any, might that impact national elections?

  • jeevmon

    The only hesitation I would have about getting rid of the Electoral College is the potential impact on the cost of campaigns, and thus the role of money. If Republicans see benefit in turning out more votes in California or Democrats in Texas, they may spend more money in those more populous and expensive media markets in the way they are not doing currently. (In 2008, I was living in Illinois, and in 2012, I was living in Texas. TV and radio ads for the national candidates were rare in both instances, because in each case, I was living in a safe state for one side or the other.) That demand for more money will increase the need for money, and thus exacerbate the problem we currently have with money and politics.

    The Electoral College may suck, but in a country as large as ours, it may suck less than the alternative, at least until we figure out a way to fix the money issue that the Supreme Court won’t take a dump on.

    The Michigan plan and the others like it are just 100% pure suck, and need to be fought hard.

  • bksea

    I’m someone who actually likes the electoral college and its tradeoff between state and national significance.

    HOWEVER, these shenanigans trying to get the GOP to win despite losing the popular vote and the traditional electoral college vote are scaring the hell out of me!

    So, I hereby renounce support for the electoral college. Sign me up for the national popular vote club. It is the only way to keep things fair.

  • dmcclean

    Will someone please start asking these clowns if they support their state entering the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact instead of or in addition to their crazy proposals? And if not, why not? Really cuts through the “fairness” rhetoric.

  • abb3w

    The College is one of several areas of potential electoral reform, including:

    1) The Electoral College, killing it to replace with the popular vote

    2) Voting System, using instant runoff or some other alternative

    3) Election redistricting, killing legislative gerrymander and replace with an objective algorithm on population distribution

    4) Voter Machine Integrity, making sure neither Diebold et alia nor election officials can commit wholesale vote fraud.

    5) Voter ID, setting uniform and non-disenfranchising requirements that do not disproportionately impact the poor (largely to limit GOP shenanigans)

    There’s probably others that have slipped my mind. The primary difficulty is several of these require Amendments, with some likely to have more than 14 state legislatures balking. However, it seems that a package deal might make for an easier sell. “The US election system has serious problems; here’s what’s needed to fix it.”

  • garnetstar

    Michigan is the new Florida.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I’d really be offended by the Florida bashing if it wasn’t completely correct.

    Has there ever been a proposal to change the Electoral College so that the delegates are awarded purely on the basis of House members only rather than House and Senate? That would make the totals somewhat more fair, and less biased towards the small population states.

    I’ve always thought that Electoral votes should be proportionally awarded within each state. The problem is that if a typically safe state for either party decides to do it, it decreases the importance of that state in Presidential elections. The only way to do that would be to have it done nationally, and IIRC, the determination of how to award EC votes is left to the states.

  • lpetrich

    This site is worth a plug: National Popular Vote — Electoral college reform by direct election of the President


    The score so far:

    Passed: 9, Both houses: 2, One house: 10, One committee: 10, Hearings: 11, Bills introduced: 9


    It’s gotten farthest in the “blue states”, and not as far in “red states” and “swing states”. It’s already gotten politicized:

    2012 Republican Platform: Opposing National Popular Vote – IVN Editors’ Blog

    We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College. We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose “national popular vote” would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.

  • Michael Heath

    Rip Steakface writes:

    Can we just fucking ditch the electoral college, please? It’s antiquated and only serves to obstruct democracy.

    I think the GOP efforts in the affected states opens the door to Democrats starting to promote we do that. Even if they don’t win where they won’t in the short- or intermediate-term, it should help provide capital to reduce gerrymandering and better promote more democracy.