Political Animal


January 30, 2013 3:26 PM Electoral College Rigging Threat Rapidly Diminishing

By Ed Kilgore

The electoral vote rigging initiatives that were kicking around just last week in battleground states carried by Barack Obama in 2012 but controlled by Republicans at the state level seem to be running into heavy weather. As noted in today’s Lunch Buffet, a district apportionment scheme in Virginia died in a state Senate committee after Gov. Bob McDonnell and key Republican legislators rained on the parade. In Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has trashed a similar proposal. State House Speaker Will Weatherford seems to have killed a rigging bill in Florida. In Ohio, Republicans including Gov. John Kasich have disclaimed any interest in an electoral vote coup.

So as Politico’s Emily Schultheis notes, that just leaves just two states as possible sites for such shenanigans:

The only remaining states are Pennsylvania, where an electoral vote change was unsuccessful in 2011, and Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has expressed hesitance about any changes to the system.
“I just said I hadn’t ruled it out. I’m not embracing it because it’s a double-edged sword,” Walker said in a recent interview with POLITICO. “What may look appealing right now depending on who your candidate was might, four or eight years from now, look like just the reverse. And the most important thing to me long term as a governor is what makes your voters be in play. One of our advantages as a swing state is that candidates come here … that’s good for voters. If we change that that would take that away and would largely make us irrelevant.”

I noted last week that the whole gambit depended for its success on speed and stealth. With both those factors now gone, we probably won’t have to worry about it for a while. If you made some noise about this, congratulate yourself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JustMe on January 30, 2013 3:35 PM:

    I have no idea why this failed. It seemed like a winning gambit for Republicans. After all, what exactly were the consequences going to be for them?

  • Ron Byers on January 30, 2013 3:40 PM:

    The strategists in the GOP must have figured out that their Pinky and the Brain plan for world domination would result in putting a lot of suburban districts they now count as save in play as Democratic presidental candidates would focus on them, which would result in the loss of Republican congressional and state legislative seats.

    "B:Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
    "P:Well, I think so, poit, but where do you stick the feather and call it macaroni."

  • Lance on January 30, 2013 3:43 PM:

    This is how you stop it.

    You go to the suburbian district Republican congress critters and you tell them that You will work to take over their district in 2014 so you can win it in 2016.

    The Democrats know how. And the reason Penn. didn't change their rules in 2012 is that the Democrats were EXACTLY that kind of threat.

    In 2016, Old White People are going to be up for grabs is the Republicans keep attacking Medicare and Social Security.

    Ed, you think if the rules HAD been different in 2012 the Obama campaign wouldn't hav figured out how to win?

  • Robb on January 30, 2013 3:44 PM:

    What's amazing is that Walker's response is a very transparent admission that the pro of the policy is to make Republicans win. He openly states that the con is it might help Democrats in the future.

    My suspicion would be that a blue state Republican governor depends heavily on Democratic-leaning votes and has to avoid the suspicion of being a total hack...
    But Walker admits to being a hack!

    What is wrong with Wisconsin?

  • paul on January 30, 2013 3:49 PM:

    There are another 3 years for the GOP to pull this trick. They got caught first time around, and appear to have folded. But they'll be back. Look at how many times they've proposed crazy legislation before and eventually had it become mainstream.

  • Dennis on January 30, 2013 4:07 PM:

    I still think this has largely gone under the national radar. I wrote a letter to the editor about this over a week ago, got the email back that they'd publish it, but still hasn't been published. Doubt that the average person is too aware of it.

  • Mitch on January 30, 2013 4:09 PM:


    Right on. My jaw dropped when I read that Walker said, “What may look appealing right now depending on who your candidate was might, four or eight years from now, look like just the reverse."

    So he's straight out admitting that they were trying to rig the system to give one political party an advantage, but that it's too risky because the unbalance might shift to help the other party in the future.

    These guys aren't just know-nothing, authoritarian, theocratic, plutocratic hacks; they are the enemies of democracy. And close to half the nation eats it up.

  • Peter C on January 30, 2013 4:42 PM:

    Americans don't like cheaters. Republicans must pretend that they aren't blatantly gaming the rules.

    What we need to continue to shout is that they WANTED to, but we caught them in the attempt.

  • Ken on January 30, 2013 4:59 PM:

    The R's realized that with state and federal elections coming up in 2014 that this issue could be used against them and that there would be time to repeal these rules prior to 2016.

    I expect we will see these laws come up and be passed in lame duck sessions after the 2014 election.

    With R governors in place and even a single branch of the state machinery they could then stop any attempt to repeal them.

    Look for the R's to try to stack the Federal and state judiciary with wing nuts who will support these laws in betweem.

  • exlibra on January 30, 2013 5:02 PM:

    Peter C; Yes, and also keep checking just what's being cooked up in the state legislatures. One thing Walker has also said is that it "isn't the right time". I interpret it the same way Paul does, @3:49: they're just going to wait till the furor has died down and try again. Possibly, the next time there won't be a furor. Or there won't be enough time to do anything about it. This time, there were going to be loads of loud court cases, possibly blocking the implementation. Next time, the law might be signed mid October and in place for early November. Courts might prevent implementation, but there's nothing they're likely to do post factum. And presto! to the winner go the spoils.

  • G.Kerby on January 30, 2013 5:09 PM:

    Just because Snyder & the MI repubs are publicly backing off, don't believe it for a minute. They know that all eyes are watching, but when they have a chance, say the next lame-duck session, they'll likely ram it through like they did with their union-attacks.

  • rk on January 30, 2013 5:21 PM:

    Ken at 4:59 has it right. I believe that Walker (WI), Corbett (PA), Kasich (OH), Scott (FL) and Snyder (MI) all come up for re-election in 2014. Implementing this scheme now would doom their chances for re-election and result in the scheme being reversed before the 2016 presidential election (public revulsion with the scheme would likely fuel a bad year for the GOP at the ballot box). There is no reason to change the system before 2015. The key is to hold those states in the 2014 elections; to do that they need to minimize controversy. Because the congressional districts are safely gerrymandered they can implement the scheme in 2015, weather any bad publicity, and most importantly they will survive as governors ensuring that the system is perpetuated.

  • toto on January 31, 2013 2:35 PM:

    Most Americans don't care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it's wrong for the candidate with the most popular votes to lose. We don't allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes- enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO - 68%, FL - 78%, IA 75%, MI - 73%, MO - 70%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM- 76%, NC - 74%, OH - 70%, PA - 78%, VA - 74%, and WI - 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK - 70%, DC - 76%, DE - 75%, ID - 77%, ME - 77%, MT - 72%, NE 74%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, OK - 81%, RI - 74%, SD - 71%, UT - 70%, VT - 75%, WV - 81%, and WY - 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR - 80%, KY- 80%, MS - 77%, MO - 70%, NC - 74%, OK - 81%, SC - 71%, TN - 83%, VA - 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other states polled: AZ - 67%, CA - 70%, CT - 74%, MA - 73%, MN - 75%, NY - 79%, OR - 76%, and WA - 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc