Michigan GOP Leaders Stepping Back on Electoral College Reform


In a bit of encouraging news, at least two prominent Republicans with a direct say in the matter in Michigan have now publicly come out in opposition to a scheme to rig elections for the Republicans by dividing up electoral votes by congressional district. Gov. Rick Snyder did so in an interview with Al Hunt:

HUNT: There is a move in your state by some Republican legislators to change the presidential electoral system from a winner-take-all to doing it by congressional districts. If that happened last November, Barack Obama–who carried this state by a huge margin, almost double-digits–would have won only 4 of the 14 congressional districts. It would tilt the tables tremendously in the Republicans’ favor. You have said you wanted to look at it, let’s see what it is. Gov. McDonnell of Virginia, Haley Barbour and others have said it’s a bad idea. Are you still neutral or are you becoming convinced it’s a bad idea?

SNYDER: I’m very skeptical of the idea and the timeframe that would be done, because I really view it as a question of you don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone.

And Sen. Randy Richardville, the majority leader of the Michigan Senate, made a weaker statement but seems to be on the same page:

“I don’t know that it’s broken, so I don’t know that I want to fix it,” said Richardville, R-Monroe…

Richardville argued Michigan’s winner-take-all approach to awarding electoral votes gives Michigan more influence in choosing a president, even though Democratic presidential candidates have won those votes in six straight elections. He said, however, he would take a look at any proposal coming over from the state house.

Richardville’s view parallels what came to be the prevailing philosophy among leaders 40 years after the country’s birth. They believed the winner-take-all formula gave states more power to push for their favored candidates.

Jase Bolger, the Michigan House Speaker and one of the most partisan and unethical people I’ve ever covered in politics, is all for the idea. And Richardville is right about it diluting Michigan’s influence. With 16 electoral votes, Michigan is a big enough prize to get serious attention from the presidential campaigns. If the best that can be hoped for is a net advantage of four or five electoral votes, which is likely under the proposed change, the state can be safely ignored by both campaigns.

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    It would be interesting to know the predominant motivation(s) that’s causing Republicans to pull back on this initiative. I’m skeptical it’s because it’s the ethically wrong thing to do. So if I’m right, why?

    I’m hopeful it’s because there’s an increasing openness to a Constitutional amendment to switch to a popular national vote for president. I realize that’s now a pipe dream, but I do think it’s possible in the long-term if not the intermediate term, where the GOP’s current maneuverings probably helps the popular vote cause.

  2. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #1

    Maybe Governor Snyder is thinking about a presidential run in 2016 and conceding a portion of the electoral vote of Michigan to a Democratic candidate wouldn’t be too good for his chances. After all, his main selling point would be the potential ability to carry Michigan. This is certainly, in part, behind the thinking of Virginia Governor McDonnell who has come out against a similar proposal there.

  3. D. C. Sessions says

    In a bit of encouraging news, at least two prominent Republicans with a direct say in the matter in Michigan have now publicly come out in opposition to a scheme to rig elections for the Republicans by dividing up electoral votes by congressional district.

    Sort of like how they were not going to take up “Right to Work.”

  4. D. C. Sessions says

    I’m hopeful it’s because there’s an increasing openness to a Constitutional amendment to switch to a popular national vote for president.

    If anything, the National Popular Vote. It has the same effect and will be a whole lot more likely to succeed in our lifetimes.

  5. anubisprime says

    Are they really that twisted that foisting a deliberate cheat on the public will not backfire on their local celebrity or electoral chances?
    Gerrymandering is supposed to be done behind closed doors…announcing it publicly then debating it in front of the horses is a definite case of…

    .’Ur ah dooins it allll rong sherlock!’

    Not content with only losing the election, god’s vote, their dignity and their lesser spotted integrity…now they are actually losing the fookin’ plot!

  6. jamessweet says

    It would be interesting to know the predominant motivation(s) that’s causing Republicans to pull back on this initiative. I’m skeptical it’s because it’s the ethically wrong thing to do. So if I’m right, why?

    It’s simple: While in the short term this would be an advantage for the GOP, in the long term it’s more or less a wash. Someday, Republicans will have 51% of the Michigan presidential vote, and then a change like this would work to the Democratic party’s advantage.

    We might argue over the extreme long view that Republicans’ talent for gerrymandering would make it slightly more likely to benefit them then their opponents, but then we come to the other problem: It vastly decreases Michigan’s influence.

    This is one of those proposals that, putting ethics aside, looks really attractive in the short term but virtually guarantees that it will come back to bite you in the ass at some time in the future.

  7. says

    jamessweet “This is one of those proposals that, putting ethics aside, looks really attractive in the short term but virtually guarantees that it will come back to bite you in the ass at some time in the future.”
    Can cooler heads prevail when there are so few of them?

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    SNYDER: I’m very skeptical of the idea and the timeframe that would be done, because I really view it as a question of you don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone.

    Translated by a cynic:
    I don’t think we can get away with it right now, but if we can get enough “spin” on the story to hide the advantages to the Republican Party, then we’ll go for it.

  9. says

    Having decided that fucking the unions was worth losing the votes of any union member that’s not braindead (and their friends and families, in the bargain) I can’t understand why they aren’t just going for it.

  10. Jim Satterfield says

    I think that someone pointed out that it would quite likely win them one election but if in that one election they lost the popular vote by an unmistakable margin while taking the EC the backlash would be huge just two years later.

  11. says

    @ Jim Statterfied

    You may be right, but if they’re ok with the travesty that was the 2000 election, I’m sure Americans won’t put too much of an argument with anything else the Rupblicans plan. I fact, we get a sense of how badly tipped things are in the GOPs favor by the 2012 house election outcomes. Democrats beat Rebulicans by about 1.5 million votes, but Republicans have 33 more seats. Everyone seems ok with that. They’re already getting away with blatant cheating.

  12. jameshanley says

    I wouldn’t really have a problem with the idea if we had a non-partisan redistricting process in Michigan that sought to maximize the number of competitive districts (I’m no fan of the winner-take-all approach to the EC). But as long as we have partisan redistricting with its resulting gerrymandering of districts, this scheme really just an attempt to predetermine the outcome of the EC distribution. They ought to just go ahead and announce that the legislature is going to allocate the electoral votes in ’12, since they have the constitutional authority to do so.

  13. jesse says

    There’s also another game the GOP is well aware of: Supreme Court appointments.

    I was having this discussion with one of the players in the local democratic party a few days back. The Democrats, if they want a supreme court appointment, have to win in 2016. And they have to make gains in the 2014 elections with respect to Congressional seats if they want to stop some of the redistricting shenanigans.

    So the GOP is thinking ahead. If they can rig the game for President then the SCOTUS appointments are a given. Obama will get one more appointment, likely, given Ginsberg’s health. The next president might get two, maybe three.

    An interesting analysis BTW appeared in the NYT this Sunday. It showed exactly who does redistricting to partisan advantage and where. Oddly, the two states where it has happened that favor Democrats are Arizona and Texas. But the states where the GOP has really skewed the playing field are not surprisingly, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania — the map is interesting. But the “both parties do it” argument is a little weak and frankly kind of silly.

    I am no fan of winner-take-all either. But it seems to me a simple matter to apportion electoral votes by the proportion of the popular vote someone actually gets in a state. Just match the percentage of votes to the nearest integer. This isn’t hard. Michigan has 16 EVs, if you get 51 percent of the vote you get 9. Of course nobody wants to do this.

    Duplicate that with every state and you will get a little skewing, in small states especially. So that will make the people who want to preserve the influence of smaller states. Frankly I am dubious that such influence is a good idea on principle, but whatever.

    A more robust solution is to do what California does and take redistricting out of the hands of politicians.

  14. shouldbeworking says

    Forgive the ignorant Canadian, but why doesn’t someone start a drive for a an constitutional amendment to do away with the EC? Just have a popular vote for president? It seems to be ok for all the other elected offices in your country.

  15. Michael Heath says

    In a bit of encouraging news, at least two prominent Republicans with a direct say in the matter in Michigan have now publicly come out in opposition to a scheme to rig elections for the Republicans by dividing up electoral votes by congressional district.

    D.C. Sessions:

    Sort of like how they were not going to take up “Right to Work.”

    Republican members of the state legislature were always on the record for so-called right to work laws. And critics of Gov. Snyder misconstrued his position as well after the legislative efforts were initiated and quickly passed, I assume to lazily make him look bad rather than do the hard work of finding why he failed on this initiative. While it’s true Gov. Snyder claimed this wasn’t high on his agenda, he was also on the record even in his campaign as favoring such legislation.

    So it wasn’t full-fledged dishonesty and hypocrisy at work here, but instead other defective traits, namely – ideological zeal and pandering to the base regardless of what a cost-benefit analysis would conclude. A cost-benefit analysis which was never conducted and one more example why Republicans can’t competently govern.

    Gov. Snyder’s justification for signing this bill revealed no evidentiary premises but instead was based merely on hopeful thinking given what might someday happen in Indiana. That hope was based on an incoherent reconciliation of laws passed in Indiana and what might happen there based on anecdotal rhetoric that some businesses are moving into the state (businesses move into states all the time, so this alone provides no meaningful information). A sort of premature ejaculation of anecdotal correlation equals causation to what they want to believe to maintain fealty to conservative ideology.

  16. says

    “Gov. Snyder’s justification for signing this bill revealed no evidentiary premises but instead was based merely on hopeful thinking given…”

    I disagree with you on that.

    Snyder is just another of the large group of GOP liars. He said what he needed to say to get elected. Now he’s doing what he thinks it takes to get re-elected. Fucking the unions (except, of course, the cops and firemen) will come back to bite him in the ass, at some point.

    In the last twenty years I have met a scant few politicians whose ideals and morals are a match for their party zealotry and personal ambition, none of them are republicans.

  17. Michael Heath says

    democommie writes:

    Snyder is just another of the large group of GOP liars. He said what he needed to say to get elected. Now he’s doing what he thinks it takes to get re-elected. Fucking the unions (except, of course, the cops and firemen) will come back to bite him in the ass, at some point.

    I’m struggling to understand your point.

    I think what your saying is that in the 2010 electoral season, playing right to work both ways while also soft-shoeing the issue was, “what [Rick Snyder] needed to say to get elected”. I agree. He did the very same thing on abortion. It got him falsely branded a moderate when he was clearly an old-school conservative, where he easily won most moderates, mine included, and even many liberals’ votes.

    I think what you’re now asserting is that Gov. Snyder’s signing right to work legislation in the past lame duck session was, “what [Snyder] thinks it takes to get re-elected”. I again agree.

    But I don’t understand why you think his behavior will come back to, “bite him in the ass” and how that relates to the future. Are you arguing Gov. Snyder’s passing right to work legislation was understandable from a cynical political perspective only, but also a political miscalculation when it comes to boosting his reelection chances? That he’s exposed a vulnerability the Democrats will be able to exploit in 2014?

    If so I would argue there’s two reasons why it wasn’t a miscalculation. I have no confidence it wasn’t, but instead merely report what the inside pundits seem to be arguing; where unlike national pundits ours tend to be right.

    The first is that in 2010 Mr. Snyder ran against a very pro-union Democratic candidate in Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Bernero was a horrible candidate, all the liberals I know in meat-world voted for Snyder. Mayor Bernero was a bad candidate because so much of his rhetoric tied directly to the failed 1950s – 1970s statewide and continuing city-wide policies of liberals which have caused so much harm to Michigan. Michigan has also been greatly harmed by conservatives as well, which is why our state is in such a big mess and why moderates like me are frequently in a quandary about how to vote for state-wide. Where we’re increasingly reliable Democratic voters for federal office elections. But there is no defense for what liberals did to this state, where that harm is deeply felt to this day. Bernero embraced that failed legacy whereas Snyder distanced himself from the sins of past conservatives like Gov. John Engler.

    Mr. Bernero has a decent shot at winning the ’14 Democratic nomination to once again run against Snyder, where he’ll be even further animated in raising union issues as a central premise where that, once again, won’t resonate with the voters who are up for grabs.

    The second reason is that Democrats are struggling to come up with a viable challenger to Gov. Snyder. So turning out the base could be a key factor in Snyder’s re-election. I think Andy Dillon was a far better 2010 Democratic candidate, think a state version of Tim Geithner, but the Democratic base would not have it because they perceive Dillon to be the very thing which attracts moderates, pro-business to a fault. (Dillon is currently our state treasurer having been appointed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder to the position.)

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